I Wasn't Sure What To Do...at TiaCorine's Pop Up
An adventure into the world of media and content creation within the art scene
Written by Tyrone Shivers Illustrations by Tyler Jackson
“Ah shit, here we go again”
- CJ from GTA San Andreas
I was sitting on the edge of my bed, staring off into the abyss. My curtains slightly cracked enough to let the sun shine through into the room. Illuminating the floor filled with cords, camera bags and cigarillo packets. As I come down from the high from smoking earlier this morning, I contemplate going back outside to get another fix. Maybe a just a little something to help me take nap, fast forward the day a little bit.
Audio Message from Taylor Tousana
“Yea I’m just gonna pull up with you tomorrow to make sure everything goes well, he’s hasn’t given me a straight forward answer but he’s leaning toward yes”
I wasn’t sure how to process the moment. On one hand, I'm excited to have an opportunity to get back in the field, flex my journalistic muscles and start writing about the Atlanta music/art scene. On the other hand, I’m dreading jumping back into this world of what can sometimes feel like it’s detached from reality.
The world we live in has forced everyone commodify parts of their lives and turn themselves into content creators. Every interaction is an opportunity to leverage a relationship to reach a higher place in the social ladder. As a result, going out to events, especially at ones that take are attached to a artist, can sometimes lack a piece of authenticity. The event itself becomes an opportunity for people to create their own content. An opportunity to create leverage rather than genuine connections.
I’m no exception.
Here I am, excited to go to a pop up shop for an artist that I’m only tangentially aware of, only as an excuse to create my own content. There is a large part of me that wants to do this because I want to be the one responsible for telling the true and honest stories that exist within this scene but there’s another part of me that can’t help but wonder, “Am I, too, apart of the problem”
Regardless of my reservations and ruminations , the time was now. I had growing itch to get back into covering events. I wanted to get back outside and get back to covering stories and events. I felt a pressure most content creators get when not posting for sometime. A withdrawal, like an addict looking for a chance to relapse. I needed to DO something.
I had been feverishly searching the social media site for something to cover that I felt was good representation of this scene. I came across a post from TiaCorine, an artist based out of North Carolina who has been catching a lot of traction after the release of the video for her song “Freaky T”-an extremely catchy single that borrows heavy influences from Memphis, from the Juicy J-esque production to the heavily Project Pat influenced flow and cadence. She was having her pop-up at Closette, a boutique owned by Original Fani.
I had been to Fani’s store on multiple occasions under multiple pretenses since at least 2017, and still I don’t think Fani knows who I am. I can’t blame the guy, he’s a guy a lot of people want to know for multiple reasons. Whether it be to get a look or discount on any of his clothing wear or to get connected to any of the celebrities and artists who frequent his store (Brent Fiyaz, Smino, Young Thug and 2 Chainz, who’s restaurant ‘Esco Bar’ neighbors Closette’ ) people are always trying to know Fani. However, through all my time invested and relationships built over the years, I knew I could secure myself a way into Closette with no hassle to be able to cover this event. So I asked Tay Tousana, whom I’ve done so much for at Closette, to reach out to Fani and assure me access to the pop up tomorrow.
The answer wasn’t as concrete as I was hoping for but, what are ya gonna do, huh? I was fully prepared to go with no access so I’ll take a “leaning towards yes.”
Now I just gotta figure the important part, the story.
It wasn’t until later that night that I got the confirmation. Confirmation of what exactly, I guess I’m not really sure. I asked for no hassling but basically I wanted just be able to skip the line. I know that in the past whenever artists have had their pop ups at Closette, it causes quite the scene. Closette isn’t the biggest the space in the world. It’s about the size of your favorite hole in the wall restaurant. There’s somewhat of an open floor plan to set up, the white portrait filled walls usually stocked with some original clothing pieces by Fani himself or whoever is using his space but that’s about it. So they try not to keep it crowded inside which in turns makes a crowd outside and I don’t want to have to be fighting to get in and out.
Monday, March 6, 2023
The day had come. As I lay in my bed, sun once again creeping through the slightly cracked window, this time with a beautiful candy red glow. My laptop slightly cracked and powered on, never was much an energy conservationist. Connected to my laptop by an unnecessarily long charging cable that coiled onto the bed was my phone with one notification..
It was from a peer of mine, a videographer who got press access to Key Glock’s show at the Roxy, which TiaCorine was opening for. I was happy for the guy, he’d been repeatedly mentioning her on every social media app he could to get her attention. Pleading with his followers to tag Tia so she could hire him as tour media. Surely now that he’s backstage with press credentials, his social media harassment was warranted—but I can’t say I blame the guy. The days of the resume are behind us. As they should be, the odds aren’t in your favor. You’re either battling a human with their own biases and thoughts or an AI trained to look for key words. Your chances of getting your dream job by applying are about as high as just sending a cold DM on Twitter.
If only there were a way for the journalists and documentarians of this city to be able to create together rather than having to subject themselves to the competitive and disingenuous life of “content creation”. The lifestyle that’s been sold to us through the guise of “entrepreneurship” is just another form of division and diversion. They feed to us that we must compete to get the most likes, the most views, the biggest interviews, get the best job all in an effort to get the most money. However, the reality is that humans greatest feats of success and progress have come from cooperation and collaboration.
I closed my phone and tried to go back to sleep. Hopefully to fast forward a little further so I could get over the nerves of it all, but I couldn’t. My mother, who worked from home in the next room over was already up and starting her day. The red glow from the morning sunrise changed to that familiar sunshine yellow. The birds were chirping and the smell of Foldgers permeated the house. I stared at the cameras on the dresser near the foot of my bed, contemplating whether or not to shoot in color or black and white. I turned over to my right, only to greeted by my bear, Freddy—should I bring him? I turned to look at the empty ceiling except for one singular circular LED light, and I couldn’t stop worrying. What was the story? What’s the right approach? I can’t get a moment of free thinking. I need to smoke.
A call from Taylor Tousana
“Hey so I won’t be able to pull up at the same time as you, but everything should be fine. Fani says the vibe is like..you should be able to just walk in…..He did say he’s not sure when Tia is pulling up”
“Yea I spoke to him earlier and said he'd see if get a heads up but he still doesn’t know.”
Wouldn’t be a celebrity/artist led event if said person doesn’t show up massively late. But of course, I understand the game. You gotta get that content. You don’t wanna be early and let people trickle in and be able to actually spend a long amount time with you. No, you want that action shot of the large crowd going crazy as you arrive. You can’t get that if you let the people know when you pull up. But I’m an early bird, and now with me not having to pick up/drop off Taylor, I had free rein to fully immerse myself in this event on my own time.
“I can’t wait to see what you write!”
You and me, both.
Call from Taylor Tousana
“Hey, what side of town are you coming from, I have some merch I wanna give to Tia. Could you give it to Fani for me? I don’t have a car to get there myself”
“I’m coming from Riverdale/College Park”
“Oh that’s like slick by me..would you be able to pick this up for me”
Checking my GPS
“23 minute drive”
Well, at least this guarantees my access. So I grabbed my phone off the charger, put a new roll of film in my camera, stuffed Freddy into my bag and got in my car. I had planned on smoking a little before I left -- if I’m gonna be battling the Atlanta traffic I wanna enjoy the ride—but the event starts at 1, I was on a time crunch, so I could only roll something and leave.
After typical hectic drive through the Atlanta traffic and parking, I finally arrived near Closette. The parking is notoriously awful out here so I had to park 3 streets over and walk. As I gathered my bag and the merchandise that Taylor gave me, I couldn’t help but feel a pressure building in my stomach. Almost like I had to use the bathroom really badly. I began to shake slightly and I could see the trembling in my hands and feet. My muscles were tense and I was sweating. I was nervous. Arriving to the location by myself with no direction, it can be daunting. I hope I seem legit. I needed to smoke.
So I pretended to be on my phone as I stood near my parked car and smoked to calm my nerves. I looked across the street and saw a funeral home with a nice cafe parked out in front. I guess there's always money in death. There weren’t many cars driving by as it was one of the few side streets you can find in the city with little through traffic. Calm enough to ease my nerves.
I walked down the street, camera around my neck, Tay’s merch in hand and shades on my face--not just to hide the obvious high but to also protect from the sun beating down on my face. It seems like the sun is especially highlighting me for today. I can hear the bass bumps from all the neighboring stores playing their music at high volumes, not understanding how any business gets done like that.
As I arrive outside of Closette, it’s bare. No fans, no crowds, no Fani and no Tia. There were cars parked in the ridiculous excuse for a parking spot that sat next to the buildings but no people near them. I checked my clock, it was around 2:20. I figured I was fashionably late enough to arrive in the thick of it. Maybe I'm missing something, so I walked in to Closette to see if things were maybe more lively on the inside.
The store was also bare but now filled with TiaCorine’s merch-- a plain white t with the statement “I <3 MY COOCHIE” and a Kingdom Hearts inspired drawing of Tia on another shirt-- playing her music on repeat, and constant loop of the “Freaky T” video on the flat screen that sits behind the register. Also behind the register are two young trendy dressed men. One dressed in a denim based out fit with lots of brand names and designs and the other in a highlighter pink shirt with black undershirt on with a black beanie. Real trendy looking guys, but clearly disinterested.
I approached the counter...
“Hey what’s going on”
“My name is Tyrone…”
“[Unintelligible talk over loud music ]”
“Cool, nice to meet you…..”
He’s staring at himself in the reflection of my shades. Typically, this is the part where they ask how can they help, but then again here I am this stranger with glasses being overly friendly. Do I say something here? Do I say nothing? The weed has me paranoid.
“…uh…is Fani here”
“Fani!, is he here?”
“Ok…well…is he gonna be here soon”
“He’ll be around…...”
“Ok……how’s the turnout been so far”
“…………well ok then”
At this point, the “can this weirdo stop talking to me” vibes are in full effect. Understandably so, here I am high as shit, with shades on inside, asking where the owner is. I can admit that I wasn’t giving the most professional of vibes but they certainly didn’t make any effort to make me feel comfortable. I take a couple steps away to pretend to look around the store. Now, I'm self aware and trying to break the awkward interaction.
“Have you guys been here all day?”
“Have you guys been here since the event started?”
Ok, I’ve fucked this interaction, so let’s just turn around and leave. As I walked out the door and as I felt all the blood rush to my face with embarrassment, I hear one of the guys at the register
“We work here, what did he expect?”
Like I said, it’s been a while since I’ve done this, so I’m rusty in asking cold questions. But nevertheless, I kept it pushing.
I went to go stand outside the store as it was obvious I was in for a wait? Either Tia or Fani, whoever shows up first is getting interviewed but until then I have to pass the time.
So I posted up outside Closette. Closette lies on the corner of an active section of the Atlanta art scene. Next door to Closette, is a small tattoo shop but you would never guess from the revolving door of people who come outside to smoke their blunts either before or after administering or receiving a tattoo. On the other side of Closette, theres Esco Bar, a brunch restaurant owned by 2 Chainz. Due to the name sake, Esco Bar attracts a certain tax bracket of customers so the cars that often line the streets in front of Closette are easy on the eyes to say the least. Directly in front of me and across the street, a mural of 2 Chainz’s son, Halo, overlooks Closette and neighboring stores, almost serving as the all seeing eyes of the block.
As I went to stand on a slim piece of wall between Closette and the tattoo shop, I see a guy with a handheld cassette camera. He has on his Yeezy shoes, all black Supreme jumpsuit, black shades all to accompany his splatter painted polaroid camera. He seems stoic in how he was here all alone and not particularly searching for anyone to get here.
“Hey, I’m Tyrone, nice to meet you”
“King…nice to meet you”
Already, a much more pleasant interaction.
“No, King, K-I-N-G”
King, is 21 year old photographer, born and raised in Atlanta, GA. However, initially, from his demeanor and tunnel vision, I assumed him to be older. King is the creator of his own meda brand and page "404onflim."
“Oh, ok. I see you got you camera, what are you out here for?”
“To get some footage and shots of the event, really”
“Oh? What for?”
“For my own personal brand”
Of course. At this point, I had to stop myself from getting on my soap box. I thought I was talking to another of these “entrepreneur” types. I tried recording the audio of our conversations as a means to capture the raw feelings, but it quickly turns from a genuine conversation to a performance featuring King shouting out his own pages and other business ventures so I had to stop it. I wanted move away from all the business stuff.
“You watch anime?”
“Eh…I mean sorta…not really…I mess with a lot of the older stuff”
“Ah well of course Dragon Ball Z and Naruto and stuff, but those are givens”
“Nah….not just those but some of the good stuff”
“Do you watch Attack on Titan is where this line of questioning is ultimately leading”
“Oh…nah…I never rocked with that show”
“Ahh..yea…I don’t know man..something about the animation…I couldn’t get into it”
“What do you mean the animation?”
“I don’t know man I just couldn’t vibe. Plus I like my shows to be real complex”
“Ok, I don’t think you’ve given Attack on Titan a fair chance because it definitely gets complex”
“Nah, man…just not my vibe”
After some more conversation about growing up and going to school in Atlanta, I revealed that after going to school with artist like Playboi Carti and Summer Walker (I love telling people that) I realized that I was in a unique spot to start documenting the scene. He took that as opportunity to spend 10 minutes searching in his phone of a photo he took of Carti, which turns out to be half blurry photo taken from a crowd, but he seemed proud.
“It’s a lot more rewarding to do it yourself,” he tells me.
“I get that that. Sometimes you gotta get the ball rolling yourself. Sometimes people wanna see it start popping first then they wanna join”
“Exactly! And plus a lot of people wanna steal your wood, to apply it to their own boats. I’m just here to get my shots then it’s on to the next mission.”
“So what made you wanna take photos, or when did you start?”
“I started in 2020, with all the protests and stuff that was going on.”
“Wow! You were out there during all that?”
“Yea man, I like showing my support but shit got too crazy for me so I had to chill. For me, after the Wendy’s protest, I was like ‘This too crazy’”
He was referencing the protests that took place in response to the fatal police shooting Rashard Brooks in a Wendy’s drive thru, which subsequently led to burning down of the Wendys.
“I was tryna get out there with some of my folks who were probably the Cop City too, but shit got too crazy there too.”
The Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, or Cop City as it’s informally known, is a complex being built by the city of Atlanta because…reasons. So naturally the people called bullshit. Rightfully so, you can’t even go two miles without hitting a pot hole or seeing a homeless person in the city so I could easily think of few ways those dollars could’ve been used. So in response there’s been a lot of protests and on March 5, a day before this event, protestors and officers clashed after what started as a peaceful music festival—featuring names like Zack Fox, Father, Raury and Mercury-lead to 23 domestic terrorism charges to some protesters.
“How do you feel about this Cop City stuff, and how stuff ain’t really changed that much?”
“Man, everyone out here playing different. Police, everybody. Everybody’s a cheat“
I was extremely fascinated by his perspectives. He’s representation of the resolve I wish I had when it comes to going out and getting content, in and out, no fucks given. Concurrently, I find him fascinating as he also represents what I am growing to loathe about the creative scene, this hyper independence even at the cost of progress.
“When it comes to documenting protests, I feel there’s a fine line, though. Don’t you feel a sort of detachment from the events you’re covering if you’re behind the camera? ”
I don’t think he understood what I was asking because he responded with
“Yea you gotta be safe, looking down at your camera and there’s shit flying everywhere, you gotta be careful”
As he was telling me about how to be safe while recording in chaos, I saw more and more people with cameras begin to gather. Some had their film point and shoots, others with their crazy expensive, 4k, DSLR cameras.
As more camera people pulled up, I asked King
“Does it ever annoy you when you pull to an event, you’ve got your cameras and stuff, and then you see a whole group of camera people pull with the same cameras looking to get the exact same shots”
“Nah man…I ain’t worried about these people. I know theres people out there with same gear as me. There’s people out there with better gear and better skills than me, but they not me. I just pull up and get my own shots”
After about 20 minutes of waiting and more people with cameras show up. King is greeted by local artist, Yellabandanna. Yella is wearing a yellow bandanna (very on brand) wrapped around and between his locs. His pants, embroidered with a bedazzled designed, would be conversation piece for everyone who walked by.
As soon as Yella and King meet, King immediately asks for a polaroid photo. The photo comes out really well and Yella appreciates it. It’s only after exchanging of photos and IGs that a conversation forms. Yella even updates us on Tia’s location
“Yea she’s still at the studio”
King and Yella were speaking about past performances and King reminded Yella of his performance for a collective known as Pink Flamingo that ended up with police being called. Pink Flamingo is known around, infamously depending on who you ask, for orchestrating social gatherings centered around car culture: customization, burnouts, and donuts, all the loud stuff. The events all have some sort of musical representation, whether it be performance from local talent or sets from local DJs and producers, but still sometimes get shutdown due noise complaints from the combination of car and music. Yella and King both were recounting the details that possibly lead to the police being called on the event, describing a wild scene of debauchery and car related noise generators.
“You was at them shits in the woods?”
says some guy butting in the conversation mistaking the Pink Flamingo event for the Cop City protests/music festival.
“Nah, we talking about something else, you was out there tho?”
“Yea we was out there but we wasn’t trying to get all close like some of them was”
“Damn, what time did y’all start?”
“Shit..it was about…god damn…it was..damn…fuck..I don’t know....I was with my niggas then we got the fuck on.....Niggas don’t be in the woods and shit”
As they brought up the Cop City protests again, the mugshots were released and only one of the protesters was black. I guess somewhat adding some credibility to the claim “Niggas don’t be in the woods”
“They really gave them niggas domestic terrorism charges. Them niggas really do the most, bruh”
“Fuck they thought was gone happen? Throwing fireworks and molotov cocktails and shit.”
At this point, the outside of Closette is starting to look reminiscent of the outside of an LA bistro that just got the call the the Kardashians were inside, camera men everywhere. Throughout the sea of cameramen and blunt smoke, I see my videographer friend from before who got the backstage access. With him, he has 3 different cameras, one small VHS like camera, another more expensive handheld camera and finally a 360° camera. He reminded me of one man band, juggling between multiple instruments to create a cohesive sound, not realizing that the band would be just as good and more efficient with more bandmates.
“I’m giving her 30 more minutes and i’m out”
King is getting restless, and as am I. The flyers said the event was from 1-6 and here’s half the time gone and she's still not here. The blunt smoke is starting to linger. Conversations about the validity of a cop city or the need for content creators to work together, have regressed into NFT pitches and internet gossip. But then, almost as if our conversation was being broadcast over the radio, TiaCorine pulls up Closette..finally.
As she hops out the car, she was dressed from head to toe in Original Fani clothing, wearing white Fani logo shirt and a white pants with a checkered like pattern of Fani’s logo printed throughout, all while holding an Original Fani tote bag/purse. She walked down the side walk from the street with her textbook smile on her face and before she could say anything King says
“Can I get your picture”
No hellos, no introduction, no foreplay, just straight to business. I’m kinda taken aback for her because she happily obliged as she fumbled to find a place to rest her belongings.
“How was the show last night," King asked.
King was not aware of Tia’a show last night. I told him about her show while we were both waiting. Admittedly I’m still kinda nervous, I wasn’t expecting Tia to be as agreeable and accessible as she was. So much so, that she walking up to me after King had taken his picture. She extended her hand. Oh! This is an introduction we’re doing here, let’s not ruin it
“Hi, I’m Tyrone…but I guess you can call me Freaky T, as well”
What the fuck am I saying?
Changing subjects and wanting to immerse myself in the role, I also hassle Tia for a picture, but not before giving her Taylor’s gifts and merchandise, which she absolutely loves. I feel kinda weird asking for this picture in such a forced matter. But this it the game, I guess.
While I have her attention, I should have some journalistic integrity.
“This was your first real show in Atlanta, how was it different than other shows here and how’d it make you feel”
“Yea when I say real show, I mean like with a whole stage production because like before it was just like artist show case and small venue stuff, ya know?”
“How are you liking this turnout”
“I like it, it’s like mad genuine here”
I found it fascinating that she felt such a genuine vibe from everyone here. I guess as the artist your interactions with people may actually come from a genuine place so your perspective may be “Wow this person is really interested in me” However from a person like Kings perspective, she was nothing more than an addition to his collection.
“Is this line your first real tour or have you done something like this before?”
“Nah this like my first real tour”
“And how does that make you feel?”
“I’m a little scared and anxious for tour life, not really knowing what to expect”
“But you should have fun though and enjoy it”
After that, I watch Tia start making her rounds to every person who brought a camera and microphone. One guy has an entire audio interface set up and asking Tia about her favorite anime and anime related things. Another group of girls with their cameras out patiently wait as more and more photographers and videographers pull Tia in every direction for just a sliver of her attention.
I ask King
“Ok, you’ve gotten your pics and video clip now what”
“It’s onto the next mission”
That’s what he said, but his actions say otherwise. He continued to wait around, showing anyone who was willing to listening about all the people he’s shot and events he’s snuck into, while repeating the phrase
“If my people not here in the next 5 minutes, I’m leaving”
He said that for about 30 minutes.
Throughout this time, King made sure to post his polaroid photos and VHS footage on his Instagram. I find that really fascinating because it’s such a real world example of how detached we become from the work we create. I’m sure King’s brand will benefit greatly from him posting, and I hope it does. But I can’t shake the jarring nature of waiting to get a photo of someone, only to marvel over the actual photo rather than the person.
My videographer friend from from earlier with the one man band setup was becoming quite popular at the pop up. All of the artists were enamored with his seemingly intricate set up and quick turnarounds. He became such a focal point, that King, who was staunchly against working with other, now wants to share contact info to work with him.
As the event has gone on, more familiar faces began to show up. Tony Shnoww pulled up to support, who King promptly got a photo of. Dram FKA Shelley also pulled up, who King also got a photo of. Dram seemed rather disinterested in taking my picture with Freddy, but it happens.
Fani began to show his face semi-regularly. Ever so often popping in and out of the shop, mingling with the groups, keeping tabs on Tia and the running of his business. His presence became reminiscent of a Gatsby-like character, an almost invisible figure but with an ever-present aura that fills the streets and floors surrounding Closette. Ever so often, I catch a small glare from Fani. I think to myself, “Does he remember me or is he looking at me because I’m looking at him?”
Moreover, it’s in moments like these I don’t envy celebrities. Tia is still jumping from location to locations. Taking photos, answering questions, and being the fun person that her music portrays her to be. At one point, I overheard her and Yellabadanna having a serious discourse over the best breakfast foods.
“Just having some bacon talk”
As things start to settle, the typical Atlanta traffic began to form in the streets before us, Kings’ imaginary wait time becomes real.
“Aight man, I’m done waiting on these dudes, I’m out”
“Ok man, nice to meet you, and wait..what’s the next mission”
“I don’t know, I’ll have to look and see what strikes me online”
And just like that King was gone. I feel a little loss there. He wasn’t the only guy out here taking pictures but he felt somewhat real. Although he had some surface level motivations to his immediate situation, he had his own visions. It may be hard to pick up from how he goes about getting footage of celebrities, but that same attitude allows him to document the causes he cares about.
One of the last things King revealed to me was that he will be joining the military as combat photographer.
“Wow, that’s actually hard”
“That’s dope as hell”
“I never knew you could do that” the surrounding photographers said.
“Yea man, they giving out $50,000 signing bonuses, so I said why not? And if China come calling, take me to the dealership, please!”