Even though she was in a block-long line in Atlanta’s sweltering summer heat, Kendrick Lamar fan Liz Quiroz was smiling late Monday afternoon. Quiroz, 19, had driven four hours from Charlotte, North Carolina, with friend Rodiyah Mobley in an attempt to get into the rapper’s exclusive DAMN. pop-up shop stocked with Top Dawg Entertainment-licensed merchandise, one of approximately a dozen such shops popping up this summer on the rapper’s tour.
“Kendrick is a lyrical genius,” Quiroz explained, standing a few yards from the store’s entrance at 119 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, the address of the former downtown lounge Copperblue. “His music just gets me really hyped. It’s original. We have tickets for his show [at Infinite Energy Arena] tonight, so we wanted to check this out too.”
Added Mobley, 19: “He’s the best rapper out there right now. He’s an original.”
About 30 people away in line was Dan Klin, 13, who had learned about the pop-up shop weeks ago via TDE’s Instagram account. His mom, Siomara Klin, was waiting patiently with him. Klin was hoping to grab a hoodie before the show Monday night. “I want something to remember this experience,” Dan said. “When it comes to writing, Kendrick is just a more intelligent artist. He’s not just talking about drugs and alcohol. He’s telling you his story.”
Siomara Klin said she had been exposed to the rapper’s work during drives in the car with her son. But she said she was handing off the chaperoning concert duties Monday night. “His big brother is taking him to that,” she said.
Dustin Holmes and Mike Matthews, both 20, had taken off work and driven in from Newnan, Georgia, to check out the pop-up event, the third stop on the tour. On Friday, Lamar caused brief pandemonium at the inaugural DAMN. pop-up store in Dallas when he showed up to greet fans.
“We just want to meet him,” said Holmes, 20, who had been waiting out on the sunny sidewalk for about an hour. Barring a personal meet-and-greet, Holmes had a backup goal: scoring a black and green “What Happens on Earth Stays on Earth” hat inside.
Inside and up the stairs in the air-conditioned exposed-brick storefront space, a handful of fans at a time were allowed in to shop for Lamar-sanctioned DAMN. gear as staffers artfully folded and bagged each order with the precision of a drill team. Four-hundred red-and-black $35 hats and $40 shirts created specially for the Atlanta pop-up events had already flown out the door Monday afternoon as Jide Osifeso, who helped design the apparel line, oversaw the shop’s operations with longtime Lamar stylist Dianne Garcia. From the colors to the lettering and the fonts used for the merchandise, Osifeso’s designs were guided by the music and words on Lamar’s latest album.
The day before each show, a pop-up shop team led by a Top Dawg merchandising rep flies in, sets up shop, and organizes a few acres of apparel shipped to each city on the tour. When the pop-up shop team arrived at 8:30 a.m. Monday at the downtown Atlanta storefront, die-hard Lamar fans, seemingly impervious to heat and humidity, were already lined up awaiting the store’s 11 a.m. opening.
“Atlanta’s been an amazingly patient city,” said one representative. “There’s been nothing but good vibes here from fans, the same as we experienced in Dallas and Houston. These pop-ups are a way of doing something really special for fans.”
Back out on the sidewalk, Atlantan Christian Rall, 21, was waiting with friend and fellow fan Lexx Nova. “I managed to get tickets to the show and he didn’t,” Nova, 19, explained, grinning. “He’s still kinda mad.” As a consolation, Rall was hoping to score a copy of DAMN. on vinyl inside the shop. “We’re out here because Kendrick’s whole thing is that he stands for black people and I’m black,” Rall said. “Unlike a lot of rappers, DAMN. is about real shit.”
As they inched ever closer to the air conditioning on the other side of the door, Liz Quiroz and Rodiyah Mobley had finally made a purchasing decision: hoodies and sweatshirts. Reasoned Mobley: “I mean, it’s got to get cold eventually, right?”