Dust Off Your Turntable, and Groove All Over Again With ‘The Get Down’ Part 2
by Nile Fortner
When I first heard about Netflix The Get Down, I was interested but a little worried. The Get Down is a Netflix original series. The series documents the rise of Hip-Hop and the downfall of disco music in a hardcore, 1970’s chaotic New York. The show was created by 2013 The Great Gatsby director Baz Luhrmann. I was a little worried because I am someone who loves hip-hop and rap music. I love the history of the music genre, and how it grew into the worldwide phenomenon that it is today. I was mainly worried because an Australian director creating and unfolding a story about old school hip-hop doesn’t really come to mind at first. On the other hand, the first season of this show was well done. The first few episodes started a little slow, but it transitioned itself into a very good series. The show is filled with 70s nostalgia, great music, and characters you can get behind. Now we get part two, and part two of this series brings us more story, more music, more drama, and makes the audience want to view more.
The Get Down revolves around Shaolin Fantastic, played by Shameik Moore (Dope). Who is a mysterious graffiti artist turned DJ, who catches the attention of Ezekiel Figuero, played by Justice Smith (Paper Towns) and his young friends (including Jaden Smith). Ezekiel is a successful rapper telling his Bronx tale to a stadium full of fans. He is portrayed, by Daveed Diggs who here raps to lyrics by iconic rapper Nas, who is one of the numerous producers on this series.
The year was 1977, Ezekiel, is a good kid who takes to poetry/rap lyrics after his parents are killed and he’s being raised by his aunt. Mostly, he’s desperately in love with Mylene, played by Herizen Guardiola, a beautiful young girl with an amazing voice who has dreams of being the next Donna Summer. Think West Side Story meets Poetic Justice and the movie Hustle & Flow. Ezekiel and Shaolin become great friends, perform together, and become known as The Get Down Brothers. Mylene signs with a record company and things are looking good for everyone.
Now part two is set in 1978. The Get Down Brothers are still going strong, Ezekiel has the chance to attend Yale College, everyone reaches a good level of fame. On the other hand, with everything going well, it is not too far ahead things go badly.
Part two picks up and builds right where part one let off. Only part two offers more drama than part one. My only problem with part one is it was too big of a love letter to the 1970s. Meaning, the first part is loaded with 1970s nostalgia. Such as, blaxploitation films, music, Kung Fu films, Star Wars, Afros, wardrobe, television shows, and slang. I personally enjoyed all the nostalgia, because even though I didn’t live through this period, I am a fan and respect a majority of things from this era. Nostalgia is great, especially in shows or movies like this one. But, I believe all the reminiscing kept getting in the way of the story.
“It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop.” – Dead Prez
The drama in part two makes for some real compelling and emotional connections with our main characters. Even the sub plots will have you fully invested. The Get Down Brothers even steal one from Vin Diesel. They all tell each other, “We are now (dramatic pause) family.” Shaolin Fantastic wants to take their success to another level. He wants to make more money, so he sells the drug Angel Dust, and he lets himself get into trouble with the syndicate ruled by Fat Annie, played by Lillias White and her disco crazy son Cadillac, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
We are introduced to Fat Annie in part one. However, we get more screen time with her in part two. She gives Shaolin a contract; however, he has to sell drugs. Which he promised Ezekiel he would never do. This unfolds some of the best drama between Ezekiel and Shaolin. They have a fight, a falling out, and it really does seem like they will not get back together. Shaolin seems like a cool guy who just makes dumb decisions. For instance, Shaolin persuades one of the youngest members of group to sell drugs. Even though he is not a perfect character, I like characters that aren’t perfect. When characters are too well written and perfect, they don’t feel real, and they don’t feel organic. Which is why I personally enjoy the character. Shaolin is more than just a drug dealing DJ. He is more well written this season. We witness his ups and downs, his motivation, he has a change of heart, and all the aspects that are needed to craft a character.
We are also introduced to Fat Annie’s son, Cadillac, in the first season as well. Anyone can write a character that is mean just for the sake of it. However, Cadillac is written as a bad guy that simply got lost along the way. He is only a twisted, disco loving, cruel businessman because his mother raised him in that lifestyle. Cadillac has a change of heart towards the end of the series. He reconnects with his emotions, telling his henchmen “I never wanted to be like this. When I was growing up, I wanted to be the first black man to disco dance on the motherf#ckin’ moon.” He continues on how he wants to follow his dream, and how The Get Down Brothers inspired him. How they had passion for their art, even though he says numerous times throughout the series, he thinks their music is trash. He even cries, and tells his henchmen he wants to start over, and open a new disco club. That is what I mean when I say this season has more drama, and emotional situations for our characters.
Accordingly, Ezekiel has a bright future ahead of him. He has the opportunity to attend Yale. Unfortunately, Shaolin crashes the student-networking meet up, and pulls a gun out on a group of students who are doing drugs and use a racial slur. This causes Ezekiel to lose the opportunity. Even though he does get another opportunity to attend the college, he doesn’t want any part of it, because he accuses the college, students, and professors of being racist, rude, and overall not good people. His aunt is furious with him. Ezekiel sticks with the music, which leads to his aunt kicking him out of the house, and Ezekiel having to stay with Shaolin. This created some real good chemistry between Shaolin and Ezekiel. One moment they are family, the other they are enemies.
“She Works Hard for the Money.” – Donna Summer
Moreover, things may be looking bad for The Get Down Brothers. On the other hand, Mylene’s career blossoms under her producer-songwriter Jackie Moreno, played by Kevin Corrigan (The Departed, Pineapple Express). But the business at Marrakesh Records, led by sleazy promoter Roy Ashton, played by Eric Bogosian (Law & Order, Blade: Trinity),wants her to abandon the godliness she absorbed from her God-fearing mother, played by Zabryna Guevara (TV’s Gotham, The Guilt Trip) and her Pentecostal preacher father, played by Giancarlo Esposito (Do the Right Thing, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials) and become a sexy, famous, disco diva.
Mylene started out as a beautiful, innocent, and sweet church girl in the first season. Now she is letting fame and money get to her head. She even got a role in an upcoming Hollywood film. Her father despises the young woman she has become. This creates drama for Mylene, but the mother as well. The father becomes very abusive towards his wife, he literally goes mad, and he beats his daughter. Actually, beat isn’t the right word. Usually I am not squeamish to violence on screen. Nonetheless, when Mylene is acting sexy at a concert, her father punch, kicks, and clobbers the poor girl. Also, her mother is cheating on her husband, with her husband’s brother.
Zeke and Mylene’s relationship buckles under the strain of her celebrity status, and it is hard for him to balance his relationship along with working on The Get Down Brothers music. There are betrayals and misunderstandings, devastating setbacks and despair.
Jaden Smith got a lot more screen time and development in part two. Jaden is Dizzee of The Get Down Brothers, and he is also a comic book and graffiti artist. The show adds him as a new narrator besides Nas. Telling the story of The Get Down Brothers in the form of a comic book. This was a good way to see more of his character.
The music this time around feels more like a musical. For example, instead of kids rapping, we get musical performances, concerts, and the music actually helps tell as story of what just happened, what is possibly going to happen, and how our characters feel. The music does not take away from the drama by any means.
I also thought it was a nice technique to use actual footage from the 70s to capture that look, feel, and scenery.
The show ends where the story is heading into the 80s, and I have to be honest. Even though the ending to the show was fantastic, it feels a little predictable. After viewing this, I’m sure most people can see the direction part three will go in.
Well, much like Grandmaster Flash, I hope when it comes down to The Get Down part two, you all get the message. Netflix’s The Get Down part two is off the chair, it’s off the chain, and it’s off the hook. At the end of the series, Ezekiel tells us in a rap, “My home is f#ckin’ magic.” Well I believe part two of this series is magic, and I believe Netflix’s The Get Down part two earns…
4.5 out of 5 Hairpieces!