The Breakdown on Netflix's The Get Down
Last Friday night, after being peer-pressured by my best friend, I checked out Netflix’s newest original series, ‘The Get Down’. In a matter of 8-9 hours, I finished the entire series and left with the same feeling I get when I finish binge-watching an amazing show: ready for 2017 to roll up so I can fulfill this need I have for more. As a token of my exceptional satisfaction, I’ve accumulated a brief breakdown on why I believe The Get Down is a pure masterpiece and why I will no longer accept mediocre media content made for and by people like me.
Rising-Star Unknown Actors
I had absolutely no problem that I knew none of the actors, for the most part, a lot of Netflix’s best shows are made with less-known actors. I think it allows the audience to solely focus on the character entirely instead of getting caught up on well-known actors because sometimes they themselves can become a distraction. How often do we look at current actors and compare them (while watching the show) to their previous roles or current life? I was more grounded in learning about each character and their role than getting caught up in hype. Besides, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting let down on performance had I had something to compare to.
Plot Focus is Key
TGD did an EXCELLENT job at focusing solely on the plot at hand, because the episodes focus on a continuous timeline of real time, you never get distracted with what day/month of the year it is. It tapped into real issues each characters were dealing with in order to fully understand who they are and how they make decisions, and the elements that they choose to overcome or ignore. But there was enough to understand and ponder on but no fall off the wagon on what’s going on in the bigger picture. The storytelling did a great job on the art of zooming in and out of the bigger picture and portioning it out,
History told in art, youth, and music
What better way to learn history than through the eyes of the future: the youth. Revolution was a constant theme throughout the Disco and early birth of Hip hop and they showed it through the lens of the young creators of it magically. To see the POV of a graffiti artist and the concept creation of their “stage name” as well as the content creation of what their theme was something I’d never seen before. To be filled around destruction, what better thing to do than to create amongst it all?
All About the Music
I’ve had Miguel’s ‘Cadillac’ on rotation since I found the soundtrack online. Of course, with music this good it’s no surprise that they’ve agreed to have it featured with Apple Music before potentially releasing it to the rest of the world. The birth of hip hop sampling was presented at its finest. The art and science (yes, SCIENCE) of DJ-ing is fascinating. I later read after finishing the series in less than 24 hours that Grandmaster Flash, who was a consultant for the show, got into DJ-ing through tapping into Electric engineering. My inner STEM advocacy yelled with joy on that being spotlighted in his interview. Like I mentioned before, during this time creation was a huge topic they focused on in many layers from the creation of Pentecostal Latin-Disco music, graffiti art, hip-hop & opportunity.
Legends on Deck
C’mon. Anything Nas puts his voice and hand on is going to be nothing less than excellence. A Vulture article stated,
“Beyond the real 1970s news footage and commentary woven into The Get Down, Baz Luhrmann’s music-infused drama that’s equal parts teen love story and ode to the origins of hip-hop, the hyperstylized extravaganza gets its street cred courtesy Luhrmann’s crew of collaborators: Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, DJ Kool Herc, the Furious Five’s Rahiem, Afrika Bambaataa, and hip-hop historian Nelson George.”
Legends collaborating together to executive produce this show is genius especially when ensuring control of the authenticity of how the story is told. Often when our stories are told they are left in the hands of people who have no direct affiliation of business period even trying to tell it or even dare to do research. I hope to see more pioneers take the reigns and initiative in following their footsteps. Why not have gifted storytellers help tell the story. Also, the fact that Nas voiced over the narrative rhymes played by the future Zeke had me hyped. Sometimes, you just got to do it yourself to make sure it’s done the way it needs to be done.
Where the Others Failed
This is where I began to shake my head and realize why I’m not a huge fan of the above. I’ve realized a long time ago that Jay is a hustler only down for the money. A true businessman. I don’t blame him, he’s good at what he does but that’s as far as it goes. While he has some ties with HBO (On the Run Tour and Lemonade featured films) and trying to keep Tidal afloat (just let it go, already) you think why hadn’t such a business pursued such opportunities with Netflix especially with their release of original films and series. Which leads me to Kanye in his pursuit to “change the fashion world”, between Brooklyn and Chi-town, there a hundred of stories that relate to them that could have been told and with history, costume design is definitely needed. So why hasn’t Kanye tapped into that to then display his “talents” Music, Art and Fashion all in the media form of film. TGD set a high standard on all upcoming segments with POC that they now have to meet.
Views from the Bronx.
There’s one scene where Mylene is on top of the building with Zeke looking at the skyline of Manhattan, mesmerized at it’s beauty and wishing to be there one day. And Zeke makes a statement of how he feels bad for Manhattan because while they are looking at the beauty of Manhattan while on the journey to make a Kingdom out of the Bronx, these at Manhattan have nothing to look at but the ruins of the Bronx. There are a lot of special moments that I appreciate in the sense of community and understanding the demographic of the Bronx. It’s notorious name of the Boogie-Down Bronx makes so much sense. The narrative of NYC have been so saturated with Brooklyn and Manhattan that I’m glad I was able to see this POV.
What Empire could have been
TGD is what I want to see when it comes to our stories in the music industry. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Not just drama and all over the place plotlines. Nelson George stated in an article featured in Variety, stating
“It’s very challenging getting the balance of music and story right. It’s not like doing a regular [scripted] TV show. We have full-on dance production numbers in every episode. That all took a lot more time than everyone thought.”
Granted that TGD was Netflix’s most expensive project yet. I think it was well worth every penny especially since it’s a POC project and I’ve grown tired of mediocre films and tv shows. I’d much rather prefer Quality work than Quantitative work and that is where I think Lee Daniels failed miserably at.
For those of us who weren’t born in such a dynamic era, the thought of how events like the Blackout in NYC created the rise of DJ-ing hadn’t really crossed our minds. We can’t even get history told to us authentically while in school unless a hip teacher who actually knows their stuff is involved. The one thing I love about history and historical fiction shows like Mad Men, is that you watch the show as though you’re watching it in a time capsule, so you get to see how the events of the past affected the characters. I love that they brought the breakdown and close lens on the politics taking place in NYC as it related to the fictional burning buildings in the Bronx to collect insurance money in hopes to rebuild housing for the community, the mayoral run and the need for black/brown votes, the take-down on graffiti political campaign, the “Papa Fuerte” of the community, the church’s struggle in the time of Disco, and event the politics of record companies vs domination of DJs at gay clubs. All these elements are necessary to understand the how’s and why’s. The grey areas that count and allow you to understand that not every answer or decision can be answered with a yes or no. Also, I watched an interview about cultural appropriation and how black people shouldn’t be so quick to call it out especially since every group has appropriated another’s culture at some point. Boy, I saw what that person meant when watching how the heavy influence of Bruce lee and Kung-Fu swept across NYC, the black community, and in music. You see clearly in how the exchanges of Grand-MASTER and GrassHopper; even how they say it is filled with it’s influence.
Messy, Dumb and Quirky, Brown teenage love
And lastly, of course you’ve got to fit a love story in the midst of it all. I will say that I absolutely HATED Mylene’s character because I felt she was selfish and played victim far too much for my liking. Granted, she did have some tough moments to go through, however, it didn’t excuse her excessive attitude and spoiled-brat sense of entitlement throughout the show. I thought it would mend over after the hour and a half first episode…I thought wrong. Zeke is a true boy in love and his growth in becoming a young man only makes you swoon at the come up of such a gifted WordSmith. It’s like watching the lion in The Wizard of Oz come to his courage and take his place as the King of the jungle, and Zeke definitely steps into his place as a contender at being the King of the Boogie-Down Bronx. </binarybeauty>