Written by Warnell Jones
Amidst the fleeting knowledge of the origins of the art we all know as hip-hop, we were given a TV show that gave America a true glimpse of the musical shift in the 70s that would change the course of time.
The Get Down – a television program exclusive to Netflix – is that show. The show debuted as a 6-episode “half season” in August 2016, and has since received critical acclaim, as well as harsh critique. Most importantly, is that in the midst of this “Love & Hip-Hop, Real Housewives of (where the f**k ever)” nation, we have been graced with a program that purposes its intent on enveloping the history and development of our culture, hip-hop, in a head-crashing love story, one hour at a time. The hip-hop “purist” would surely agree – hip-hop needs this show.
The negative opinions and reviews that the worldwide media displays, just shows us that the demand for history and culture isn’t as high as it should be. This is actually interesting because seeing these results show a parallel to the similar need for historical, intelligent, and thought-provoking lyricism in hip-hop music. There’s actually more parallels in this dynamic, one including that The Get Down was very poorly promoted, similar to so many of the lyrical juggernauts that hip-hop bred.
As far as the numbers go, it’s a tell-tale of interest as viewership goes. Amongst Netflix originals, views after one month of a season or series debut go as follows:
Orange Is The New Black – 15+ million viewers
Fuller House – 15+ million viewers
Stranger Things – 13+ million viewers
Making A Murderer – 12+ million viewers
Marvel’s Daredevil – 8+ million viewers
The Get Down – 3.2 million viewers
This statistic is touchy for more than a few reasons. At first glance, it’s an insult to those of us who love hip-hop culture, that there are a number of topics perceived to be more entertaining than the art and origination of the music and culture so widely accepted today. According to this metric, that list consists of superheroes, framing a murder case, Bob Saget, 80s style creepiness, and a women’s prison. All more interesting than the birth of hip-hop. Think about that.
Another interesting statistic about The Get Down is its price tag. $120 million. That’s right. 12 episodes. Insight from hip-hop legends. Two and a half years of production. $120 million. Netflix’s most expensive show yet. With a long list of issues during the production, from cast costs to production drama, including constant script rewrites, The Get Down’s 3.2 million viewers don’t justify its $120 million price tag.
Surely, all of that “numbers jive” is credible. But let’s be clear, no program EVER has brought more hip-hop history to the television format. A number of hip-hop legends – Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambataa, and hip-hop historian Nelson George – were integral in the creation and development of this series. They were very careful not to limit the scope to the music of the era, blending in the political and social information needed to understand our culture.
The Get Down is cavalier in its effort, showing the disco scene of the times, in its drug trafficking, sex enthralled, dance fevering glory. Its notwithstanding in its display of what was a real-life horror story – being a minority in the Bronx from the late 60s to the late 70s. Burning buildings, low employment, street gangs, dilapidated community – all REAL factors of the environment. The political truth is even touched on, as we see a portion of the rise of Mayor Ed Koch.
The show doesn’t shy away from any controversy of the time – we get to see drug cartels, murder, sexuality, rape. They even show the truth of the underground influence of the LBGT community on what the people heard on the airwaves.
All this, in only 6 episodes. With 6 more riveting shows sure to educate, entertain, and enthrall its viewers; hip-hop heads worldwide have every reason to get down with The Get Down.
Detroit writer, Warnell Jones is a hip-hop enthusiast and all-around music lover and loves to write about hip-hop culture, music, love and society.
Warnell is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.