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ATL UNTRAPPED: Hip-hop’s newest manufacturers — The Dope Coffee co-founders detail the family business
And hip-hop royalty descends on the ATL celebrating the genre’s 50th anniversary
Walking through the door of the Dope Coffee Roastery and Brewery, I expected to have a conversation — and a latte, of course — with the shop’s co-founders and owners, Stace Loyd and Michael Loyd, Jr., about the intersection of coffee and hip-hop. Hours later, I left the cozy new Decatur coffee shop with an empty cup and the realization that I had actually been missing the big picture. While Mike and Stace Loyd are most certainly hip-hop artists and coffee professionals, they are also — perhaps, most importantly — manufacturers. Prior to relocating to Atlanta, the pair of first cousins grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina — a historical manufacturing hub in the Tarheel state and also the birthplace of Grammy award-winning hip-hop superproducer 9th Wonder.
“As a teenager and as an artist, the city had a little bit of a hold on me,” Stace says while the pair recounts their formulative years back home. “I was heavy into trying to figure out what life had to offer.”
While living in Winston-Salem, Mike attended Wake Forest University, and in between his studies and his responsibilities as a college athlete, he recorded some of his earliest work — including his The Backpacker EP and his debut album, The Mike Loyd Report — in a DIY recording studio that he pieced together in his dorm room. Under the stage name of Creative Mike the Rapper, he teamed up with his cousin Stace to form a hip-hop collective, but it was ultimately a short-lived project. After graduating from Wake Forest, Mike had to make some major life decisions to best support his newborn daughter, so he pressed pause on his music career to join the United States Marine Corps. Before heading off to Quantico, Virginia, he gave all his recording equipment to his younger cousin.
Stace took the equipment with open arms, and alongside a newly built rap crew of his own, he worked to find his voice and sound as the blog era first started to materialize in the latter half of the 2000s. In the years that followed, Mike and Stace gradually embarked on two disparate paths — the former serving the country overseas as a 1302 Combat Officer and the latter taking his talents to Atlanta to work as a independent contractor within the music industry — that moved them further and further away from each other and their hometown.
While telling me about his time in Afghanistan, Mike explains that he wrote and recorded a song titled “Dustoff” to help process his stress from witnessing military aero medical response teams evacuate his shot and wounded comrades.
“Whenever I find myself in a difficult spot, I go back to hip-hop,” Michael tells me. “That’s my baseline.”
As a result, it should come as no surprise that hip-hop helped bring them back together, and while they eventually reunited in Atlanta to get their fresh new coffee venture off the ground, the spirit of Winston-Salem traveled with them as well.
Dope Coffee first opened its doors to the Decatur community in February, and in its brief tenure on the Eastside, the family-operated space has already become more of a cultural haven than a traditional coffee shop. For starters, it boasts a name that represents a major counter narrative against the stereotype and stigma of slanging dope in the Black community. Coffee is one of the most addictive and popular drinks in the world, so likening it to dope isn’t too far off-base.
“I saw this chart about rappers owning drink beverages, and it showed stuff like 50 Cent and Vitamin Water and so forth,” Stace explains. “I noticed that the whole thing added up to like 26 billion, maybe. The coffee industry is split in two — you have your bagged coffee and beans and then yo have the ready to drink coffee — and both of ‘em are $49 billion each. You slap those two together and that’s $100 billion, so you can say coffee is a $100 billion industry. So now you ask yourself where you wanna live.
“Let’s just take hip-hop, for example,” he continues. “Let’s make up a number and call it a $20 billion industry right? Now you’ve got all your artists, throw them in there, and they’re releasing like a new song every 30 minutes. Now let’s take coffee and call that a $100 billion industry and just throw one rapper in ther ‘cause ain’t no one really doing this yet. Guess what happens — that pool is way bigger over here to eat off of than trying to eat inside of this rap, hip-hop thing over there. I’d rather be over here.”
Following the logic of Stace’s comments, it only makes sense for the Loyds to unapologetically bring the same energy that Future exhibited on his 2014 platinum-certified single “Move That Dope” into their business.
“A fucking dope boy — that’s what I am,” Mike jokes. “Dope Coffee, to me, is not just coffee. We say, ‘Coffee. Culture. And hip-hop.’ But honestly, I feel like it’s something that only our culture can understand. Not to say everybody can’t participate in it, but some people find the word ‘dope’ offensive. I’m like, ‘Yeah, bruh. I’m saying it to you. This shit needs to offend you.’ I didn’t create the circumstances that make that word what it is. And I’m sure our community did not choose to bring that big ass drug wave into our communities in the ‘80s. Man that’s a whole lot of government policy, a lot of influence from the outside.
“It’s a lot of shit,” he continues. “The things I look back on, even in my immediate family, I can understand why they did what they did now because there was no opportunity. There was no hope. So you turn to drugs, you just turn to all that negative shit, man. So I was like, ‘Man, fuck it. Embrace it.’ I’m fucking done pretending like I can look at the world through everybody else’s perspective. Man, I went to college, got the degrees, and all that shit, but that ain’t that changed nothing as a Black man. You still don’t get the same respect, credibility, or any of that in society, so I was like, “Alright, bruh. Embrace it. Wear it on the front.”
That burning desire to make amends with the Black community’s past trauma through positive business ventures is part of what guides Dope Coffee’s operations, but as Mike mentions, you can’t forget about or downplay the role that hip-hop plays in the business as well. Directly across from the coffee counter is a media console with vinyl records from artists such as Lauryn Hill, Jay-Z, and Atlanta’s own Grip on display. But Dope Coffee’s affinity for music doesn’t stop there. Upon entering the shop, you’ll likely notice a spacious room to the left, and in addition to the Grip x DOPE Coffee “I Died For This!?” collaboration installation that’s currently set up there, you’re also liable to see an impromptu songwriting session, a brand pop-up, or a collective’s vocal rehearsals. Furthermore, there’s also a full fledged recording studio and performance space within Dope Coffee’s 6,000-square-foot facility. That being said, don’t allow yourself to get too caught up on the superficial aspect of the company’s exciting intersection of hip-hop and coffee.
“You will see other cats doing some similar things, but I’mma tell you how it’s different,” Mike says, prefacing a story that illustrates the difference between Dope Coffee and the new wave of Black celebrity-owned coffee brands. “A great example — from an artist I respect a lot, too — is Kiss Café, Jadakiss’s coffee line. I love him as an emcee. Jada’s number one frustration as an artist is he don’t own none of his shit. None of it. So this whole new dive into coffee is kind of a way to make up for the fact that y’all put out platinum albums but don’t really get anything back from that. Where I’m going with this is look at who distributed those records because now you’re trying to take celebrity that was built off white money and slap it together with coffee.
“The brand is being built off of celebrity instead of being built on its own merits, so for us, that’s what’s different,” he continues. “We had to stop chasing the music industry’s hip-hop. We had to realize that we got the full answer right here. You gotta look at who manufactures that music and I use that word “manufacture” specifically. The whole entertainment industry is totally okay with turning Black people and Black culture into a commodity to be sold, but we don’t tend to do it for ourselves. So in this building, the music gets cut, and the product gets produced, shipped, packaged, and distributed — the whole nine yards.”
Dope Coffee isn’t just a success story about a Black family-owned and operated company that sells coffee alongside special, limited edition hip-hop products. It’s a one-stop shop where everything you purchase or experience in the front of house — from the coffee and the music to the signage and the company merch — is manufactured on the premises. What makes Dope Coffee’s “from the ground up” approach to its coffee and music releases even more special is the cross-convergence of everything they do.
When you grab a bottle of Dope Coffee’s Ethiopian Cold Brew, you’ll notice that the packaging features not only an eye-catching portrait of Harriet Tubman, but also a QR code that pulls up Mike and Stace’s 2021 collaborative album Spinach. Because of their ability to manufacture everything that their company’s name is attached to, the Loyds have the prime opportunity to optimize their presence in the consumer’s experience, regardless of whether the consumer came to them for music or coffee.
“That’s the first house album that we produced, so that bottle is special to me. Like, some folks don’t necessarily get it, but I’m like, ‘Yo, that’s all our shit!’” Mike explains. “A lot of old coffee heads may not recognize that as like this is the way specialty coffee should be done. A lot of the heads out in hip hop might not look at the music that we produce,” Mike adds. “We building it in inside of this bubble we created, so it’s gonna be different. It’s gonna be unique.”
Halfway through 2023, Mike, Stace, and the rest of the Dope Coffee team are hard at work continuing to grow the family business into one of the most formidable and self-sustaining manufacturers specializing in hip-hop and small batch coffee. Last month, they dropped a new whole bean African espresso blend in tandem with the SoundCloud-exclusive release of Mike, Stace, and Steve Loyd’s (Dope Coffee’s Account Executive) new single “Business For Dummies,” and now, they are gradually preparing for the fall release of Mike and Stace’s next collaborative album, Stars Outta Poverty.
Yet perhaps the most beautiful aspect about Dope Coffee ambitious business approach is the liberation that it is bringing to the Loyd family. Financial freedom is one of the most frequently discussed topics in pop culture, but Michael and Stace’s efforts to develop a sustainable family business have also paved a road beyond socio-economic status. From talking with them for over two hours, it’s clear that the pair of first cousins is experiencing a deep sense of freedom and empowerment, and it’s going to be exciting to witness everything they accomplish moving forward.
“I’m done chasing what people think hip-hop supposed to look like,” Stace reiterates. “Look, I don’t have to wrap another bar. That shit don’t take away my hip-hop card. I’mma wake up and still be who I am every day. You know what I’m saying? I’m bleed it. I ain’t gotta make another beat, and I’m still gonna bleed the shit. Go make something. Go do something. Don’t look at it like, ‘Oh, well, they do coffee.’ No, nigga — we just making stuff. Shirts. Hoodies. We’re just trying to be as creative as we can and fulfill our creative genius as much as we can every single day. Make something, put it out. It’s that simple.” —CL—
Dope Coffee Roastery & Brewery (@realdopecoffee) is located at 5360 Snapfinger Woods Dr #134, Decatur, GA 30035. www.realdope.coffee
Here’s your hip-hop and R&B concert calendar for August, complete with newcomers, an astounding number of OGs, and exciting rap-adjacent acts.
Dirty Heads, Lupe Fiasco, Yellawolf and More, Coca-Cola Roxy — Hip-hop has not only inspired some of our all-time favorite rappers, but a slew of rap-adjacent artists and bands as well, from diamond-certified singer Post Malone to California-based rock outfit Dirty Heads. Surprisingly, both acts are hitting Atlanta up this month, but if you’re looking for a genre-fluid show that digs deep into hip-hop’s underground sound, the Dirty Heads show is the one for you. In addition to the headlining band, beloved rapers Lupe Fiasco and Yelawolf are also on the bill, so grab your tickets for the Island Glow Tour and get ready for an intriguing night of music.
$39.50-$114.50. 8:00 p.m. Coca-Cola Roxy, 800 Battery Ave SE #500, Atlanta, GA 30339. livenation.com/venue/KovZ917ACc7/coca-cola-roxy The Masquerade
Ascension: Jazzy The Rapper, Arzlee & More, Masquerade — Local rising acts are leading the charge for the Masquerade’s forthcoming Ascension showcase August 6. Judging from the line-up’s nicely curated mix of rap and R&B, it’s shaping up to be one of the most impressive local shows this month. Jazzy The Rapper, Arzlee, Alejandra, Victor Mariachi, and Lokii AD have all been tapped to perform, and Mudra Mami will serve as the DJ for the evening. Ascension will be held in Purgatory — i.e. the Masquerade’s most intimate venue — so prepare yourself to get up, close, and personal with your soon-to-be favorite artists.
$12. 6:00 p.m. Purgatory at Masquerade, 50 Lower Alabama Street #110, Atlanta, GA 30303. masqueradeatlanta.com The Masquerade
Snoop Dogg’s High School Reunion Tour: Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa & Too $hort, Lakewood Amphitheatre — While its name doesn’t elicit the hype and excitement that its star-studded lineup deserves, Snoop Dogg’s High School Reunion Tour has actually become one of the best low-key shows this summer. Snoop’s all-star supporting cast includes his frequent collaborator and kindred weed-smoking spirit Wiz Khalifa alongside DJ Drama, Taylor Gang artist Berner, and West Coast hip-hop legends Warren G and Too $hort. The 33-date tour kicked off last month in Canada, and before Snoop Dogg and the gang enter the final stretch of the tour, they’re slated to give one hell of a show at Lakewood Amphitheatre. Lakewood is the ultimate summertime venue in Atlanta, so whether you buy lawn tickets or seat tickets closer to the stage, you’ll be in for a good time.
$35-$249+. 6:00 p.m. Lakewood Amphitheatre, 2002 Lakewood Way SW, Atlanta, GA 30315. livenation.com/venue/KovZpZAEkeFA/lakewood-amphitheatre-events @lakewoodamp
Goapele, City Winery — Goapele won over our hearts with her early 2000s hit “Closer,” and, decades later, the acclaimed singer-songwriter is gearing up to do the same with her upcoming seventh studio album, COLORS. She released the album’s first single, “Time Heals,” in July, and this month she’ll be serenading local concertgoers at City Winery. There’s currently no confirmation whether or not COLORS will officially be out by the time she hits Atlanta, but concert attendees can still expect a beautiful and soulful vocal display from one of R&B’s most timeless artists. In typical City Winery fashion, Goapele will be playing two shows — one at 6:30 p.m. and another late-night show at 9:30 p.m.
$55-$65. 6:30 p.m. & 9:30 p.m. City Winery, 650 North Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30308. citywinery.com/atlanta @citywineryatl
KayCyy, Masquerade — At the age of 25, Kenyan-born artist KayCyy has already worked with music industry icons like Lil Wayne and Kanye West and secured himself a GRAMMY® Award for Best Melodic Rap Performance (Ye’s 2021 track “Hurricane”). Before even officially announcing his debut studio album — which is reportedly titled Who Is KayCyy? — KayCyy is hitting the road for his first-ever headlining tour. While the wait for his highly anticipated LP continues, local fans do have plenty of material to revisit — from his 2020 breakout project Patient Enough to his most recent EP TW2052 — before he arrives in Atlanta to take over the Masquerade’s Hell on August 12.
$29.50-$50. 7:00 p.m. Hell at Masquerade, 50 Lower Alabama Street #110, Atlanta, GA 30303. masqueradeatlanta.com The Masquerade
The Final Lap: 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes and Jeremih, Lakewood Amphitheatre — Another hip-hop legend is taking over Lakewood Amphitheatre later this month, but in contrast to Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa’s High School Reunion Tour, 50 Cent’s latest tour run is being touted as his farewell tour. While one would typically be wise to take a rapper’s retirement claims with a grain of salt, it actually seems like 50 Cent’s The Final Lap global tour may very well be his last. The 48-year-old rapper-turned-television mogul has not released a new album in nearly a full decade, and, considering the success of his popular Power tv franchise, 50 seems pretty far removed from his music career. That being said, this is the perfect time to see 50 Cent live. His classic debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin’ celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this year. If this really is the last tour of 50’s career, tapping Busta Rhymes and Jeremih will make sure he goes out with a bang.
$39-$249+. 7:00 p.m. Lakewood Amphitheatre, 2002 Lakewood Way SW, Atlanta, GA 30315. livenation.com/venue/KovZpZAEkeFA/lakewood-amphitheatre-events @lakewoodamp
The Force Tour: LL Cool J, The Roots, DJ Jazzy Jeff and more, State Farm Arena — If you somehow make it to the end of August without channeling your inner hip-hop oldhead, State Farm Arena has scheduled a concert that will most certainly pull it out of you. A little over a week after the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, LL Cool J will be teaming up with The Roots, DJ Z-Trip, and DJ Jazzy Jeff for an epic Atlanta stop during their ongoing The Force Tour. The tour promises a “one of a kind experience with special guests in select cities,” and for the Atlanta tour date, that means an incredibly special performance from the God MC himself, Rakim, shortly after the 35-year anniversary of his and Eric B.’s sophomore record Follow the Leader. Salt-N-Pepa and De La Soul will also be performing, so if you’re down to relive hip-hop’s golden age, get your tickets while you still can.
$68-$349+. 8:00 p.m. State Farm Arena, 1 State Farm Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. statefarmarena.com @statefarmarena