I’ve recently gotten through the first episode of The Get Down, which is something that’s been on my to-do list for quite some time. Though it’s not necessarily a sitcom, I haven’t seen anyone write about it yet (and some parts are pretty funny), so I wanted to. There are only six episodes but they’re all between an hour and hour and half, so it’ll take a bit of time to get through. Stay tuned.
The show is a dramatic interpretation of the beginning on hip-hop and DJing in the Bronx during the 1970s. It follows a young future MC, Ezekiel, who is hopelessly in love with Mylene, a soul singer who’s trying to catch her break. That night, Mylene and her friends sneak into Les Inferno, the hottest club in town, to hand her demo cassette tape over to DJ Malibu, the hottest DJ in town, in the hopes that he’ll sign her. Zeke forms a master plan to get his hands on Mylene’s favorite rare, disco remix record, sneak into the club, convince Malibu to play it and watch her subsequently fall in love with him.
The audience soon learns of an elusive graffiti artist, Shaolin Fantastic, that intersects Zeke’s storyline because he too is trying to obtain this rare record, for reasons initially unknown. As they fight over the record outside Les Inferno, Fantastic learns that Zeke is a wordsmith – something he’s been looking for – and decides to help him get into the club. They do, there’s a shootout, Mylene later rejects Zeke, other tragedies ensue.
[Image from Refinery29]
BUT the most important part of the episode occurs in the last 15 minutes: Fantastic takes Zeke and his young crew to an underground warehouse party where the one and only Grandmaster Flash is spinning. Fantastic explains “the get down”: it’s the part of a disco record with a heavy drum beat that people loved to dance to the most. However, it would only usually last eight bars or so, so Grandmaster Flash perfected a “juggling” technique when DJing to extend the dance break. The DJ has two copies of the same record, one on each deck, and plays one “get down” while spinning the other record back to the beginning of it, switching back and playing it, and then repeating the process. It sounds very complicated, and it is; it was the most innovative DJing technique at the time, and tough Flash was not credited with inventing it, he sure was good at it.
Fantastic then explains why he’s been looking for a wordsmith: during the get down, the Master of Ceremonies (MC) throws out rhymes to get the crowd excited, but at the time Flash and Fantastic (and all the other real-life hip-hop pioneers) realized there was much more that could be done with it. Zeke gets up to freestyle over the get down, failing embarrassingly at first but then battling another guy and killing it. And thus, hip-hop was born.
I took a DJ culture class my last semester at UNC and it might have been my favorite class in undergrad period, so this type of material is fascinating to me. I’m excited to watch The Get Down progress and see how the history I learned in that class comes to life onscreen as a written drama. So far, I’ve seen a beautifully dirty 70s aesthetic, an original soundtrack, witty humor, drama – what could be better?