“The Get Down” is an old-school Hip Hop lovers dream. I say this because this show, which emerged on Netflix in 2016, embraces all the core elements of the history of Hip Hop along with being able to tell the story of five young African-American and Spanish teens on their way to stardom via the late 70’s disco era. As many old-school heads would know, the late 70’s also brought up the birth of Hip Hop, along with the strong drug culture of heroin and cocaine, and the HIV epidemic.
Now if you haven’t seen “The Get Down” now would be the place to stop reading to avoid spoilers. But if you don’t mind, then I would recommend to keep reading.
“The Get Down” takes place in Brooklyn, New York, about a year before Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight” becomes the first ever mainstream hip hop song ever to be played nationally. In the beginning of the show we meet a young man named Ezekiel a.k.a “Books”, a black and Puerto Rican teen orphan played by Justice Smith, who is currently living with his aunt and step uncle. A quiet young man with a dark upbringing he has an amazing gift dealing with words. As
many great rappers would have this gift, his English teacher tries to show him that with this gift of storytelling, he can make a better life for himself and get out the Brooklyn slums. Along with his friends Boo-Boo, Rah-Rah, and Dizzee who are played by Tremaine Brown Jr., Skylan Brooks, and Jayden Smith they are in search of self-discovery, social justice, and promoting unity this a brand new sound called hip hop. Along the way they meet Shaolin Fantastic, played by Shameik Moore who is the aspiring DJ/ drug dealer with a dark past, having a love for spinning records yet trying to survive in the dope game. All these young men come together and create the Get Down Brothers and find a sound all of their own with the help of the “Hip Hop Gods” and many others.
In season two of “The Get Down” The young men are havingissues with making their own music seeing that they are using copyrighted songs as samples and scratching over them while rapping. They end up signing a shady deal to create a “novelty” record, which now a days we would call going “mainstream”, with local Hip Hop artist and somehow earn little to nothing while still pushing dope during performances in trap house style clubs owned by Cadillac, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. While watching the show this reminds me of the current state of Hip Hop and the music industry. I hear it all too often that many artists are “going independent”, trying to have ownership of their creativity with no restrictions from major record labels, with gimmicky and corny marketing. Now in the music industry there seems be a shift in signing to a label or going independent. It seems also that the push of the extremely intoxicated drug dealing rapper versus the “woke” rapper has taken center stage in music as well. Artists like Chance the Rapper, The Jealous Guys, Action Bronson, Tech N9ne, Brother Ali, Dead Prez, Talib Kweli,MF Doom, Hospin, Joey Bada$$, Danny Brown and many others have walked the road less taken being true to who they are and speaking about their daily lives whether it be good or bad. They rap about what they are passionate about, being able to share a message that might touch someone. Being in control and in charge compared to their other rap counterparts that speak of another message.
In the show, The Get Down Brothers are going against a cultural norm. They are fighting for what’s right. They are speaking for a new generation that is fighting for a chance at stardom, yet staying true to who they are while gaining success at the same time. I love this type of Hip Hop. It reminds me of the story of the underdog, the one who is not likely to win. This is what the culture can relate to. Shows like this are needed to tell the story of Hip Hop. This is what keeps Hip Hop heads like myself interested in listening to new artists and giving them a chance. Because everyone at one point is and has been the underdog, it just took someone to give them the chance.
By: Veronica Williams
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