Before watching The Get Down, I understood hip hop to be in a strange place. In fact, there is a systematic divide between the old and the new. The old would rather have there be a “return to the roots” of what the music (and the culture) should be all about. In turn, the newer artists would rather have things happening their way. Some don’t even think being artistic or “dropping a hot 16” isn’t important as long as your “music is lit”. In all, the strangeness that I feel deals with two conflicting sides that should already be on the same page.
And that same page should be for the reverence of a culture. I am speaking of a culture that started from the bottom to allow a Toronto based emcee to make millions. I’m speaking of a culture that let Luke Ridenhour and William Draytondemand our people to fight the powers that be. I speak of a culture that allowedShawn Carter to go through situations that he would want all of us to avoid. I’m talking about a culture that this rich in stories of reclamation, revenge, and get-back.
Yet, I’m wasn’t even sure as to where these young kids should start at. After watching The Get Down, I’m more than sure that I know where they should look to get all the information needed to gain an understanding of what hip hop is supposed to mean in order to properly preserve a culture that exists for everyone’s enjoyment.
The Get Down – Come On With The Come On
The Get Down surrounds the everyday happenings of Ezekiel “Zeke” Figuero, the half Black/half Puerto Rican teenager that has aspirations to get out of the hood. With friends Dizzee (the graffiti artist) and brothers Boo Boo and Ra Ra Kipling, Zeke seeks to find the legendary Shaolin (Shao) Fantastic. With a rep for beautiful graffiti blow ups and extra clean red suede Pumas, Shao is the stuff of legend. Yet, when Shao and Zeke become short term rivals over a stolen record, their worlds collide into something none of them would ever imagine.
Once they realize what both of them possess, and how they are both alike, their kindred spirituality awakens. All of this occurs to the chagrin of Zeke’s guardians and Mylene (Zeke’s love interest). Still, nothing seems to be able to stop the impact that both Zeke and Shao have on the emerging hip hop culture and each other. As the scene builds up, their friendship grows into the formation of a musical ethos that no one truly understand the power of. In short, a cultural realm was to be curated through musical bond.
Get Down with The Get Down
What makes this new Netflix series so important is that it gives proper context to how hip hop culturally came to be. Many don’t understand that how important being a great emcee is. Yet, when Zeke spits his poem to his teacher, you have to relish in its realness. When Shao desires to become as great as Grandmaster Flash, many are reminded that being a DJ is more than Serato and an Apple laptop. We even get a view of how breakdancing and graffiti are important cultural lexicons. The Get Down is more than an entertaining series; it is a history lesson.
Let us not forget about the historical relevance of everything surrounding the cultivation of the culture. There was the abject poverty that swallowed the Bronx whole. There was the disco era that relished in good vibes, sexuality, and drug use. There were the political players and spiritual warfare that beckoned the reawakening of the times. This historical reflection is important in a time where so much about the cultural is dangerously ahistorical.
The Get Down Got On Down
The Get Down is a show that was short and extremely sweet. Only having six episodes only made the experience quite diminutive. However, it packed quite a punch. Knowing there will be more history explored in the next season, the memory lane trip will be nothing less than refreshing. Still, one hopes that the younger generation takes a gander to understand why the old heads cherish our experiences with the culture. Who knows: maybe even Lil Yachty will be convinced that lyrics is important.
I won’t hold my breath, though.