‘The Get Down’ Is Netflix’s New Musical Series on the Birth of Hip Hop in the South Bronx

Lead Photo: DJ KSlay by Henry Chalfant.
DJ KSlay by Henry Chalfant.
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Most of us may not remember when the Bronx was, both literally and figuratively, burning. In fact, us millennials, weren’t even alive when an ABC announcer covering the 1977 World Series uttered those now infamous words as an abandoned elementary school smoldered only blocks away from Yankee Stadium, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning.”

New York was in a state of spiritual and economic crisis: crime was rampant, city coffers were bankrupt, but somehow in the midst of the Gotham’s seeming decline there was a grassroots cultural effervescence that came to define the city for a generation and left an indelible impact on world culture that is still felt today. From downtown to the South Bronx, it was hip hop, punk rock and disco; Basquiat and David Byrne. Indeed, for many us it was an almost mythic time in New York history, and like all myths, it came to symbolize a time of cultural rebirth deserving of its own epic saga. And who better to sing its song than the post-TV pioneers at Netflix?

Netflix recently revealed that Australian song-and-dance-man Baz Luhrmann will be directing and executive producing The Get Down, a musical series following a ragtag group of South Bronx youths who move through the various cultural scenes that defined that era in New York history. As we can expect from the filmmaker who brought us Moulin Rouge and The Great GatsbyThe Get Down will feature plenty of singing and plenty of dancing, but this time with the raw energy and brash attitudes of 1970s New York City. Luhrmann had been toying with the project for nearly 10 years now and worked with scandal-strapped Sony Pictures Television, Netflix, and his own recurring crew of creative collaborators to bring his vision to life.

While this is reason for all of us to be excited, let’s not forget that the story of hip hop and 70s New York culture in general is also the story of Boricuas, Cubanos, Dominicanos, and even a stray Colombiano or two. It’s not clear how prominent Latinos will be in Luhrmann’s upcoming epic, but you would have to be blind (or perhaps Australian) to make a show about the South Bronx or the Lower East Side and not give props to the Latinos that were front and center both then and now.

Either way, it’s telling that the spirit of 70s New York — that not so long ago was still alive and palpable — has gone the way of fin-de-siecle France and Roaring Twenties Long Island, relegated to a stylized, mythic spectacle for the “new” New York to look back upon with curiosity and remember what it once was.

The Get Down will coming to the small screen in 2016. Be excited, but don’t hold your breath.