WHEN BAZ LUHRMANN directs the pilot it’s little to no wonder what could have been a very documentary-esque drama becomes a myth out of time. A heady mix of a bankrupt and burnt out New York coupled with the rising tide of early hip hop and MC collectives drawing larger and larger crowds to underground performances where territory and style are everything is a match made in heaven. Also it actually happened so the footage from the era is perfect to layer into the show. The protagonists are all driven, passionate and moving so quickly through the latter days of the 70’s that they never appear to need to eat or sleep. Neither do you once you hit play.
Part 1 didn’t necessarily get the pop culture status it deserved as it dropped the same time as Stranger Things (remember that? Remember the Goonies? Awh man 80’s horror movies are great… I digress) so with Part 2 I advise everyone with or without a Netflix membership to get marathoning. The final act of this series has everything to play for; college scholarships, getting paid to perform live, putting together a first album, freedom of artistic expression, falling in love, staying in love, getting arrested, getting grounded, getting sexy, not getting shot, and above all never missing a get down.
I am not a hugely well educated fan of hip hop. I like it, but I don’t know a huge amount about it. It’s important to note that that made zero to no difference to my enjoyment of this show. Characters are the driving force here. Not just one or two but the whole parade of ultra-cool kids who both narrate and star in their own stories that weave together into one cannonball of a plot. Part 2 sees the start of a cartoon overlapping into the story, a bold move to make up for time lost thanks to Jaden Smith’s limited contract, which, in the tradition of musicals, takes a moment of insane drama and heightened emotion and makes something entirely new out of it. The rest of the time the music does that. Considering these are some very intense characters for the plot to reach that point in the first place takes some doing.
My advice is, fall into it. Don’t expect to know everything before you start and don’t expect to feel entirely secure in the way it delivers both seasons to you. But go with it. You might learn something.
You can find more of Rhiannon’s writing here.