As the co-founder of Dreamville and J. Cole’s manager, Ibrahim Hamad has driven the career of one of the most influential hip-hop artists of the past decade. From their Dreamville music festival to diamond-certified records, Hamad has been instrumental in running it all.
In order to successfully pull off J. Cole’s last tour, Hamad made sure to have an extra bus, more people in case something went awry, and more crew. Like many others returning to the road after a nearly two-year wait, there were some difficulties getting back in the groove.
“We were having issues in the first couple shows with stagehands not being there to the point where we were opening doors up super late, at like 9 p.m., which we never had to do in our touring life,” Hamad says. “We were always good with time. So then having to adjust to that and understand that the people weren’t out working the same way, people and fans also didn’t have the same amount of money to buy tickets.”
While adjusting to the reality of this new world that finds concertgoers sometimes hesitant to buy tickets right away, Hamad has still been able to see the fruits of his labor.
J. Cole’s Dreamville festival in North Carolina expanded this year to two days, and saw the team returning to the rapper’s home state. The event was both an ode to the community and a reunion for the Dreamville team.
“To be able to create your own festival where people come from all over the country, to have 40,000 people each day, I think it’s our biggest accomplishment,” Hamad says. “To impact the local community, the city of Raleigh heavily, not only with hotels and everything being booked out, we were able to highlight a lot of local businesses. A lot of Black-owned businesses. To just have our company be able to bring something to the state of North Carolina, where Cole is from, and be able to impact the people, the conversation and enjoyment and the community that we were able to build. That’s probably, to me, my favorite and the best thing we were able to do this year.”
When it comes to regulations, Hamad emphasizes that it’s important to be mindful.
“Knowing that I have to adjust and also sometimes, when things like that happen, maybe you take a step back,” Hamad continues. “Maybe you don’t try to go too big on certain things ‘cause you understand that the market is different and people’s money is different and inflation is now making people hold their money a little bit tighter. So you have to adjust. You have to meet people halfway. Maybe the ticket prices come down a bit, it’s certain things you have to adjust for. And if you don’t, then I feel like that’s just unfair to people.”
Despite all the hurdles facing the return of live events over the past year-plus, Hamad still knows that the joy surrounding live music will always remain.
“I think there’s always gonna be demand for live shows,” Hamad says. “I think it’s an escape for a lot of people. I think the difference now is people are gonna start buying later. Like when we were coming up for artists like Cole and Kendrick, our fans were always trained to buy the ticket as soon as it goes on sale because you don’t want to miss out. I think now we’re seeing a generation of people who are not gonna rush as much to buy the ticket as soon as they’re on sale, but are more so gonna buy on the back-end. We’re seeing shows wrap a lot stronger than before, but starting off slow. And I think that’s just because with inflation and everything we’ve been through in the last couple years, people want to wait ‘til the last minute and make sure like, ‘All right, I’m good to go.’ There still is a demand for shows. Just the way people are buying tickets and going about it, it’s different.”