Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Remix Is The Spirit of Hip Hop: A The Get Down Review

So is The Get Down worth your time?

That is a boring question.  And The Get Down isn't a boring show. It would probably be enough if the show simply aimed to a recounting of the history of hip-hop but the series has a thesis of what hip-hop is and sets itself out to spiritually demonstrate it.

Hip-hop is the remix.  Taking something old and turning it into something new. The series seeks to not only say but demonstrate that the birth of hip-hop was the recombination of all of these other disparate cultural elements coming together to form something that people really hadn't seen before.

Historical Impressionism

To get to how it does this let me talk about what I call historical impressionism.

I'm pretty sure 10 years ago I read an essay regarding this in college but I barely remember it so I'll remix it into my own thing. That being said I don't know exactly who I'm riffing but this is an old conversation.

When talking about history one of the hardest things to communicate is the context of the story. We the audience are removed from yet familiar with what happened, It is hard beyond that to convey not what happened why? What contributed to the decision making of the people involved.

There is a difference between Truth and the truth. and it's up to the storyteller to decide which one has more value.

Enter Baz Lurhmann, who has consistently over his career chosen Truth.

When you're watching a Baz Lurhman production your always watching two movies separated by how you calculate his tics and style into the diegesis.

The plot as it occurs from our omniscient point of view and the plot as it is understood by the characters.

For instance people can and have argued that the vast majority of Mulin Rouge as we see it is taking place in the character's heads and all the weirdness we see is a translation of their emotional states. 

Are the characters actually singing a medley of the greatest loves songs of the last century?  It doesn't matter but that conveys how they feel at the time and explains why they do what they do in a way that the audience gets it.

Part of how this works is breaking the fourth wall and using our external context to communicate character's frame of mind.

Now this is Lurhman's schtick. If something has his name on it, you know that you're probably not going to get something to be taken literally.

But in the Get Down Luhrmann's style goes to the next level.

Let's Do The Time Warp
The Get Down is probably one of Lurhman's  more subtle works because this time he's remixing the 70's with.... the 70's or at least the 70's as pumped into the minds of the people who lived it via music, film and television.

The show uses costume changes that evoke everything from West Side Story, to Fame, to Grease, to Starsky and Hutch, to The Warriors, to Superfly, to Black Samurai flicks to show how the characters feel and who they are trying to be in that moment.

The same goes for the mannerisms of the cast as well as the sets.

The show is in effect a remix of the pop culture the time.

Yet it goes beyond mere references since in Luhrmann's style all of these things are meant to be communicative. All of the references add context to the action and dialogue in the piece, turning The Get Down into something of yet distinct from all its parts.

The Get Down is a filmic adaptation of the old school hip hop it's recounting. And that makes the point it's trying to make all the stronger.

What makes hip hop hip hop is the remix.

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