“The Get Down” Won’t Let You Down.
Last spring, thanks to my NYC internship, I got the chance to spend a few days at the Bronx and interact with some of the teenagers hanging out at local library branches. So, when a friend suggested that I should watch “The Get Down”, I quickly said to myself “Why not?” and gave it a whirl. And I have never experienced such an emotional roller-coaster before. Because “The Get Down” isn’t just a TV show. It’s pure art. I knew the extravagant Baz Luhrmann was a great filmmaker. I very much delight in “The Great Gatsby” and its creative, colorful aesthetics but wasn’t prepared for what was meant to be one of the absolutely best series I have ever watched.
The story revolves around a group of African-American and Latino teenagers in the Bronx of the late 1970s. Main characters include:
- Ezekiel “Zeke” Figuero, a bright orphan naturally talented with words
- Shaolin Fantastic (if you liked Shameik Moore in Dope, now you will just adore him), a street artist and hustler trying to become a DJ
- Mylene Cruz, Ezekiel’s crush who, despite her religious upbringing, aspires to become the next disco star
- Grandmaster Flash, the hip-hop pioneer and DJ mentoring Shaolin (Grandmaster Flash is a real life hip-hop legend and also consultant of the show, read more about him here)
- Dizzee, Ra-Ra and Boo-Boo, Ezekiel’s friends
- Francisco “Papa Fuerte” Cruz, a passionate local political leader
- Fat Annie, a crime boss and Cadillac, her gangster son.
We follow their adventures and struggles as they get into the hip-hop and graffiti culture, as they try to understand where and with whom they belong, as they fall in love, hurt and get hurt, all in the area of South Bronx and all under a musical perspective. The show suffers from some factual inconsistencies but its goal isn’t anyways to provide a historical outlook rather than an ode to hip-hop’s early days while the disco era fades in the 1970s’ New York City.
The series consists of twelve episodes but currently only the first six ones are available on Netflix (the other six will air in 2017). However, they are enough to inspire, entertain and make you wonder. This multilayered musical drama manages to highlight not only the personal journey of its characters but also severe social issues such as racism, the divide between socioeconomic classes, drugs and crime, whereas at the same time the great content is surrounded by great rhymes, costumes and sporadic use of documentary footage.
“The Get Down” made me feel things. It surprised me, brought me tears, fuelled my anger, got me singing and dancing in my living room and made me contemplate. Exactly in the ways a piece of art should influence a person. So, what you are waiting for? Go check it out and thank me later.