Ever since the successes of Nashville and (especially) Empire, networks have been rushing to make their own dramas about the music industry: Earlier this week, VH1 premiered The Breaks, about hip-hop’s breakout year in 1990, and later this year Terrence Winter, Mick Jagger, and Martin Scorsese are coming out with the HBO series Vinyl, about the music industry in 1970s New York City. But while Vinyl will focus on the downtown rock scene, another new show, Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down will head uptown to where the real revolution was happening: the South Bronx, where hip-hop was born.
Netflix released the first trailer today, and all the key elements are there: Not just the rapping, which only comes later in the trailer, but the b-boying, the DJing, and the graffiti. The show looks like it will tell a story like the one Jeff Chang tells in his great hip-hop history Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, focusing on hip-hop as it arose from disco (which gets at least as much screen time here), street gangs, and Jamaican roots, in addition to the area’s economic and political struggles. Those who know the era will recognize the Savage Skulls, the sounds of “Apache,” and a glimpse of Grandmaster Flash.
It also just looks fun. Like the MCs and street gangs of the era, Luhrmann has an exuberant signature style all his own, and has directed the key first and final episodes. He’s also always been most at home working with music, in movies such as Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge.
The cast is a mix of relative newcomers (including Shameik Moore, the breakout star of Dope) and vets like Jimmy Smits, Giancarlo Esposito, and … Jaden Smith. The 13-episode show will debut later this year, and if it’s half as entertaining as this trailer, it’ll be at the top of my queue.