30 Years Later, Story of Freaknik Gets Told

Posted March 20, 2024

What started as a picnic for Black college students in 1983 turned into a national — even international — party that filled the parks and streets of Atlanta. It turned into Freaknik, and it’s now the subject of a Hulu documentary.

Joycelyn Wilson, assistant professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication, says the release of Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told continues to raise the profile of Atlanta’s role in hip-hop overall, not just in the South.

“It was Black college weekend, and it attracted folks from all over. It grew into a big weekend for Black youth and artists to come together and enjoy the weekend and each other,” she said. Wilson, who grew up in Atlanta and is a Black media studies and hip-hop scholar, has been familiar with Freaknik since she was in middle school — although, the first time she was there, she didn’t even realize it.

“I was with my cousin, and he told me to sit in the car while he talked to his friends,” she said.

The documentary, produced by Luther Campbell, Jermaine Dupri, and 21 Savage, highlights Freaknik in 1994, which Wilson says was a pivotal year for hip-hop. It brought the release of OutKast’s debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, along with albums from Nas and Biggie Smalls.

Freaknik was a platform for them to perform and really expanded how hip-hop came together,” Wilson said.

As Freaknik grew, so did its problems. Amid reported sexual assaults, traffic, and safety concerns, Atlanta police attempted to shut it down in 1999. Wilson covered the decline of Freaknik as a journalist for Rap Pages at the time with her article, They Don’t Freak No Mo. “Visitors were welcomed only to the Sweet Auburn Fest, while downtown was filled with nothing more than ghosts of Freakniks past,” she wrote in the August 1999 issue.

Still, the essence of the original Freaknik fellowship lives on elsewhere in Black culture, at HBCU events such as Homecoming and music festivals. Wilson recalled the One Music Festival in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park last year, where, as Kendrick Lamar performed, she felt a similar feeling to what Freaknik once evoked.

Others have attempted to revive the event in the past. Whether the documentary’s release could spur another attempt remains to be seen — but, as Wilson said, “it could get a remix."

Related Media

Joycelyn Wilson

Related Link

Contact For More Information

Kristen Bailey

Institute Communications