Netflix’s ‘The Get Down’ uses dance, art and music to tell a story

Photo courtesy of Netflix

After getting a late start on the “The Get Down,” Netflix’s series released on August 12, I finished it quickly, because yes — it was that good.

“The Get Down” is set in 1977 in the South Bronx, and although it may have not been the safest place to live, the culture was raw and vibrant. Dance (b-boying), art (graffiti and poetry) and music (disco) were very popular elements of the time, and the show digs deeply into the roots of each to highlight them and tell a great story.

Grandmaster Flash, who is a huge pioneer of Dj mixing, cutting and scratching, is a big part of “The Get Down.” His true story is told through the character of Shaolin Fantastic, a DJ in training who is being taught by the onscreen version of Grandmaster Flash himself. The real Grandmaster Flash was asked to be a consultant for the actors in order to make sure that there was accuracy in the storyline. So, when watching the show and learning a little about Grandmaster, it’s easy to see there is no extreme television fluff; it is honest.

“The Get Down” is one of the best series that I have ever seen, and I don’t say that lightly. What makes the show exceptional is the fact that creators Baz Lahurmann and Stephen Adly Guirgis really took their time to perfect each episode and stay true to the time period which they were working with.

The casting, in particular, was extremely well done. Each actor and actress on the show brings a different element to create a beautiful piece, whether they were main or secondary characters. 

Breakout star, Justice Smith, portrays one of the main characters Ezekiel Figuero, who is known for writing poems in his little notepad that he carries around. Throughout each episode, he recites different segments of his poems and from each line we learn something new about him.

In the first episode, we learn that his parents were both shot and he witnessed it. One of his poems reads, “Then I seen the pool of blood. And I seen my moms was dead. No emotion in the commotion: I wasn’t even sad. Even when I learned the bullet was meant for my dad.” Ezekiel’s characterization is developed through his writing.

Jaden Smith perfectly plays Dizzee, who is an off-beat graffiti artist going by the artist name “Rumi.” Dizzee does his graffiti work everywhere he can, and, at that time, graffiti was a way that different artists communicated with each other. They would look for other’s work in tunnels and on the trains. It was an important medium of expression.

The name of the show “The Get Down” is because Ezekiel and his friends form a group called “The Get Down Brothers.” It consists of him and all of his friends who perform a show at the end of the series. They rap, dance and sing, with Shaolin Fantastic spinning and scratching on the ones and twos.

To win the show, their performance had to get the b-boys dancing and grooving on the dance floor.
Not to give away any spoilers, but if you appreciate art, expression and culture, “The Get Down” is worth seeing.

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