WORDS ON THE GET DOWN (No Spoilers)
So 'The Get Down' is finally out on Netflix! As a writer, story teller and semi film maker, as well as a bboy living and learning through the adventure that is Hip Hop culture, I had to write something!
After watching the 6 episodes of the first part of season one, I wanted to use words like 'Raw' and 'Authentic,' to describe 'The Get Down.' I wanted to say that 'it's true to what life was like growing up in the Bronx back then!' But I didn't grow up in the Bronx in the 70s, around gangs and violence, dealing with blackouts and looting, drugs and police, sneaking into train yards to bomb cars, or going to underground Hip Hop parties. So who am I to say if it's 'Raw,' or 'Authentic' to the time and culture. Who am I to say if it's true to what life was like growing up back then. But I know the craft of storytelling. I know how stories work and why, I know what makes them engaging and why, and 'The Get Down' is just that, a story.
It's a not a documentary on Hip Hop. If you want something that gives you an in depth account of how Hip Hop came about, the where's, why's and when's, then watch 'The Freshest Kids,' 'Wild Style,' or 'Style Wars,' or read 'Can't stop, won't stop, A history of the Hip Hop Generation.' 'The Get Down' is TV and TV is meant to entertain, it's meant to capture your imagination and take you on an emotional roller coaster, where you come to care about characters and want to follow them on their journeys. And 'The Get Down' is an emotional roller coaster about having to grow up quickly in a violent, unstable, stress filled time. It is fresh and wild and doesn't stop hitting you with the emotional ups and downs of the story until the credits roll.
If you're looking for something that is gritty and hard hitting like 'The Wire,' showing what life was 'really' like in the streets, I wouldn't say 'The Get Down' is that. It's a colourful, dramatic, music infused ride, that for me was closer in comparison to the likes of the movie, 'Fame' (the 1980s original not the 2000 remake). It follows a group of kids trying to find their identity in a time when their own city had left them to rot and die. It's about discovering your voice and following your passion when no one believes you have anything of worth to say. It's about seeing inspiration in the creativity of those around you, and believing in the path that inspiration puts you on.
If you're a bboy, or bgirl, expecting to see your favourite dancers pop up and go head to head in spontaneous battles, throwing out the dynamic moves that you're used to seeing nowadays, 'The Get down' isn't that. It is not a dance movie/show. Among the main characters you have a DJ, a Graff Writer and a MC. There's hints at one of them possibly getting into breaking, but in the show bboying is what it was at the time 'a new battle dance about style and burns, that most everyone did at the time.' It's only the first part of the first season, so who knows where it'll go and who the characters will developing. Plus we all know that breaking isn't easy, it takes years of practice, so unless they were going to continually stunt double one of the actors, one of the cast would have, to have taken up the art of bboying extensively, to portray it genuinely and athletically on scene. But I challenge any bboy, or bgirl, to watch the show and not want to suddenly move everything aside in their room and throwdown when 'Apache' drops with full force, and the circle goes off, during the party scenes!
Hustlers, Voguers and Wackers, there's plenty in here for you as well, as we all know that Disco was what was 'cool' and driving the club parties at the time, and the disco energy and power is in full flow in 'The Get Down.'
The most important thing, from my point of view, is what, 'The Get Down,' represents.
Just like Hip Hop, it's a larger than life, ghetto, fairy tale, in which the DJ is the God-like party conductor, the MC lyrically ignites the crowds, the Bboys bring fire to the circles when they go off on the break, and the Graffiti writers are poetic artist spraying profound messages that travel the city. Hip Hop is the Positive, driving force that brings the characters together and makes them fight to be more than they even hoped.
Executive produced and musically narrated by the legend Nas, I challenge all rap lovers to not find themselves hoping that Nas drops a 'Get Down' album, after listening to the crazy-dope, lyrical story telling dropped at the beginning of each episode, by the rapper.
The show is filled with inspiring speeches from the Grand Master Flash and Kool Herc characters, who are portrayed as positive, deep, articulate mentors and role models, who live by, and in still, a strong moral code in the youngsters they meet. As well as bringing a poetic, clarity to the role of the DJ; listening I suddenly wanted to learn to spin, scratch and mix.
'The Get Down' has a strong message that music is important, music saves lives, changes people and gives hope to those that need it.
We also have to realise what a massive achievement it is that 'The Get Down' is out, and on widespread broadcast release! Anyone who knows anything about the business of Television will tell you that, that isn't an easy thing to achieve. It's not some low budget production that you have to search to find. It's not some poorly acted, poorly shot, commercial reflection of Hip Hop culture, quickly made to cash in on the new trend in street dance movies. It's Hip Hop culture brought to life by a legitimate director (Baz Luhruman.) It was put together with the help and input of known names in the Hip Hop community, old and new, with them having played large roles in the production of the show. It's populated with Breakers, Graffiti Writers, MC's and DJ's, in small roles, and as extras in the show. Go back the past few years and look at all the posts on how ethnic groups are underrepresented in movies and on TV, and how characters we should be playing are being given to people not of our race or culture, and now look at this show and what it means to have it out there.
It's been a long time since Beat street and Spike Lee movies made big splashes and showed people a more positive face of Hip Hop. Too many productions to do with Hip Hop nowadays usually only want to portray the more violent, negative sides of the culture. Yes, that's a reality, but Hip Hop wouldn't have come this far if it was based on fighting and killing each other.
Also our culture is made for storytelling! It was a product of the giant, superhero like, personalities of the figures who personified the aliases they went by as MC's, Graffiti Writers, Bboys/Bgirls and DJ's. Hip Hop gives so easily over to visual story telling. And the fact that, 'The Get Down,' is out and being talked about, and making waves, shows once again that Hip Hop is one of the most inspirational movements and cultures to exist on this planet today.
For me, to see it on TV like this is a crazy inspiring example of how Hip Hop turned struggle into inspiration. 'The Get Down' shows beautifully how a group of kids, growing up with nothing, ignored and forgotten, trapped by poverty and violence, refused to be told that they were nothing, and refused to allow their circumstances to define their power to create something positive. Go back 40 odd years and tell one of them kids simply getting down at a party, that, 'one day people will make shows about this, that will inspire generations all over the world,' and that kid would probably just look at you and say, 'maaannnn, you crazy, we just dancing to the music and trying to survive.' Yet here we are, 2016, from 'Beat Street' to 'The Get Down,' and I feel inspired to write and share these words.
But I'm just a story teller and a bboy, enjoying my journey in Hip Hop culture. Watch 'The Get Down' for yourself and see what you think. But watch it with no expectations, just an open mind to allow the story to pull you in to its world.