A year on, the second part of Netflix’s 5 star-rated musical drama, The Get Down, is now available to stream. With Disco, Hip Hop and 1970s New York City in the mix, a great time is guaranteed. Baz Luhrmann is the show’s producer, and whilst this is his first venture into TV, its cinematography is as vibrant and enchanting as the feature-length likes of Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby.
The show concerns a defining period in musical history, documenting the transition between Disco and Hip Hop through the bright eyes of a fictional group of teenagers living in The Bronx. In Part 1, viewers followed the initiation of Zeke Figaro (Justice Smith) into Hip Hop after meeting DJ Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore), converting his love of poetry into one of rap and earning himself the moniker “Books”. Zeke and Shao eventually form a Hip Hop group alongside friends played by Jaden Smith, Skylan Brookes and Tremaine Brown Jr., which is inspired by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. We also follow the journey of Zeke’s childhood sweetheart Mylene Cruz, who dreams of being a Disco diva, and despite the aversion of her pious Pastor father played by Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame, she makes it with her debut single ‘Set Me Free’. Tensions rise in Part 2, with Zeke’s dilemma between pursuing music and applying to Yale, the music industry’s efforts to sexualise Mylene, and her father’s explosive fate…
Throughout both parts, Hip Hop and Mylene’s success are threatened by “baddies” Fat Annie and her son Cadillac, gangsters and owners of “Les Inferno” nightclub. One criticism of the show is the fact that Disco is presented in a bad light through the characterisation of this duo, but the edge is taken off by soulful scenes of Disco dancing soundtracked by classics like ‘(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop’ and Aretha Franklin’s ‘Rock Steady’. And obviously this isn’t worse than how irritating Jaden Smith is. People on Twitter have commented on how the character of Dizzie is ‘just like’ Jaden in real life, and trust me, that isn’t a good thing. His psychedelic scenes with love interest and fellow graffiti artist Troy are pretty corny, and don’t contribute anything to the show’s overall purpose.
There’s no getting away from the fact that old school Hip Hop and Disco were cheesy, but we still love tracks like The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Apache (Jump On It)’ and Earth Wind & Fire’s ‘September’ decades on. This explains The Get Down’s charm. Whilst I did retch at one scene in Part 2 where Zeke plays a 70s Romeo and does this ‘Mylene, Mylene, my butterscotch queen’ poem on his girlfriend’s balcony, you do eventually accept the soppiness after growing emotionally attached to the characters.
The best thing about The Get Down is its blending of gripping fictional storylines with historical accuracy. If you watch Netflix’s documentary Hip Hop Evolution afterwards, this all becomes clear. The parallels between fiction and fact are undoubtedly strengthened by the cast’s training by Rap legends Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow and Nas.
Details of another season haven’t been confirmed but it could be on the (turn)table as Part 2 has left the futures of Zeke and Mylene ambiguous.