How HennyPalooza Became America’s Greatest Party
Kazeem Famuyide shares how a basement game night evolved into a nation-trekking phenomenon
This Saturday, the epic HennyPalooza party returns home to New York City, bringing Hennessy-filled water guns, a full bar, and Ja Rule to Coney Island. The experience has traversed the nation over the past three years, but it wasn’t always an event that attracted thousands—including performers like Cam’ron, Chance the Rapper and Wale.
As the legend goes, HennyPalooza grew from a group of friends throwing a basement game night into a recurring party that’s now one of the most sought-after experiences for lovers of music and brown liquor. Kazeem Famuyide, one member of that founding band of brothers, sat down with MASS APPEAL to speak on how HennyPalooza became a phenomenon, where the cognac-splashing festivities are going next, and the truth about an unfortunate viral video shot at one of their recent parties.
What was the idea behind creating HennyPalooza?
I think people get confused thinking that we went into this trying to create something. My friends literally just wanted to have a game night. Myself, Kam, Lowkey, Chris Foxx, Dewayne, Austin Millz—we just wanted to party. It grew into something I don’t think any of us ever expected. Turning a BYOB party with Hennessy and fried chicken into one of the most sought-after events in the country wasn’t the intention, but it’s what happened because we started this thing organically.
What was that first HennyPalooza in the basement like?
It was amazing, man. We had been snowed in for days. And we just wanted something to do. So Kam goes, “I wanna throw a party with Hennessy and fried chicken.” And that was your admission. Bottle. Chicken. Kam’s basement. Lowkey and Chris Foxx actually coined the term “HennyPalooza” just screwing around, and it took off like wildfire on Twitter. This was before the era of social media metrics being so easily trackable, but we knew a lot of people started using the #HennyPalooza hashtag on Twitter. It was a cool kickback with music and food and booze. At one point I told Lowkey, “Bro, there’s mad people here. Let’s send this thing up. Let’s move this beer pong table, shut these lights off, and turn it into a real party.” Austin and Meka were playing the tunes and the rest was basically history.
What’s the wildest HennyPalooza to date?
All HennyPaloozas are pretty wild for their own specific reason, and each HennyPalooza has their own specific flavor but there really is no place like home. New York just gives us that energy because the crowd knows we are one of them. So if I had to pick, I would go with the last time we were in New York and we brought out Cam’ron as a performer. Until that date, our shows had performers but they were all usually surprises or just friends of ours that came on the arm. But having Cam’ron come really let people know that we were finally legit.
How do you feel about the HennyPalooza ripoff parties that try to replicate a carefully built culture in just one event?
I’m not even gonna lie, that shit sucks for many reasons. The biggest reason is they think they can replicate our success just by taking a top-level idea and trying to do it over again. They don’t understand how to build something organically. This thing started in a basement, we didn’t just come out selling out 5,000 tickets from the jump. It’s real corny how unoriginal people can be and it kind of is like a smack in the face from people trying to make a quick buck off of something me and my best friends started. You can’t run before you learn how to crawl and that’s why a lot of the biters are unsuccessful. They want success without putting in the real effort that it takes to get to that point.
Do you have any tips for anyone trying to create anything organically and by themselves?
Remember why you did it and don’t let money be the driving force behind why you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing. If you do something to the highest of quality and the best of your ability and the focus is on performance, the benefits will always follow. Always.
What are your tips for having the best HennyPalooza experience?
Get. There. Early. Get the full experience. Meet new people, drink as much as you want. Hell, you already paid for the ticket—get your money’s worth. If you get to the party at 9 p.m. and it ends at 10, and you’re on Twitter upset that you only got two drinks while 3,998 people knew to get there on time and enjoy it to the full experience, whose fault is that? Another thing I would tell you is to dress comfortably. It’s a party and there are no wall huggers. We want you to look good and look cool but not too cool to have fun. You can go to a club and spend $800 on a bottle for that. Lastly, I would say is don’t pregame. If you come into HP hot and you’re overwhelmed by how much liquor is already at your disposal, you know what’s going to happen.
What are your goals for HennyPalooza in the future? International?
There’s a lot of things we have in store for 2018 and beyond. Going international? Sure. That’s coming. I also believe that the future of The TNTH [the company that produces HennyPalooza] is big, and me being someone who is very suspicious and doesn’t count my blessings until they happen, I’m keeping that one to the chest until they come true. We can do another interview when that day comes.
What’s your favorite RAVIEB HennyPalooza photo and your favorite Peeje flyer?
All RAVIEB photos are my favorite photos. She really don’t miss. But if I had to settle for one, it would probably be the first time we sold out all the floors in Webster Hall and me, Kam, Rory, Chris, Low, and Dewayne are just kind of standing there on stage in awe. It always means more at home. That, and the #FlashRaven pic, for obvious reasons.
Peeje, again, a legend when it comes to the graphic design. And no, that’s not hyperbole, people stop him in other cities and take pictures with dude. How many people do you know that got hot off of PhotoShop? When we went to L.A., he turned the Capitol Records building into a Henny bottle. I thought that was amazing. In [San Francisco], he put Henny bottles on the Golden Gate Bridge. He’s really a master of what he does.
What have you learned the most throughout the event?
Loyalty is everything.
People have been getting laughs over a video that’s recently been making its rounds on social media. It shows you watching as a HennyPalooza partygoer topples over a barricade. What was going through your mind at the moment?
I hope she’s alright. She came in kinda hot, and judging by her height I didn’t know if her feet were planted anywhere and they weren’t. Thankfully she was okay, but man… that was a spill. And as that video would put it, I looked very unbothered by my feet, but the security guards handled it better than I could and if I dropped down to help her. I would’ve put my Jordan 6s all on her face. All’s well that ends well I suppose.
Okay, everyone from my best friend to my mama has asked about this video so I wanna clear up a few things okay. This is the full video, unedited. 1. The security guard was right next to me and got shorty up. 2. She was fine and continued to party. 3. My kicks were already kinda dusty so I wasn’t trying to keep them clean. If I jumped down I would’ve landed right on her and security was RIGHT THERE, guys. Lol (🎥 @karllunz)
If you could get one guest for the event—dead or alive—who would it be?
Man, I feel like Kanye West is going to give us that pop-up one day. He’s somebody who kind of embodied that DIY spirit that HennyPalooza was built on, and on a spiritual level I related to him walking around the VMA red carpet with a bottle of Henny and Amber Rose. One of these days, man. One of these, days.
Kanye included, what does the dream HennyPalooza look like? Where is it at? Who’s involved and what goes down that night?
New York City. No big announcements. Just a big surprise for our day-one supporters in our hometown. We just sneak him through the back right after we do the Swag Surf. Have all of New York leaning back and forth with their friends in tow and just sneak ‘Ye in and have him lead right into “Father Stretch My Hands,” and just have the place lose their minds. I don’t think anything tops that.
You can buy tickets here to experience HennyPalooza on Coney Island this Saturday.