A very different style of TV show hit Netflix on Friday (Aug. 12) and for those who get the message, “The Get Down” is something to behold. Baz Luhrmann’s new series tells a mythological story inspired by 1970s New York, the seedy world of disco music and the birth of a new genre of music now known as hip-hop.
There have been many reviews that have hit comparing this massive undertaking — Netflix invested $120 million in the project — to HBO’s short-lived series “Vinyl.”
Yes, there are similarities in the style of both shows as they take viewers back to New York’s dangerous heyday while also shining a light on the beginnings of a popular musical movement. But, the Scorsese/Jagger series was mired in writing missteps and a slow burn narrative that sucked all the excitement and danger out of the early ’70s rock scene.
“The Get Down” is a vastly different series that takes inspiration out of a very similar environment. And with Luhrmann behind the camera, fans know to expect a quick-paced story steeped in a lavish production value that, at it’s core, is all about the music.
That being said, here are 5 reasons why “The Get Down” succeeds where “Vinyl” failed:
It’s all about the music
For a series that was about the early ’70s rock scene, Scorsese’s “Vinyl” ended us spending its time focusing too much Richie Finestra’s (Bobby Cannavale) mission to bring sexy danger back to rock and roll music without actually letting the audience fully experience the power of said music.
With “The Get Down,” Baz Luhrmann put a dance party in front of the cameras and kept the music rolling once the scenes were finished filming.
“We’re there, and he’s on the mic, ‘Yo yo yo! Let’s go! Rock rock!’… It’s like he’s a DJ or emcee of a party at his own shoot,” Nelson George — executive producer and writer on “The Get Down” — said at the Tribeca Film Festival, earlier this year.
George called the experience “a magical thing, partly because the environment was not sterile … It was a party.”
The heroes are real
“The Get Down” not only paints a decaying picture of a New York on the verge of bankruptcy, the program delves into rap lore, showing the forefathers of the hip hop movement as royalty. Grandmaster Flash (Mamoudou Athie) is not only The King of The Bronx in the series, it’s a role he was known for in real life.
Putting on block parties in the late ’70s, he is famous for being the first to master cutting a breakbeat using two turntables and a “clock theory” — giving huge symbolism to one purple crayon.
Aside from the Grandmaster, hip hop legends Afrika Bambatta and DJ Kool Herc (Eric D. Hill, Jr.) are also represented in the series.
The DJ and the Wordsmith
Back in the day, before rap music took form, the DJ was the true superstar. Having Grandmaster Flash working as a producer on the series helped to take music fans back to a time before hip hop culture blew up to the massive movement it is today.
Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore) and Ezekiel (Justice Smith) make a dynamic duo and to truly sell their roles in this mythical world, some heavy hitters helped make sure their form was on point behind the scenes.
Not only is Nas a producer on “The Get Down,” he helps the narrative of the story with original music that point to Ezekiel eventually making it as a big-time rapper two decades later. Aside from the hip hop legends mentioned above, Kurtis Blow came in to help teach the young actors some history lessons on where the rap scene started.
A love story at its core
When all is said and done, “The Get Down” is a love story. While the bigger goals of both Ezekiel and Mylene (Herizen F. Guardiola) are similar, in that they yearn to escape the poverty-stricken clutches of The Bronx, it’s these two characters that act as the foundation to the story as it unfolds.
Yes, there’s a drug kingpin, a crooked political boss, rival street gangs and graffiti artists galore … but at it’s core, “The Get Down” wouldn’t work if the chemistry wasn’t there for Ezekiel and Mylene. Heck, they may very well be the “Romeo + Juliet” of The Bronx.
The Baz Luhrmann style
What exactly is “The Get Down,” anyway? Some people have called it a lavish homage to disco while others have compared it to the likes of “The Warriors” meets “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” meets “Fat Albert.” And any of those answers are correct.
Ultimately, “The Get Down” works because it appeals to a wide range of audiences whose tastes span from hip hop music, to musicals, to martial arts movies. If anything, it’s an amalgamation of everything that early rap music and late ’70s pop culture was all about.
“The Get Down” is currently streaming on Netflix.