Netflix original series ‘The Get Down’ popularizes hip hop
Netflix's new show, The Get Down.
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“All a man has is his word,” says Papa Fuerte (played by Jimmy Smits) in the outstanding new drama series from Netflix, The Get Down. This quote mirrors the struggle of The Get Down Brothers, headed by Ezekiel Figuero (played by Justice Smith) and Shaolin Fantastic (played by Shameik Moore), as a fictional hip hop group in 1970s New York City.
The Get Down (directed by Baz Lurhmann) follows the musical revolution of east coast rap and hip hop. It talks about the shift from disco and the musical and even physical conflict between the two styles. The show blends fiction and history of the 1970s, complete with drug kingpins, turf wars, and music.
The show throws in historical news footage to add to the authenticity and believably of the show. It often uses real events as critical plot elements for the main characters.
“It really ties the show together.” Junior Will Sec said, “It makes it feel real.”
Some characters themselves are real historical figures as well. Mamoudou Athie plays Grandmaster Flash, the “sensei” to Shaolin, teaching him how to be a DJ. This character is based on the real Grandmaster Flash, Joseph Saddler, a key figure of the hip hop scene during this time period.
Hip hop has changed since then though. The accessibility to recording equipment and the global market have shaped the music into what it is today.
When asked how it had changed, US history teacher Mike Kaul explained, “It was just kids hanging out in Brooklyn, it was more about the gathering.”
This aspect of Hip Hop seems to be lost often with concerned parents and politicians. We often hear bad reviews about the misogyny and violence that is present in much rap music from “Public Enemy” rappers like Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur. We don’t often hear about how hip hop was a cultural revolution as well as a strictly musical one.
“Corporate America’s infatuation with rap has increased as the genre’s political content has withered,” said journalist Christopher John Farley of Time.
While there is a point to what Farley said about music being run by money, there has never been a better time than now for independent musicians and producers. With the added tool of the internet, the globalization of an album can happen in seconds on iTunes, Soundcloud and Spotify.
With all this accessibility comes plenty of diversity. Origins range from gospel and soul music from Chance the Rapper, to Jewish klesmer from the Yiddish rapper Socalled. While sharing the same form, music and message are completely different between creators.
In The Get Down, the main character, Ezekiel, is surrounded by violence, poverty and hate but he decides to write poetry. He forms his own message based on what he sees and what he wants to see. He doesn’t let the bad things in his life dictate his work.
The Get Down is an amazing story of the underdogs of the Bronx. Their quest is to become the best Hip Hop artists of all time. Grandmaster Flash puts it into words,”If you wanna be a true DJ, conquer your street. Conquer your park. Conquer your neighborhood, conquer your borough. Conquer your city. And the world is yours. So, battle.”