T-Pain has in just a few short years become one of the most recognizable, and entertaining, stars on the planet. With a unique look (first motherfucker to properly rock a top hat since Honest Abe), a signature musical style (I think we all know what that is), a string of hit songs (including one of the best R&B songs, as well as one of the best hip hop songs of the past 3 years), and an impressive comedic turn (or perhaps just an earnest ode to boat occupancy), T-Pain has become something of a bejeweled, grilled, and dread-locked Renaissance man.
And his legend will only grow with the premiere of Freaknik: The Musical, the best and funniest original content that Adult Swim has produced this year, and the greatest hip hop musical ever made (yeah, suck it, Carmen: A Hip Hop Hopera!). Featuring a legendary cast, an amazing soundtrack, a healthy knowledge of hip hop culture, and some very funny jabs at a number of “celebrities,” Freaknik: The Musical is the Citizen Kane of one-hour animated hip hop musical comedy television specials. And it’s the goddamn Holy Grail for animated comedy nerds who happen to love hip hop (Huzzah for me!).
The plot is relatively simple, but absolutely inspired in its execution. When the ghost of fun-loving, positive message-spreading Freaknik is summoned back to Earth (by an elderly, wheel-chair bound Lil Jon no less), he sets up a rap battle which catches the attention of a young crew, the Sweet Tea Mobsters (featuring Rick Ross and Cee-Lo among others) who decide to take part. Their journey becomes an odyssey of sorts across hip hop’s legendary “dirty south,” with a stop in New Orleans and culminating in the mecca of southern hip hop, Atlanta. There’s also a few clever Odyssey references, including a group of sirens (AKA “lovely bitches”), lotus eaters (in the form of homoerotic frat boys, one played by Andy Samberg, with lots of alcohol), the crew is faced with a number of trials seemingly sent from on high (“It’s like God himself don’t want us to make it”), and the crew’s leader is named Big Virg, presumably short for Virgil, who wrote the Aeneid, a sort of Roman version of The Odyssey (I’m stretching the conceit razor thin so you know I’m serious about this shit). Freaknik is also challenged by a group called the Boule, controlled by a megalomaniacal Oprah.
Here’s a few of the show’s highlights:
-Lil Wayne as “Trap Jesus”
-Charlie Murphy as Al Sharpton, who later is reborn as the Perminator, and fights a Godzilla-style mega battle with Freaknik
-The Perminator asleep on his bed with a half-eaten sandwich on his chest
-Rev. Jesse Jackson obsessed with cutting nuts off (ala this)
-Forbidden Planet soundtrack music at one point during a Boule council scene
-The “Ghetto Commandments”
-A Lil Jon “What? ” peppered throughout the show at various moments
-A reference to Mariah Carey in The Prince of Egypt
-An Asian skydiving Malcolm X impersonator
-An in-movie Squidbillies commercial
-Bootsy Collins and George Clinton as freaky space aliens from the Mothership
-Doela Man: “You pull over. I’ve seen this on The Wire, buddy.”
I do have to say, though, I am a bit disappointed that a show featuring voice work from Lil Wayne, Big Boi, and Cee-Lo would fail to use any of them in a song, considering they’re all legendary hip hop stars and this is a hip hop musical. It’s also rather mind-boggling to me that the premiere wasn’t accompanied by a full soundtrack. With such a huge collection of musical talent, and such a great assortment of songs, you’d think Adult Swim would want to capitalize on the investment as much as possible. Seems like a hugely wasted opportunity. “(I’ll) Save Ya” and “Freaknik is Back” are two of the catchiest hip hop songs of the year, and if just the six songs off the program were released it would be one of the best hip hop albums put out thus far this year (that says something about the sorry state of hip hop at the moment but that’s a topic for another time). And yet the goddamn songs aren’t even on iTunes. I can’t even download them illegally. And that’s my god-given right as a cheap, lazy internet nerd. It’s goddamn un-American! Or perhaps Trap Jesus was right about divine intervention: “He’s testing your faith, your loyalty to the game.” Well played, hip hop Zeus. Well played.
Freaknik: the Musical will be out 4/6 on DVD via Warner Home Video. You should buy it. Or visit the beautiful Wisconsin Dells.