A REVIEW OF THE NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES THE GET DOWN
By Juan Carlos Diaz @Tearsofwardiaz
As an avid fan of hip-hop, I always yearned for a depiction of the early days within the realm of film, be it through a TV show or movie. Some might argue that Hollywood has already explored the early days of hip-hop with films such as Breaking and Beat Street, which were both released in the early 1980s. Despite showcasing hip-hop as its own musical genre, both fil focused on only on specific element of hip-hop, which was break dancing. Those of us who are fans of hip-hop, however, are aware that there are four elements that make up the foundation of this particular musical genre. The first layer that makes up hip-hop is the graffiti artist that would spray paint messages on bare walls and subway trains. The second layer of the foundation of hip-hop was the DJ, which would fabricate beats by using bits and pieces of existing musical recordings. The third layer was of course the MC, which would write and recite lyrics over the DJ’s beats. The final and fourth layer of this beautiful collage was break dancing.
Oddly enough, I can say that not one of the layers that have mentioned were ever properly depicted on film (at least in my opinion). That is until director Baz Luhrman released his masterpiece The Get Down on Netflix. Releasing in two parts, the first part of this series takes place in Bronx, New York, 1977. The show follows the characters Ezekiel Figure, a half African American and Puerto Rican teenager who has a deep love for writing poetry. This particular character is played by Justice Smith who is known for his corky role as Radar in the film Paper Towns. Mylene Cruz, Ezekiel’s love interest is played by newcomer Herizen Guardiola, as she tries to balance her desire for becoming a disco star and obeying the strict rule of her overbearing father; who is a Pentecostal church minister.
The audience will also be introduced by a host of different characters, like Boo Boo, Dizzy, and Rah Rah, who are Ezekiel’s closest friends. The group’s existence within the show is no coincidence, however. Each of Ezekiel’s friends represent archetypes within the hip-hop genre. For example, Boo Boo represents the bravado get money attitude that is present within hip-hop song sometimes. The character Dizzy represents the artistic free that a lot of graffiti artist carried with them at the time. Rah Rah, however, represents the social awareness that was present in a ton of hip-hop songs in the mid-seventies and early eighties Also, another vital character to the series is Shaolin Fantastic, which is the DJ of the crew.
However, what make the Get Down so fascinating to watch is that the show discusses the political and social climate of New York in 1977, depicting the landslide victory Ed Koch had over Mayor Beam and its effect on the African and the Puerto Rican communities. Also, depicted in the show were some of hip-hop’s historical figures, like Grand Master Flash, Kool Herc, and Afrika Bambaattaa and the Zulu Nation; all of which help with the development of the show’s plot. In my opinion, it is because of these elements gives this show 4 out of 5 stars.