your 16 point lowdown on 'the get down,' baz luhrmann’s hip-hop history opus

Everything you need to know about your newest Netflix obsession.

by Colin Crummy
|
12 August 2016, 1:20pm

Just binged on all eight episodes of Stranger Things? Step right into the world of The Get Down, Netflix's next big streamed drama, which lands today. Here's the lowdown on your next Netflix obsession.

1. It's about the birth of hip hop
The Get Down is set in late 70s New York, a city teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, riddled with crime and corruption. The South Bronx, where the story is primarily set, is a mess of fire and rubble. The show's overarching story is how creativity flourished in the mayhem.

2. It's massive in scale and ambition
The Get Down is about the birth of hip-hop but also takes in the emergence of punk and disco. It is an attempt to capture a now near mythical period of New York's cultural history. It's the brainchild of Baz Luhrmann, a man known for doing scale and ambition on the big screen, in his first small screen endeavor.

3. It's sprawling with characters and stories
Luhrmann may be renowned for cartoonish, poppy takes on literary classics like The Great Gatsby and Shakespearean romance in Romeo and Juliet, but he also takes extra care in the storytelling. The Get Down was at one point considered to be a straight telling of hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash's autobiography. But Luhrmann decided on a wider vision with different viewpoints. The 12 episode first series with its sprawling ensemble cast, has plenty of them.

4. It's big on period detail
Grandmaster Flash was brought on board to provide specificity, as were a team of writers, artists and filmmakers including Nelson George who lived in the Bronx.

5. It's a musical drama
Before you start imagining the worst, The Get Down is no Glee. It is a musical drama with at least one big dance moment an episode but from what we've seen so far, this appears effortlessly woven into the story. The frenetic first episode is tonally erratic until it finds its stride in an electrifying disco scene in the Les Inferno nightclub. It is incredibly stylish, exciting television when it gets going.

6. The soundtrack includes Donna Summer and Nas
The show uses original music from the era and the cast spent months in rehearsal mastering choreography from former Michael Jackson collaborators Rich & Tone and turntable skills from Grandmaster Flash. Nas provides fresh recordings in the style of the era to complement classic tracks like Donna Summer's "Bad Girls."

7. It cost a bomb
The rights to original recordings were not cheap but then it seems nothing about the The Get Down came easy. There have been production delays, changes in behind the scenes personnel and a budget that reportedly over ran to the $120m mark, which would make it the highest for a television show ever.

8. If you like Luhrmann, you'll love it. Otherwise, you may have to settle in…
Luhrmann only directed the opening episode but his propulsive style may not be to everyone's taste. The opening scenes rub up against each other uneasily — switching from archive footage to bright, poppy scenes of kids hanging out in St. Mary's Park. Stories and characters yet to weave into each other are introduced in quick succession. But over its first 90 minutes, the whole thing starts to click.

9. It's a love story
At its heart The Get Down is a story about a boy trying to get the girl. Ezekiel, played by Justice Smith, is a poet who finds his voice in rap. He's got a huge crush on Mylene Cruz, a preacher's daughter with ambition to be the next Donna Summer. She's played by 20-year-old Herizen F. Guardiola, who nailed Alicia Keys' "Falling" in audition to win her first major role.

10. It also stars Shameik Moore, breakout star of Dope
Moore plays a kung-fu obsessed drug mule and graffiti artist who tags his work Shaolin Fantastic. His signature style is marked by a pair of fresh-out-the-box red Pumas.

11. It's got a host of fresh out of the box talent
Aside from Moore and Jaden Smith, another lead in the show, The Get Down cast are mostly newbies, including Tremaine Brown Jr, who was previously a busker on the New York underground.

12. It's about fresh out of the box style
Every single outfit was made from scratch to replicate the era's style exactly. Designers like Halston and Diane von Furstenberg opened their archives for costume designer Jeriana San Juan. Puma, Converse, and Pro-Keds worked closely with the show to recreate the footwear that would define the hip-hop style.

13. The Get Down has hair. Lots of it.
This show has it all. There are big, beautiful afros everywhere, and lots of natural, Latina curls.

14. It has a major kung-fu influence
The Get Down celebrates the pop cultural touchstones of its time. All the boys are desperate to see a film called Star Wars. Moore's character, Shaolin Fantastic, is always shot jumping through the rubble in kung-fu style, in homage to the martial arts movies of the era. In episode one, Luhrmann's big screen storytelling talent comes to bear on a breathtaking chase sequence through the Bronx back alleys and on its rooftops.

15. You can watch it from today but only half of it
Instead of its usual entire series drop, Netflix is only releasing six episodes of The Get Down to stream today. If you're into it, you'll need to wait until 2017 for the second half of the series.

16. Either way, it's a show that will be hard to dismiss
As its creator, Luhrmann says: "What it won't be is ignored. People will be passionate about it one way or another. I'm used to that."

The Get Down streams today on Netflix. 

Credits


Text Colin Crummy
Stills courtesy of Netflix

Tagged:
Hip-Hop
Netflix
Jaden Smith
Baz Luhrmann
The Get Down
nas
Shameik Moore
justice smith