Freaknik, The Musical.
I am loathe to tell other people who are in the creative arts what they can and cannot do. What is and is not appropriate. What lines should never be crossed, or what lines need to erased between the celebratory and the profane.
And in the case of Freaknik, The Musical, I will have to admit that I am biased in so many ways, but the most important of them is that I was once a Freaknik participant, back in the mid eighties when the crowds numbered only a few hundred, and the partiers were almost all college students from the Atlanta University Center and us hangers on from other metro campuses. It was basically a keg party on a Saturday in a no-name park on the south side of town, a party that if you were lucky would end up at The Mill or the clubhouse at the Club Candlewood apartments.
Nobody had gold grills.
Nobody carried pimp cups.
Nobody walked around with camcorders on night vision.
Nobody did strip teases on top of their cars in the middle of a traffic jam.
All that came ten years later, when what was pretty much an annual picnic had turned into a spring break destination for too many young people who had never seen the inside of a college, for too many NFL and NBA ballers looking for another place to show off their spinning rims and muscles, for too many groups of twenty five year old and thirty year old men who wanted to see “all that ass” walking around the streets and malls of Atlanta.
Now T-Pain has lined up rappers by the bushel doing the voices in this animated Freaknik cartoon that is more than over the top – it is Bamboozled without the irony, it is Do The Right Thing without the moral underpinning, it is the House Party trilogy whacked out on crack, the Pajama Jammie Jam without the pajamas. The flashback scene alone in the first episode is enough to make Rev Calvin Butts break out in a cold sweat.
All I kept hearing in the back of my head as the greasy sounding, gritty voiced growl of T-Pain and friends kept the mindless patter going was the phrase "let's simonize our watches, An-dy" from the old TV show Amos and Andy. This is ridiculous in the way Dolemite was - self reverential, self parodying, ham handed acting - T-Pain's cartoon alter ego as over-the-top as Rudy Ray Moore was playing the title character in his movies.
I really shouldn’t care – after all, this isn’t for us. It is for the stereotype addled minds of young white teens and twentysomethings and thirtysomethings who think acting black is tipping their cap to the side while drinking a forty. It is for the Quentin Tarentinos of the world and their followers, who know black people better than we know ourselves because they have watched black exploitation films until they have memorized the dialogue word for word.
And yet, in the same way that own the opinion I have, T-Pain and company own the right to waste the good money of Cartoon Network making a cartoon of what basically amounts to being a rap video. Times have changed too, with many of our college aged youth believing that they can straddle the divide between degenerate behavior and middle class norms without suffering any negative consequences.
Thank God my remote control can block individual channels.