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The Fear of a Black Party


Jermain Dupri in front of Freaknix Promotional graphic

Jermaine Dupri discusses executive producing Hulu's Freaknik documentary and his ambitions as a Southern culture griot

UpRising: Leading up to its release, Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told had a unique buzz.

Jermaine Dupri: I think people are anticipating this a bunch of different ways. Some people are scared they're going to see their parents. Some parents are scared they're going to see themselves. It's the Southern culture hip-hop story that hasn't been told on this type of stage. I saw people on Twitter saying “Jermaine's going to put this thing out and it's going to set the Black community back 30 years.” This can't set the Black community back. This is no different than any situation that's ever happened in the hood and turned into something good. You have to see this story to understand.

What did you discover about the event in the process of bringing this documentary to life?

I didn't know this Atlanta thing was created by college kids from [Washington,] D.C. because they didn't have money to go home for Spring Break. I look at that as one of the most inspirational stories ever. They made something out of nothing. They never planned to create a cultural phenomenon; it was just kids trying to throw a small picnic for other college kids that didn't have money.

Wild Style showed what kids in The Bronx did with hip-hop, how they were stealing electricity to have parties in the park. It's really no different; it's the story of living in the ghetto. Kids from the ghetto created hip-hop—didn't have no money, no record labels, just two turntables and a microphone. Same thing with this. These kids created a phenomenon with word of mouth, a flier, and an incredible title. This story should’ve been part of Hip-Hop 50, but it wasn't because the South was left out.

How important was music to the experience of being at Freaknik?

Freaknik was the music that was playing. You heard it every day for the three days that you were outside, and you never got tired of it. It felt like if music wasn't playing, you weren't at Freaknik. I don't think we have music that lives in moments like that anymore.

If you were making a then-and-now soundtrack for Freaknik, what songs or artists would be essential?

Sexyy Red would be a Freaknik staple. [Freaknik co-executive producer] 21 Savage would be a Freaknik staple. City Girls, Drake, 2 Chainz. A new Ying Yang Twins record would be amazing. And then you’d sprinkle in classics: “My Boo [by Ghost Town DJ's], Uncle Luke’s “Scarred,” “Swing My Way” by K.P. and Envyi, “Whatz Up, Whatz Up” by Playa Poncho, and “Whoomp! (There It Is)” by Tag Team. You wouldn’t hear any trap. Trap music hadn’t come to life yet. That's not the element of Freaknik.

There was an aspect of Freaknik that wasn’t so positive. Can you speak about how this documentary—and history in general—can hold space for the good and the bad?

Yeah, there was an ugly part: Women being fondled. Rape. This was not a controlled situation. These kids that started it didn't know it was going to get this big [and] didn't have any connection to the city [or vice versa]. It didn't have nobody governing it. Once it went outside of the AUC (Atlanta University Center), it was out of their hands. You have to blame the [bad actors]. Unfortunately, it got wild. We address that in the documentary.

You’ve also executive produced a documentary about the legendary Atlanta strip club, Magic City. Are there other stories you’d like to document via film?

I have so many ideas. I'm trying to stick to it and make sure they get done. I think after the three-part Magic City documentary, people are going to be more interested in the Jermaine Dupri story. I don't know that that's happening, [but] that keeps coming up in interviews. Once [an idea is] in the universe, floating around, it's usually something I need to start paying attention to.

Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told is produced by Mass Appeal in association with Swirl Films. The film is now streaming on Hulu.


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