Director P. Frank Williams Discusses The Wild "Freaknik" Story And Telling The Truth (2024)

P. Frank Williams is the culture. The famed director and journalist talks to Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur about his new documentary, “Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told.”

An Emmy winner and recipient of 8 NAACP awards, P. Frank Williams is the director and executive producer for the newly released Hulu documentary “Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told.” Previously, he served as EP and showrunner for the 2022’s “Hip-Hop Homicides” show produced by 50 Cent. In the past, he also contributed as a co-executive producer for the BET documentary series “Copwatch America,” tackling issues of police brutality. Before this, he held positions as a producer at TMZ , a supervising producer for FOX’s “Who Shot Biggie and Tupac” and more. Originating from Oakland, P. Frank’s history goes back to a storied tenure at The Source Magazine, where he conducted interviews with influential figures such as Dr. Dre, Suge Knight, Lauryn Hill, and beyond. He even gave a young journalist named Chuck Creekmur, the co-founder of AllHipHop, his first professional assignment at the iconic magazine.

Now, the newly-minted founder and president of For The Culture By The Culture, P. Frank talks to his old friend Jigsaw about all things Freaknik.

AllHipHop: Talk about the challenges you faced telling this story?

P. Frank Williams: I think that I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just for a party documentary. I think a lot of people thought it was about the turn up and the streets and the girls and all of that. I wanted to show a much more nuanced, layered story, which hopefully everybody saw that it’s a history lesson of sorts, and I think I wanted to unpack all of that. So I think one of the biggest hurdles is just the stereotypes and the negative stuff about Freaknik, which a lot of people don’t realize. There was a lot more positive as well.

AllHipHop: Now, I noticed one thing, the name spelling changes throughout the doc. Sometimes it has Freaknic with a “C” and sometimes with a “K.” I was just curious, why was that like that?

P. Frank Williams: Well, I mean there’s a lot of different lore about why that happened. Initially it was because as you saw in the film, “freak” was a dance back in the day and they merged it with Nic (as in picnic.” So there was a C later on, probably in the early 90s, mid-90s or so. It started being used with a K.

AllHipHop: Got it. So here’s a two-part question. It seems to me like this documentary is also a love letter to Atlanta. It feels like it’s got a lot of history in there, even not just Hip-Hop. There was also this hodgepodge of other cultures as well that were a part of it. Even the rappers Biggie is in there. Erick Sermon is prominently placed, Luke as well. Luke is from Miami. What are your thoughts on that and how does this sort of all coalesce into this one huge, wild party?

P. Frank Williams: I think that Atlanta was the backdrop for a lot of us in the 90s. It was sort of a coming of age place where a lot of the rappers from that time, we call it the Golden Era from Hip-Hop, came down to Atlanta, whether it be Puff, (Diddy) Lil Kim, BIG or whoever else. Outkast, who were natives, got their start essentially because of the help of Freaknik. I think Freaknik was sort of the foundation where a lot of these people can go get music.

I mean, you’ve been in Hip-Hop hop for a long time. Imagine hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of New York City and you are a promoter or you got a new album, you got a place literally to promote all of that music. So if you were an artist back then, you had to be at Freaknik if you was trying to get on. I mean, Souls of Mischief was telling me stories about how they were out there and they were on a promo tour and that kind of thing. So again, I want to make sure people realize that “Freaknik” is a music documentary. It’s about culture and all that, but at the heart of it, it’s about the music. And without the music, which fueled the whole movement, there is no Freaknik.

AllHipHop: You also talk about when it went south, no pun intended, but it started to go downhill. One young lady in particular really discussed her ordeal, and I know she’s one of many. How did you deal with that as a man, as a human, actually?

P. Frank Williams: Well, I think I want to make sure that we didn’t ignore that. I always try to tell the truth in whatever I do since the beginning of getting into the culture. And so I think sometimes hard discussions are things that you have to have. And as African-American people, young people, we needed to have that discussion that some of the brothers there were inappropriate. Some were assaulting women, some were raping women. And so the only way through is through. And so I didn’t want to ignore that, and it was important for us to make that point and not ignore it and talk about why it ended. So hopefully we did that in a way that was truthful and respectful to the actual content.

AllHipHop: Were there any people that you couldn’t or didn’t get in this documentary that you wanted?

P. Frank Williams: There are some celebrities or whoever I think who had some really great stories that we really wanted to get in, but I think that we did a really good job of the people like Luke who were there. You know what I mean?

AllHipHop: Did you have any legal challenges? Older heads and aunties are like “I don’t want to be in this” and also some who were like, “Yo, I’m letting you know I’m in this.”

P. Frank Williams: Well, first of all, let me say this, just so people know. Legally, if you go outside right now and dance in the street in your underwear, you are not protected by law. Anything that you do in the public space is all bets are off. So there was no legal battles to hurdle or nothing like that. Obviously we don’t want people portrayed in a negative light, people having sex or anything that was really egregious – we wouldn’t do. But no, there were no legal hurdles.

AllHipHop: Did you leave some stuff on the cutting room floor that was like

P. Frank Williams: There was a bunch of inappropriate content that we didn’t put out there, some stuff that didn’t fit, and we try to be respectful of the culture and the content. Everybody’s asking me for the director’s cut to see some of the raw stuff, but I’m not sure that’s appropriate for a Disney audience or a Hulu audience.

AllHipHop: You have a new production company you’re starting, and I love the name and I love how it’s also spelled stylistically. Tell us a bit about it and why you started at this juncture.

P. Frank Williams: I’ve been in the culture for 25-plus years from our magazine days to now. And I’ve been blessed and fortunate to still be working through the culture, as you are too, and making money and eating and living, feeding my family, doing what I love. But I have noticed that often as a Black male dealing with a situation today that’s egregious, it’s tough to be sort of gentle and to deal with the people who are producing content about people of color. But there’s no people of color involved in producing. It results in a lot of sometimes negative stuff being put out and just battles of what is actually true and real.

And oftentimes, unfortunately, there aren’t enough people of color working on stories about them. And so it is important for me to make sure I give those opportunities to those folks and just make more room for these great stories to be told from young people and people acting like myself who actually lived it. So when I say for the culture, by the culture, you can just say for the culture, it’s something that’s down for the culture. But when you say by the culture means that it’s an inside out, that means it’s coming from the culture itself. So it’s important for me to continue to tell those stories where the sports music, pop culture, things that I specialize in true crime. So yeah, I mean that was the impetus. Myself, Jesse Collins, Ricky, whoever else you may see, will Packer, Keith, Kenya Bears. I think that’s the area that we want to continue to have these independent voices to make sure that we tell these stories.

For the full, unedited interview with P. Frank Williams, watch the video.

Director P. Frank Williams Discusses The Wild "Freaknik" Story And Telling The Truth (2024)


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