The City:

Alex Tehrani: The whole thing about Freaknik is it wasn’t in one spot, it was the whole city, you know? You had to have a ride, and you had to know your way around. So me and my assistant got an SUV and just started hitting the streets, and basically just dove in, and started seeing stuff going on. We’d stop and hang out, dance, and shoot. Then someone else would tell us about some other thing that was about to pop off, and we’d hear what spots were going to be going crazy later that night, and we just kept rolling. I’d been told enough to know that there weren't too many rules in place. The city of Atlanta, the cops pulled back, a lot of people just kind of like, let a lot of stuff go down.

Jermaine Dupri: The problem was that, and I say this all the time, the city never paid attention to the entertainment part of Atlanta the way they should have. There should have been a committee in the city that took over and kept it going. They said it became something that was bad, but it wasn’t. Of course, there is always something that break out when you got that many people around, but if it was controlled or they would have grabbed ahold of it, it would have still been going today.

Killer Mike: My first memories of Freaknik are the traffic jams in the West End area. We were still in high school before it got really big. It started off as just these small traffic jams that college kids from black schools just kind of popped up, rolled around, had fun. People weren’t really partying in Buckhead, it was centralized to the black neighborhoods in Atlanta. In the hood it was Club 559. There were kids who would just ride the bus down and pop out on the scene. It was just naked women, huge hair, and candy-coated cars.

Nika Watkins: A friend from my college, Grambling, was from Atlanta so we went home with her to attend Freaknik. What's funny is her parents were very inviting, telling us all they heard was happening that weekend. I heard about it while I was in high school. I was told it was fun and the place to be. People everywhere. Traffic was terrible in the city! Traffic was so bad people would get out of their vehicles and park in the streets. We were all there to have fun at first.

Derrick Boazman: I ran for the Atlanta City Council and was elected in 1997. By then, Freaknik emerged as a public policy issue as a member of city council, and at that time there were calls to control it. [Mayor] Bill Campbell took a beating because you had people on one hand saying the kids have a right to party, and the students are advocating: “We had this shut down by the black mayor. A black mayor shut down this black event.” You had the white community saying, “Shut it down or we’re going to figure out another way to shut it down.” So, you had all of this going on, pressure on the governor and everybody else.

Jermaine DupriPeople in the city were complaining about how they were going to get home and traffic and all of that. It was kind of like...it’s the same thing that they are doing in Miami right now for Memorial Day Weekend. They closing all the stores on Collins Avenue so you don’t ride up that block. It was like the same mentality. Pushing people away. It almost felt like you would get in trouble if you came to Atlanta. Bill Campbell was one of the good guys that got it but he also caught a lot of slack.

 

If it was controlled or they would have grabbed ahold of it, it would have still been going today.
—Jermaine Dupri

 

Uncle Luke: The problem is you’re trying to organize something but when they try to organize it, you know the shitty government didn’t want it. They went after all clubs, told clubs that they couldn’t be involved with Freaknik. If they tagged our logo then they would come after them whether it was code compliance or whatever it may be. The city did their job on it. It’s sad in a sense that the city government has a serious problem with African-Americans getting together and nobody wanted to try and organize something in a peaceful manner. But everyone is quick to organize an event where it’s another race of people. So to me it’s real sad. The economic impact of 400,000 people coming to a city purchasing hotel rooms and spending money—that’s major. You would think that the city would want to organize something like that.

Alex Tehrani: It’s always interesting to play the role of the journalist because you know, I’m not a full-blown white boy, so I was kind of let in on that whole Freaknik scene, but I was talking to some businessman on my flight to Atlanta and he was like, “Uh, we all try to get as far away as possible from Atlanta when Freaknik comes around.” I’m on a flight with people from New Jersey, Manhattan or wherever, who’d saved up their money all year to go big and have a fun weekend. And people in Atlanta were like, “This is not the Atlanta we all know and love. We distance ourselves from the whole thing.” The cops didn’t want to get involved, like, “We just let these guys run wild.” So there’s definitely a lot of takes on it, a lot of businesses shut down. There’s just a mix. There was definitely a racial divide. You’d see a lot of what I assumed were white-owned businesses that weren’t as connected to the black community in downtown Atlanta. They were just like, 'Fuck all that, we’re just going to go far away for a couple days.' And there were others that were like, "come one, come all, it’s Freaknik!"

Bun B: It was crazy for me because we ended up being stuck in traffic on the freeway – the freeway and the exits were at a standstill. So, I got out of the car and literally walked down the freeway, down the exit ramp, and into downtown in order to get to the hotel and secure... When I got out of the car people were drinking and dancing because everybody was there to party, they were pumped up and ready to go but they couldn’t get to the party. So, they were like fuck it. We’re going to party right here and right now.

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