Why was it special?: IT’S A CELEBRATION OF HIP HOP CULTURE.
Oh-ho-ho, Freaknik is back, BAY-BEE!
What better way to ring in the second to last day of Black Animation Month with this Adult Swim produced movie based on one of the hottest college block parties to ever hit Atlanta, Georgia. In keeping with the spirit of being based on a party, this whole movie feels like one huge party full of music, dancing, and colorful personalities whoopin’ it up. As if that weren’t enough, the cast of this movie is a veritable who’s who of big names in rap who do in fact do some rappin’.
That’s something I love about Adult Swim; they have the pull to bring in a lot of big name stars yet they also enjoy bringing exposure to lots of up and coming artists. Hey, they worked their magic to an extent with Tyler the Creator and the rest of Odd Future.
Anyway, as much of a good time as this movie is it did come under a lot of flack for, in no small words, reinforcing some negative stereotypes about black folks. Ohh yeah, the stereotypes that all black people care about is partying, vanity, finding ways to get out of work, and endlessly coveting material possessions. It’s got all that and more– but at the same time, look at the company that produced it. Adult Swm is known for having a tongue-in-cheek style of humor where they make fun of everything and everybody. They’re making fun of all these aspects of Black culture by presenting them in a context of relative normalcy for the setting.
To give us some more perspective, let’s turn the table over to Pix.
Freaknik was an interesting project to say the least. An animated semi-musical presented and starring autotune artist T-Pain, as well as the likes of Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, Lil Jon and Cee-Lo Green just to name a few. And it’s also kind of based on the legendary black party of parties in 90’s era Atlanta? If I had to sum up my experience with this special using two words, I’d probably say: guilty pleasure. During its initial premiere, Freaknik got a bit of flack from critics, while some publications like Essence Magazine, pretty much wrote if off as an embarrassment and harmful to black culture. Personally the bemoaning articles and criticism felt more like critics out of touch with the youth. You know, Bill Cosby telling us to pull up our pants moment. And honestly, while the jokes in this special tether just a tad past satire and into stereotypical at times I wouldn’t go so far to call it the entertainment A-Bomb to black culture. What I had hoped to get from Freaknik was the hip-hop equivalent of Metalacolypse, which is essentially a show about metal culture that makes the jokes about much of metal so absurd, yet strangely kind of true. But its comedic cover also wraps around a dedicated smart love letter to the culture. Brandon Smalls is a true metal head. Heck, the guy even made a concept metal album AFTER creating three soundtracks worth of material for the show. So when he subtly slides in a joke about an infamous black metal artist whose suicide death made a cover, you know its done out of a weird morbid love for the culture. And Freaknik kind of does that to a degree, but nowhere near on the level that it could like with Metalacolyspe does for metal or Black Dynamite does for Blaxploitation films or the social scene of its time. For every funny joke and nod, like Kid And Play dancing while mentioning that their current party is better than any other “House Party,” they’ve hosted, you’ve got other cheap racially-charged jokes that just sort of fall flat. But maybe the point of Freaknik isn’t really to over-think it. Perhaps it wasn’t really trying to be a show that’s smarter than it looks on the surface. Maybe in its own way, it’s just trying to force viewers, especially black viewers, to let go and have fun much like the original concept of Freaknik before it all went to shit in the mid to late 90’s. Who truly knows. But one thing’s for sure, that soundtrack is pretty bumpin’.
That just reminds me, I gotta get the soundtrack but yeah, that’s pretty much what I thought. Thanks, pal.
The 90-minute uncut version of Freaknik: The Musical has been released on DVD and other forms of home media.
Freaknik: The Musical originally evolved from a failed pilot entitled That Crook’d ‘Sipp which was created by Jacob Escobedo, Nick Weidenfeld, Levell “David Banner” Crump and Mike Weiss. The pilot premiered on television on May 13, 2007.
In its original American broadcast on March 7, 2010, Freaknik: The Musical was watched by 797,000 viewers 18-34, making it the second most watched Adult Swim program of that night, behind a rerun of Family Guy.
I ain’t partied out just yet folks, tomorrow is the final day of Black Animation Month and do I have a special treat for you. IT’s a little something I’ve been looking forward to showcasing for a long-long-long time because it’s something very special to me. Hope you’re ready.