Dreamville President "IB" Hamad Reflects On The Legacy Of 'Revenge Of The Dreamers' Series
A look at how the compilation series has grown on its fifth anniversary.
J Cole’s 29th birthday is what true rap dreams are made of. In 2014, Jermaine brought his headlining What Dreams May Come tour to New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Kendrick Lamar joined Cole for a surprise performance alongside JAY-Z—the latter gifting Cole a coveted Roc-A-Fella chain. But not just any Roc-A-Fella chain, this was the Roc-A-Fella chain. "That on your neck is my original Roc chain, and it's yours," Hov told Cole.
The celebration didn’t stop there. Cole, who signed as an artist to Columbia Records and Roc Nation in 2009, announced his elevation from label signee to label head that night and unveiled his partnership with Interscope Records to create the Dreamville Records imprint.
President of Dreamville Ibrahim "IB" Hamad says the chance to champion their own artists was always the goal. “It’s curation, at the end of the day being a label, you’re curating what you love and what you believe in to the world,” he tells Urban Legends. “It was always the idea of giving things that we really believe in, and that we’re passionate, about an opportunity to succeed and really make a difference and make other people feel the same way we feel about the music.”
As for the cherry on top? That same night, Cole dropped Revenge Of The Dreamers, a surprise Dreamville compilation that gifted in physical form to all who attended the MSG show and was made available for free online that night.
— J. Cole (@JColeNC) January 29, 2014
Created to coincide with the label partnership announcement, Revenge Of The Dreamers is titled after a track Cole already had in the chamber, “The first one was just really put together with just songs that we had that weren’t on anything but they were really just cool songs,” Ib says. “The name came from the song that Cole had, 'Revenge Of The Dreamers,' that was the name of the song, and it was like ‘Oh shit, that’s us.’”
With Cole as the main attraction, the Revenge Of The Dreamers compilation was also a sampler of sorts. Showcasing the talents of Dreamville’s two signees at the time, Bas and Omen. Ib explains their approach as, “Use the opportunity of people coming to hear Cole, and you put newer artists that they might not know of on there and hope that the music could win them over.” When it came to sequencing, he says, “You gotta understand people’s attention span. I don’t have that much time to grab them. If I’m a listener, I hear Cole, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god he’s killing it, ok what’s next?’ You know that every move buys you one more move. Cole buys you track two and Bas killing on track two buys you track three and by track three, Omen giving you something you can really feel, then it’s like, ‘Alright, I’m paying attention.’”
While Cole is known to be a recluse on social channels, the phone number 1-888-88-DREAM on the Revenge Of The Dreamers cover art gave a direct line to the camp, allowing fans an even closer invitation to the moment. This base integration is a Dreamville character trait by now. As if by motto, as long as Dreamville’s focus is fan-service, everything else comes extra. “We create the hype through the fans,” Ib says. “That’s just always been a thing for us. Other people just feel that energy. And every time it’s natural.”
In 2017, Cole dropped his fifth studio album, KOD, with reviews often highlighting his flip of “Soundcloud rap”-type flows. Tracks like “Photograph,” for example, have drawn comparisons to Ski Mask The Slumpgod, XXXtentacion, and others. But if you’ve heard Revenge Of The Dreamers, Cole experimenting with and acknowledging popular rhyme patterns isn’t new. He played on the Migos’ ad-libs before comparing them to the legendary James Brown on “Bitchez.”
The song features Cole, Bas and Omen trading verses about all the girls they get only to admit that they don’t really have it like that. “Bitchez” highlights the dynamic of the Dreamville crew and gave listeners a sonic glimpse into what a studio session with them might be like, years before the ROTD3 session of today.
On Revenge Of The Dreamers, fans can find what seems to be Cole’s response to the conversations and comparisons surrounding him and Kendrick Lamar after the infamous “Control” verse. On “May The Bitter Man Win,” Cole share his sentiments towards his ex (or hip-hop) and her new dude, (or Kendrick Lamar).
With so many interest points this project hits, one can’t help but wonder why Revenge Of The Dreamers seemingly flew under people’s radar. Ibrahim thinks this may fall on Dreamville’s back.
“I think it didn’t get it’s just due because of us,” he says. “We didn’t do the right things. We didn’t push it the right way. We just kinda wanted to throw it out. And right now if you’re a fan that wants to hear Revenge Of The Dreamers, you have to go to one of those mixtape sites. But when the majority of people in the world are on streaming or at the time was on iTunes, they couldn’t even get it. But now I’m like, it’s cooler that it lives in whatever amount of physicals that people got and on those mixtape websites. And it’s also a true representation of where we were as a company, and as a label. The fact that it’s not properly pushed is a representation of us and it’s cool to be able to see that.”
Fast forward and Dreamville’s initial goals to curate and share the music they believe in with the world has proven to be the actual rap dream come true. Already in 2019, albeit still early, Dreamville has successfully commanded our attention and raised both awareness and intrigue into the series.
And it all started five years ago this night with Revenge Of The Dreamers.
Stream Revenge Of The Dreamers in full now.