The Get Down 2

Clockwise from top left: author Nelson George, Luhrmann, Herizen F. Guardiola, Flash, Jaden Smith, Shameik Moore and Justice Smith on the set of ‘The Get Down.’ Photo credit: Miller Mobley for Billboard.

Two of the Day & A Dream Team ponder whether Netflix’s The Get Down was worth the hype.

By this point, everyone’s had two weeks to fully process Baz Luhrmann’s hey-day of hip-hop era Netflix period drama The Get Down. Everyone has also been (un)pleasantly surprised that the series only shared six episodes in its “Part 1,” with “Part 2” not releasing until sometime next year. Viewers were introduced to Ezekiel and Mylene, two young people on the opposite side of the same dream; and along the way, also got acquainted with DJ Kool Herc, Shaolin Fantastic (and his fire-engine red Filas), Grandmaster Flash, and Black and brown culture in late ‘70s New York.

Our own Jonathan Scroggins and Bradford Howard have opted to share what they took away as “The Good,” “The Bad,” and the ugly (aka “The Bad Bad Not Good”). Warning: there are some spoilers ahead, but you had a whole week to watch it, though.

The Get Down 4

Photo credit: Netflix.

The Good

J. Scroggins: The Get Down is Hip-Hop Fantasy set in the summer of 1977, right before the art and culture going mainstream in 1980. With that said, The Get Down is probably one of the more thoughtful and compelling pieces depicting Black and Latino life in NYC. Protagonists Shaolin Fantastic, Ezekiel/Zeke and Mylene are all young people still struggling to find their purpose in a world that doesn’t care for them. The atmosphere is vibrant yet doesn’t cross over into being Cosby or Sesame Street-esque. The storytelling is great. David Burgham (Moulin Rouge) does not go full David Burgham with the script, yet it also doesn’t go full on gritty street drama a la The Wire either.

B. Howard: The Get Down is visually DOPE, and I’m not just saying that because Shameik Moore is a part of the cast. From an artistic standpoint, it is solid in terms of its costumes and re-creation of the time period. Black-run disco spots burst in color, house parties are peppered with people in bell-bottoms and Afros, and the streets of New York are full of Black and brown people. It even manages to make LGBT people part of the cast, and not as comic relief but major players. Even though much of the focus of The Get Down is on the impoverished and disadvantaged, everyone within that world is making the most of it while they can. Solid cameo performances from Jimmy Smits and Giancarlo Esposito are superb; and Herizen Guardiola – as the lovely Mylene – has a breakout role here. The soundtrack, however, might be the series’ brightest star. Beneath the Hip Hop story, Mylene’s relationship with her dad is an excellent conversation piece on the connection between the church and secular music, especially for Blacks and Latinos.

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Photo credit: Netflix

The Bad

J. Scroggins: The anachronism in the show is really cringeworthy at times. For Hip-Hop Heads who want a meticulous show that is tried and true to the culture, The Get Down isn’t the show for you. Many times, viewers will see or hear things in the show’s “1977” set piece, that are clearly not present until decades, if not at least eight years, down the road.

B. Howard: With only six episodes in its first part, it’s understandable that The Get Down starts out sluggishly. Though it picks up around episode three, parts one and two introduce way too many storylines and it can be overwhelming to keep up. Some of Zeke’s “present day” raps sound more like 2007 than 1997, which is off-putting.

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The Bad Bad Not Good

J. Scroggins: The Get Down takes a while to lose its Grease-like qualities; in its early episodes, I honestly felt like I was watching Black Grease (maybe Duke’s Pomade is more fitting). But the cheesiness really IS bad, and honestly takes away from the show at times. The show’s consistent historical inaccuracies will wear on the viewer, further driving the point home that it isn’t meant for Hip-Hop purists. The Get Down shouldn’t be marketed as telling the story of hip-hop; rather, it’s merely telling a fable set in hip-hop’s early childhood. Also, Jaden Smith has the acting range of Jaden Smith. That’s not a compliment.

B. Howard: Grandmaster Flash is the equivalent of a sensei to Shaolin Fantastic, and while the slight nod to kung fu movies of the era is clever, it can appear way too forced. It’s just too difficult for me to accept Grandmaster Flash as a “zen master” who uses a purple crayon to teach a DJ lesson. The Get Down’s roots may be hip-hop but it’s not a hip-hop story – it’s a story of three people in particular trying to find a way out, and as such, its many storylines leave many questions for Part Two. Because of how it begins, we know how it will end (with Zeke becoming a famous rapper in the ‘90s). But there’s political commentary, there’s family drama, there’s gang wars, there’s turf wars (between the DJs and their crews) – all essential for entertainment reasons but any of which could easily make Part Two go off the rails if focused on just a bit too much. And I’m sorry but some of Zeke’s rap battles remind me of PaRappa the Rapper.

Featured image credit: Netflix/Miles Abramowitz.

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