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‘The Get Down’ showcases the birth of hip-hop

Courtesy of The Get Down Facebook page

(‘The Get Down’ Official Facebook Page)

Let me start this review by saying I am a huge fan of old school hip-hop who loves listening to timeless records that seem to never lose their touch. From Afrika Bambaataa to Tupac Shakur, my taste for old school hip-hop is pretty broad. When I heard about “The Get Down,” created by Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Adly Guirgis, I was automatically pumped to watch it.

Adding to the excitement was knowing that Nasir Jones (Nas) was a executive producer for the show as well. Not only did Nas executive produce for “The Get Down,” he also did a good amount of rhyme writing for the series. Nas told Rolling Stone magazine, “I don’t know if I’m an expert, but I’m just a super fan of the old school and the golden era, and so it just felt like I couldn’t have asked for a better project to be involved with.” I had very high expectations before watching “The Get Down,” and must say they were all met.

“The Get Down” showcases the culture of hip-hop in a cool, subtle way that anyone can gravitate toward. Taking place in the mecca of hip-hop, the Bronx, New York (aka the BX), staying authentic to the culture of those times in the area. Showcasing the wild style people had during the beginning ages of hip-hop from the fashion to the slang, “The Get Down” gives that retro feeling of what it felt like living in the late 1970s Bronx.

Credit for the show’s authentic sound and look of the Bronx in the ‘70s is due to DJ Grandmaster Flash. Not only does a younger version of Flash appear in the show (played by Mamoudou Athie), but the man himself also helped the cast members develop their characters by holding a 1970s “boot camp” before filming started, teaching them how to spin like a DJ, hold a microphone and master the popular dance moves of the late ‘70s.

The story follows a young kid named Ezekiel “Zeke” Figuero (Justice Smith), who is an amazing wordsmith (rapper) and in love with this tenacious girl named Mylene (Herizen F. Guardiola). She has an incredible voice, which she plans on taking to Manhattan to become a star, but her dream goes against her fiercely religious background. They both want to make it out of the Bronx, a common goal that could either pull them apart or bring them together.

Their relationship throughout the whole six episodes becomes more appealing as you see them grow as individuals and understanding their connection. Their arc is explosive and loving at the same time, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for them.

Then there’s Zeke’s crew, who calls themselves “The Get Down Brothers” made up of Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore), Dizzee Kipling (Jaden Smith), Ra-Ra Kipling (Skylan Brooks) and Boo-Boo Kipling (Tremaine Brown Jr.).

Ra-Ra is the most loyal member of the crew, who has a hard time fitting in at one point during the series, then out of nowhere finds his position. Boo-Boo, the tagalong little brother, has incredible energy that comes out at the right moments.

Jaden Smith puts himself into Dizzee’s shoes well. Some of the spacy things Dizzee would say felt like something Smith himself might say. With lines like “is it just me or is the Bronx getting closer to the sun?” or “this song’s gonna set so many people free,” I felt like I was watching Jaden Smith playing Jaden Smith in a 1970s Afro.

Shaolin Fantastic is a definite standout. He’s an up-and-coming disc jockey learning from the young Grandmaster Flash the art of DJing. When viewers first meet Shaolin they see him as a superhero of south Bronx, hidden in the shadows and jumping across roofs with his smooth moves. Shaolin is driven to become the great DJ to come out the Bronx to take this new music style up and beyond.

Overall, “The Get Down” is a great piece of television that knows how to pull its audience into the lives of its characters, and educates the people who love hip-hop on the birth of the genre, how the culture was formed and its momentum grew it into what it is now. The show’s new episodes can’t drop soon enough.

Steven Turner can be reached at sturnerparke@umass.edu.com also followed on Twitter @Trureligionman.

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