The Get Down: A Trip into ’70s Hip-Hop & Disco History #HipHopHistory

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“If you know better then you gotta do better each one teach one then come together”

So I just finished the Get Down & now I’m shook and will now tell you my thoughts on the story, how well I think it represented the beginnings of hip-hop and of course the music. PS I’m just as mad as everyone else that the show got cancelled. Thanks a lot Netflix. :C #SideEye

Oh and before I get started I will talk about how I found out about hip-hop and why I love it. So when I was a little kid I was always very fascinated with my older siblings being the youngest of 5 and all my siblings being in high school when I was little. My siblings listed to many different genera of music from R&B to Rock to oldies to whatever was on the radio and hip-hop was defiantly one of them. My sister and my brother both listened to it and when I was really little my bother would leave the house and I would sneak into his room and listen to whatever he had in his stereo. That is where I learned about hip-hop from Snoop Doggy Dog, Bone-Thugs & Harmony, the Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest and Common Sense among others. Of course at the time I didn’t know what I was listening to but I liked the flow and beat of it. It wasn’t until I was in high school and started to rediscover a lot of hip-hop from when I was a kid I was starting to appreciate it more. Now I am a huge fan of it and honestly try to learn from it and keep current with the culture all the time (sadly even the stupid parts of it sometimes).

Now On to The Get Down:

The Get Down is an American musical drama television series created by Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Adly Guirgis. Its six-episode first part premiered globally on August 12, 2016, on Netflix. Produced by Sony Pictures Television, the series is set in the South Bronx region of New York City in the late 1970s; its title refers to parts of disco and R&B records that could be repeated using multiple turntables and were enjoyed most by dancers. A five-episode second part concluding the series was released on April 7, 2017. On May 24, 2017, Netflix announced that the series is concluded after part 2 and that there would be no more parts.

Original I heard about this series and just never got around to watching it like many other things due to many other things keeping me busy last summer. Looking back though I do wish I had watched it so the ratings would have been better in hopes of saving this very diverse, culturally relevant, unifying story of resilience & hard work of how to help make a bad situation better.

Ok so this show goes from a little slow to more interesting as the show goes on. It starts off with Ezekiel and his friends in the Bronx just going through their everyday lives in the Ghetto of New York as teenagers. It starts off with them on their last day of school were Ezekiel writes a poem that he submits to his teacher who wants him to read it aloud to the class yet he refuses due to not wanting to look like a punk. After class he reads it to his teacher and basically moves her to tears. She tell Zeke that he is very smart with a lot of potential yet he blows it off.

Then you have the love story of Ezekiel and Mylene a kind of hip-hop/disco version of Romeo & Juliet. Zeke helps Mylene record a demo for a record producer and is always writing her beautiful poetry. At first Zeke is in love with Mylene yet she blows him off due to her one dream of becoming a big disco star. Only problem is her father is this super religious guy who things disco is “devil music for sinners”. That night after the last day of school Zeke finds out that Mylene and her girls Yolanda & Regina are headed to this club called Les Inferno where this old crime boss mother Fat Annie who owns the joint stays with her Disco loving son Cadillac. Mylene things someone there will be able to help her make her disco dreams come true.  

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So Zeke plans to go over there to dance with her and win her over. Before going over he gets into an altercation trying to find her favorite recording of this made up disco star Misty Holloway’s song & meets one of his mentors Shaolin Fantastic who would later teach him about the Get Down, DJing and wordsmithing. Anyway Shaolin at the time is working for Fat Annie drug pushing but is also trying to be the apprentice of the one great Grandmaster Flash & taging. Flash sends Shaolin out to find a wordsmith for his Get Down & the Misty record. He finds it but comes up against Zeke and they have an altercation before Shaolin makes an agreement with Zeke that if he lets him have the record at the end of the night he will help him get into the club as they wouldn’t let him in earlier.

Once they’re in Zeke is able to get the record played but not before Mylene gets hit on by Cadillac & he dances his disco number. Once the Misty track hits Mylene is so over whelmed and happy her and Zeke dance and kiss on the dancefloor before Cadillac steals her for his dance partner. Before they can finish their dance a rival gang comes in and shoots up the place but luckily Mylene her friends and Zeke get out without getting hurt. With Zeke thinking him and Mylene have a thing now she tells him to get lost which hurts him a lot and breaks his heart. Unfortunately for Mylene after words her dad finds out she went to Les Inferno and flips out kicking her out to which she calls on her uncle for help.

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Where her uncle comes in is he is working for Ed Koch who is running for office in the Bronx and he is also a crime boss yet he cares about his city and the people very much and wants to help save them and give them affordable housing. Anyway when Mylene tells her uncle that she wants to sing he tries to make it happen for her.

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This episode ends with Zeke and his friends coming back into contact with Shao and him taking them to their first Get Down held by Flash. This is when we first see Zeke as the wordsmith to Shao’s DJ and that’s where it all beginnings.

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Ezekiel has 3 other friends who are brothers who help him on this road through the Get Down.

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Ronald “Ra-Ra” Kipling: The oldest of the Kipling brothers he is the voice of reason in all their scams and is very responsible who loves sy-fi movies like Star Wars.

Miles “Boo-Boo” Kipling: The youngest of the Kipling brothers who wants to hang out with the big boys and gets in trouble for it. He can also sing very well.

Marcus “Dizzee” Kipling: My favorite character of the show Dizzee is the artistic one of the family who is a graffiti artist who goes by Rumi 411. He is also an “alien with a top hat”.

Their sister is Yolanda who is Mylene’s best friend and their dad is a musician and their mom runs a hair salon.

The rest of the story goes through ebbs and flows and in the end it has us wondering if the crew would ever work together again. Now due to the show being kind of drawn out and complicated and the fact that I defiantly think you need to watch this show and experience it for yourself, I am just going to talk about important and my favorite moments/themes of the show.

So I’ve seen this type of character/person before in other shows and in real life the kind who is super smart but doesn’t want to one up their friends so they fake dumb. That is Zeke in this show full of so much greatness yet to the world he is throwing it away on some crazy rhyming thing. Both his parents were killed when he was a kid due to his drug dealing and took his mom who was piano player down with him. Due to this Zeke has all this pent-up anger to the world and doesn’t want to walk around with a target on his back. All he cares about is his rhymes and Mylene. But when given a real opportunity to work with the big boys he doesn’t want to go for it at first but then with a little encouragement from Mylene’s uncle who gets him an internship working for the Koch admin he takes it. All of this goes to his head a little at one point until he is brought back to earth by Shao who comes to save him one day when he in “white boy land”. While there Shao gets him in trouble when some racist white boys come at him and the best thing happens he drop kicks him. Of course Zeke goes back to the internship but only for a little while until telling off the guy he was interning with due to him being racist. He goes back to his rhyming life only to realize it was all in vain and then gets into college.

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Shaoline Fantastic is a sad kid who is an orphan like Zeke yet he was picked up off the streets by Fat Annie who uses him as puppet for her sick drug games which is the same thing she does to her own son. When he starts to find his passion with the DJing thing he tries to get free from Annie many times but to no avail he goes back to her time after time. He starts to find a brother hood with Zeke and his crew and under the watchful eyes of Grandmaster Flash he gets really good at the Get Down but that drug slinging life just keeps calling him even when he starts to win at the DJing thing. In the end he has no crew and is back at square one.

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The Kipling brothers are a funny bunch of kids who all just want to hang with their boy and make this music. Boo-Boo wants to hang with the big boys and do to that gets himself into a lot of trouble for it due to Shaoline. Then you have Ra-Ra who is just trying to look out for everyone and gets them out of a pickle or two and gets a nice “queen” from the Zulu Nation for his trouble.

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Then you have Dizzie. He is a graffiti artist who in the first episode is obsessed with Shaoline Fantastic when he was a graffiti artist at the time until he gives Dizzie his cans and goes on to DJ. Dizzie is a crazy artist and his tag is Rumi 411 and an alien with an afro and top hat. While tagging one day he meets this white guy named Thor who he becomes free with when he invites him to a drag show. Later Thor gets caught by the cops and does some time but once he gets out him and Dizzie start something good. They have this really cute scene where they are at Thor’s place and Dizzie and him paint each other and just go wild and free. Dizzie is also a dope comic.

His whole character is a great representation for all the weird cats in hip-hop even to this day. If he was a real person he would have been the first lgbtqia person in the game. Plus he represents what would come in hip-hop later in the game where kids were just on another level like De La Soul, Tribe and even now like Kid Cudi & Lupe.

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Then you have Mylene and her friends trying to find Disco fame. Mylene’s uncle comes through for her and gets her a record contract but it comes with a price that she has to do church music to be able to make it. It works for a little while but then when the record company gets tired of it they push Mylene to do something out of her comfort zone but she does it anyway and sells her soul for a movie deal. In doing so it tears her already falling apart family more apart. In the end Mylene starts to control her own destiny and get what she wants.

This was sadly the story of the record business they take promising young artist and will try to crush their spirits and then pimp them out for the world to take. They make it seem that if they want it hard enough then they will conform to this new style. It’s really sad.

 

And Zeke and Mylene? Well they go through their ups and downs one minute she hates him then loves him then he hates her then loves her then they love each other and its pretty beautiful. Except for one time where he kisses his bosses white daughter who loves punk music Mylene and Zeke are pretty faithful to each other. She is his butterscotch queen! They are too cute!

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Then the very last battle with all the crews all over the Bronx coming together the way they did when they heard hip-hop was about to go commercial was fire. Best scene of the show! It has always been about UNITY! Wish some of the young folks got this hip-hop is about UNITY! U-N-I-T-Y Coming together to save hip-hop! This moved me!

Basically this story is a classic story of love, faith, hardship, & fighting for what you believe in.

So How Do I Feel this Represented Hip-Hop?

I think this represents hip-hop very well. I learned a lot from this show from things from the ’70s like OJs which are taxi services that come with the newest mixtapes from the hottest DJs. I learned about what the Get Down actually means which is the drum beats of the records looped basically for the wordsmith to rhyme over. I learned a lot about music in general in the ’70s. It was very informative and as a lover of hip-hop I was so into it. And I know that a lot of people assume that the ’70s-’80s hip-hop cats don’t do drugs because they didn’t talk about it well sadly they did. Also the great thing about early hip-hop is that they didn’t really cuss or defile women or talk about materialism (all though there wasn’t anything for them to talk about) for the most part in their music. It was all very real and talked about exactly what was going on right there on the streets.

Actors Portraying Hip-Hop’s Roots:

 

  • Justice Smith as Ezekiel (“Zeke”) “Books” Figuero: I think Justice Smith did an amazing job as Ezekiel & he is cute. I saw him in another movie called Paper Towns which I didn’t like much but in this show he really embodied a young kid from the late 1970s. I hope to see him more projects as he is a great actor.
  • Shameik Moore as Curtis “Shaolin Fantastic”: Shameik Moore was the main star in Dope about the nerdy black kid in the hood of California who loves ’90s hip-hop and ends up in a situation were he has to sling dope on the internet. To be honest the role of Shaolin Fantastic was just a deeper level of his character in Dope. Lover of hip–hop or the Get Down and a dope pusher at the same time only in the 1970s. He did a really great job bringing Fantastic to the screen and the way he interacted with Flash and the Get Down Brothers was great to see as well. He played a bad ass pretty well.
  • Herizen F. Guardiola as Mylene Cruz: Herizen has an amazing voice who should have a record deal right now. She embodied Mylene and showed us the various sides of her character from powerful women to vulnerable kid who just wants to make her dreams come true. The way she works with Justice Smith is also very cute. They work together very well and make their love very real between Zeke and Mylene.
  • Skylan Brooks as Ronald “Ra-Ra” Kipling: He reminded me of any one of the Jackson brothers and was deep into that ’70s style. Skylan Brooks did a great job of making himself look and act like a kid from the ’70s.
  • Tremaine Brown Jr. as Miles “Boo-Boo” Kipling: He looked like the younger brother of the Jackson and was very convincing as a young kid back then.
  • Jaden Smith as Marcus “Dizzee” Kipling : Jaden basically took himself from 2016-2017 and channeled it into Dizzee in the ’70s. His character is very weird yet he brings that to the screen very well. The way he talks and what he talks about its next level and Dizzee’s relationship with the character Thor, Jaden really brings us that unadulterated passion and how to break free. Probably my favorite Jaden role since the Karate Kid and he brings it on the soundtrack with real bars.
  • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Clarence “Cadillac” Caldwell:He plays a cold mother- in the best way. At only 30 at the time of filming this show he really embodied a gangster in the best way. Yahya brings a lot of heart to Cadillac from his cold exterior to his child like insides when he puts on a funky disco toon.
  • Jimmy Smits as Francisco “Papa Fuerte” Cruz: Jimmy is a seasoned actor from the ’90s who started in the law drama NYPD Blue and he does his thing to bring Papa Fuerte to life. The way he interacts with Mylene, Zeke, Mylene’s mom and dad his really good as he comes off as a good yet dangerous guy. 
  • Lillias White as Fat Annie: Lillias White brings Fat Annie to Life! Fat Annie is a bad mother- literally and figuratively and the way she makes her look old and worn down is impressive. She is cold and calculated and all she cares about is money & pushing dope which is basically killing the community as well as her family.
  • Daveed Diggs as adult Ezekiel “Mr. Books” Figuero: This guy was recently in Black-ish as Rainbow’s brother and in that he acts really hippie but in this he is basically Nas. During the show adult Zeke is telling the story back in the day of him and his crew while playing at Madison Square Garden. He does a good job the little we got to see of him.
  • Stefanée Martin as Yolanda Kipling: Stefanee plays the little sister of the Kippling Brothers and is Mylene & Regina’s best friend. She comes from a good home with two working parents and helps her friends make their dreams come true. I liked her style on the show with her fro & how loyal she is. I thought Stefanee did a great job bringing her to life on the show.
  • Shyrley Rodriguez as Regina: Shyrley plays Regina & Mylene’s best friend who is a down chick who helps her friends become famous. They tried to have a small story line between her and her boyfriend Little Wolf the son of one of the bodyguard at the Les Inferno club. Basically he was hitting her yet she was taking it due to her mother getting hit too growing up. Shyrley plays Regina well she is sexy and plays this down chick really well.
  • Noah Le Gros as Thor: Noah who plays Thor is only sceen a few times on the show but when he is it’s pretty cute the way Thor and Dizzee or Jaden interact througout their sceens is really special. He brings that unadulterated love and freedom to his character through his art and his relationship with Dizzee.
  • Mamoudou Athie as Grandmaster Flash: So we only get to see Grandmaster Flash a few times during the season and but when we do he makes an impact. Mamoudou Athie brings young Flash to the screen and gives him that mystery and class to such an important person in hip-hop history.
  • Eric D. Hill Jr. as DJ Kool Herc & Okieriete Onaodowan as Afrika Bambaataa: So you only get to see these historic hip-hop figures twice but when you do they make a big splash in the story. Herc you see when they try to trace the Flash tapes from his crew and Bambaataa comes in when we see him when Ra-Ra goes to the Zulu Nation with his girl. Eric Hill Jr. & Okieriete brings these two to the screen in a very good way and look like them too.

Now the music. So the soundtrack was fire! This show brought it with the toons and I loved it. So the Get Down Brothers had some bars and even though I know none them actually wrote any of that if they came out in 2017 they would be my new favorite group. Jaden brings it with his rhymes and has a track on here with Raury that is really spacey kind of and works with their styles well. All of the Nas as grown up Zeke tracks are of course amazing and even the non hip-hop tracks work well for the show. Telepathy by Christina fits well during the drag race scene (that drag queen lip synced for her life). One of my favorite tracks off the soundtrack is the Sam Dew cover of Use Me which I have loved this song since I was a kid & he does it justice. Sadly the one track I wish could have been on the soundtrack was Have You Heard by Miguel which is so good during the Dizzie paint scene. Overall a classic soundtrack to a great show.

 

Soundtrack Tracks are My Favorite:

  • Welcome to the Get Down- Jaden Smith
  • Losing Your Mind- Raury ft. Jaden Smith
  • Rule the World (I Came from the City)- (featuring Nasir Jones as Mr. Books)
  • Black Man in a White World (Ghetto Gettysburg Address)- (featuring Nasir Jones as Mr. Books)
  • Ball of Confusion- Leon Bridges
  • Telepathy ft. Nile Rodgers- Christina Aguilera
  • Hum Along and Dance (Gotta Get Down)- Janelle Monae
  • Just You, Not Now (Love Theme)- Grace
  • This Ain’t No Fairy Tale- Ezekiel Figuero
  • Get Down Brothers vs. Notorious 3- The Get Down Brothers
  • Kipling Theme- Kamasi Washington
  • Set Me Free (featuring Nile Rodgers & The Americanos)- Mylene Cruz
  • Zeke’s Poem (I Am the One)- Ezekiel Figuero
  • Break The Locks – The Get Down Brothers
  • ‘Bout That Bank – The Get Down Brothers
  • Mr. Bill – Grandmaster Caz
  • The Internationale Pt. 1 – The Get Down Brothers
  • Angels With Dirty Faces – Nasir Jones as Mr. Books
  • I’m My #1 – Mylene Cruz
  • Honor – DJ Cassidy feat. Grace & Lil Yachty
  • Use Me – Sam Dew
  • Shaolin’s Theme / Pray – Malay / 6LACK
  • The Other Side (The Duet) – Mylene Cruz

Oh and before I go I must talk about how messed up I think it was that this show got cancelled. I would have loved to see this taken into the ’80s during the crack area, Reaganomics, the commercializing of hip-hop and all that. Plus they had to end on some cliff hangers at the end due to their not being a season 2. That sucks but it was a great show for the time it got to be on and the stories it got to tell.

Also this is how hip-hop got started. The location of that birthplace was 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, and the man who presided over that historic party was the birthday girl’s brother, Clive Campbell—better known to history as DJ Kool Herc, founding father of hip hop.

Shout-out to Herc, Caz, Flash, Bambaataa and all those who revolutionized a new art form in the Bronx for the culture!

Thank You for Giving A Voice to Generations!

Until Next Time…Stay Hip-Hop!

 

 

 

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