The return of FreakNik will look different than its notorious predecessors of decades past, when drinking, partying and public nudity were requisite ingredients.
It isn’t spring break–FreakNik’s previous prime time–and instead of taking place in random public spaces (highways not excluded), the event will be contained to Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood.
As noted by Live Nation, which manages the venue where FreakNik will take place, “FreakNik festival is a concert. This concert is taking place inside of our venue, which is typical to every other event we do. We’ll use our standard operating procedures relevant to an all-day festival and the expected attendance.”
Carlos Neal, one of the partners in After 9, the Atlanta-based promotion company producing the resurrection of FreakNik, said $70,000 has been spent on security and Atlanta police presence to handle traffic and parking lot access and patrols.
More than 14,000 tickets have been sold in advance of Saturday’s production, according to Neal. (The venue holds nearly 20,000.)
“Based on us doing so well already, I think FreakNik of the ‘90s is dead. This is a celebration,” he said. “Everyone is saying to me, ‘You’ll never be the FreakNik of the ‘90s’ and I’m like, you’re absolutely right. The people who were doing all of that tomfoolery, they’re grown now. They have kids and families and careers and smartphones. People can record them now! It’s different in every way.”
Tara Thomas, publicist and branding partner for the concert, echoed that sentiment when the event was announced this spring. “When people think Freaknik, they think party and chaos. That’s not what we want to do. We want it to be a party, but an all-inclusive one,” she said.
FreakNik will be broadcast live from 1-6 p.m. on WVEE (V-103, 103.3-FM). In addition to the musical lineup, the festival will spotlight community endeavors, such as a blood drive and voter registration and share health and wellness information.
On Sunday morning, Neal has organized a “community cleanup” block party around the Lakewood Amphitheatre area.
While he’s confident in the security organized for Saturday, Neal stresses that he and After 9 have nothing to do with faux FreakNik gatherings popping up on social media.
“I’m concerned with these other events because they’re not going to have security,” he said, “and that while we’re trying to celebrate something, we run the risk of having something happen somewhere that has nothing to do with us.”
For a rundown of FreakNik-sanctioned events, such as an after-party at Mansion Elan on Clairmont Road and a Sunday FreakNik Day Party at Atlanta’s Lava Lounge, visit freaknikevents.com.
As a native Atlantan, DJ Unk reserves a special affinity for FreakNik.
“I was out there following the crowds in ’96,” he said. “When everyone invaded Atlanta, it was all over the place. By Lakewood, the streets were just flooded. I begged my mom to go outside. People were out and about celebrating and having fun and living life. I thought, ‘I can’t wait to be 21.’ And when I started DJ-ing in 1998, I started running into (Uncle) Luke and Trina and Bun B. I’ve got records with a couple of them. It’s just a blessing to be part of this.”
Unk, aka Anthony Platt, is known for his 2006 hits, “Walk It Out” and “2 Step.” He’ll serve as the house DJ during Saturday’s FreakNik return at Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood in between a lineup heavy on old-school hip-hop from Juvenile, 8 Ball & MJG, Foxy Brown, Ying Yang Twins, Pastor Troy, the aforementioned Uncle Luke, Trina and Bun B and several more artists.
Back in the mid-‘90s heyday of FreakNik, Adina Howard was steaming up the charts with self-explanatory hits such as “Freak Like Me,” “(Freak) And U Know It” and “T-Shirt & Panties.”
Now she lives in Las Vegas, where she is an entrepreneur working on a cookbook/autobiography and potential cooking show in between musical endeavors – a dance version of “Freak Like Me,” dubbed “Freak” with British techno producer Carl Cox, is out in Europe and a new song, “Lifeline,” is percolating.
But Howard recalls her 1995 FreakNik appearance with a mixture of fondness and bemusement.
“We were wild,” she said with a laugh. “But my participation was business more than anything. I would observe a lot of what was going on. It was always providing the soundtrack for that era and that movement. Everyone was just doing their thing. Everyone was very much liberated, and they just wanted to do whatever they wanted to do, and I was there to say, ‘I got the music for you!’ I got to live vicariously through a lot of people.”
Howard figures that with such a parade of artists on the bill, it will be a “nonstop hits situation,” which she plans to deliver as well.
“I love interaction,” she said. “It’s always important to me that I get to interact with the people who come see me. There is a particular song, ‘Nasty Gram,’ when I bring a guy up on stage, so I’ll probably say, ‘Who wants to come up here for FreakNik?’ I usually have more women who come to my shows than men, and quite a few women who will volunteer to come up. Nowadays, if I were to bring a woman on stage, it wouldn’t be so surprising.”
Chicago rapper Twista also comfortably fits the FreakNik template because, as he said, “Fortunately, I do have a nice amount of freaky songs. When I play songs like ‘Get It Wet’ and ‘Emotions,’ it’s the perfect time when people are gonna get turned up.”
Twista has a throwback mixtape arriving June 28 called, “Summer 96,” an ideal bit of timing with the FreakNik festival.
“Everything is blending together,” he said.
Twista–aka Carl Terrell Mitchell–is also looking forward to return to a city that has developed throughout his career into a music mecca.
“In the beginning, it was a lot about the hospitality, and the true fans who were excited to see a hip-hop artist come to their city,” he said. “Now it’s exciting to see Atlanta turn into what New York was in the beginning. I’m gonna love being in that vibe and element.”
With Juvenile, Uncle Luke, Bun B, 8 Ball & MJG, Trina, Foxy Brown, Ying Yang Twins, Twista, Adina Howard, Pastor Troy, Da Brat, Kamillion, Project Pat, DJ Unk, Kilo Ali, Lil Scrappy, East Side Boyz and more. 1 p.m. Saturday. $56-$110. Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood, 2002 Lakewood Way, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, icketmaster.com.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.