Have you ever finished watching, reading, or listening to something and just thought, or felt, a single word: “more!”? If/Then is a column that takes one piece of media and curates it into a larger exhibit of related books, music, and film.
If you liked The Get Down
The Get Down, Baz Luhrmann’s expansive yet focused new drama about the birth of hip hop in 1970s New York, was released last month. The first part, released as six separate episodes, was nearly a decade in the making and is Netflix’s most expensive project to date.Though no ratings have been released, there are whispers that the show might not move forward. It’s been criticized for being hyper-stylized and questioned for its political historical accuracy; to which I say, did you go into this not knowing who Baz Luhrmann is?
The stylization of the series (exaggerated saturation, absurdly overt carnivalesque shots and sound affects, etc) is to be expected of any Luhrmann production (Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet, The Great Gatsby) and likewise the stylization of 1970’s culture and history seeks to promote this aesthetic, without lending itself to caricature or inaccuracy. In fact, Grandmaster Flash – the DJ credited with the invention of backspinning, the technique shown in the series as birthing hip hop – served as an associate producer and director for the show.
Also, Daveed Diggs is in it.
If you finished the first six episodes of The Get Down and want to dig more deeply into the history and culture explored in the show, here are some recommendations.
“Grandmaster Flash Beats Back Time” John Leland for The New York Times
The man himself.
“You gotta realize that this thing here, this is the youngest of all the cultures, hip-hop,” he said. “Rock’s been around forever. Pop’s been around forever. This is the youngest, so it’s the least understood. But it is the biggest. The biggest monster.”
“Chasing Fires: The History of Burned New York Boroughs” Alessandra Malito
Yes, the Bronx really was constantly on fire and this is why.
“It’s how people lived…People slept with their shoes on, kept their belongings in suitcases by the door. People were on constant alert for dying in a fire.”
Turn the Beat Around: The Secret History of Disco Peter Shapiro
Well-researched and well-written, this exhaustive history of disco is required reading for those interested the cultural and political context of disco, without which there may have been no hip hop.
Not limited to the Bronx or to Hip-hop, Hermes book provides a much broader survey of the 70s New York music scene, though still narrow enough that it focuses on the five years during which The Get Down roughly takes place.
The Message, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five (available on Spotify and iTunes)
This 1984 video for the titular song of the album really says it all. “The Message” was the group’s biggest hit.