Photo via Netflix
Rough. Gritty. Honest. Invasive. “The Get Down” highlights the rise of hip hop and the collapse of disco in the Bronx, New York, during the late 1970s, and refuses to embellish the life of someone born and raised in the area.
While “The Get Down” concentrates on the birth of hip hop, it also outlines many important themes such as drug use, gang violence, love and loss, sexuality, pursuing your passion, poverty, political negligence of the People, and relationships. Although the episode plots are fictional, some of the characters and storylines are inspired by history. Characters like “Grandmaster Flash”, who is based on one of the DJs considered to be a pioneer of hip hop, plays a significant role in the series.
The series itself hovers around a variety of characters, but mainly focuses on Ezekiel, a wordsmith; his friends, and Shaolin Fantastic, a DJ trying to make it big. Together, the five become “The Get Down Brothers” and battle against other groups. Alongside the boys are Mylene, Yolanda and Regina, a dynamic trio of singers.
After its August 2016 debut, there have been many back-and-forth arguments as to whether the series has lived up to expectations or if it has fallen short. Personally, while watching Part 1 (unfortunately only six episodes are on Netflix, more coming in 2017!), I felt hypnotized and compelled by the production, aesthetic, and writing of the show. But as an outsider, I wasn’t sure if my opinion could be justified. Surely, natives to the Bronx will feel something much deeper while watching the series, and my opinion only counts as a viewer. Regardless, I think the way the series reflects history with its sewn-in archival footage between scenes and statements made through graffiti and music conveys much needed insight.
In all its glory, “The Get Down” deserves recognition of how it sheds light on Black history; it’s much needed. The cast is almost solely made up of Black and Latinx actors, which can be difficult to find in other TV series and films.The series opens the door to a conversation about something that initially seems touchy or tense. But it’s important, radical, and real. It’s so much more than just a show, and it has the potential to spark and influence social transformation.