The sound of youth

the-get-down20

Two quick endorsements tonight before I pack it in.

First, the Netflix miniseries The Get Down, by Baz Luhrmann. Two episodes in, it’s a strange piece. It tells the story of youths in the Bronx in the late 70s, just as disco was dying and hip hop being born. It’s a Luhrmannian, baroque mix of everything and the kitchen sink. It sucks in themes of politics, religion, style, culture, sex, race, and stirs it all together. It’s a chunk of black and hispanic history in the US, wonderfully told through the music and culture of those people at that time.

The major trick the series does is that it tells the story of the recent past in the register of mythology. Everything overdrawn, epic, larger-than-life. Told as though it was the story of Thor, Ulysses or a Kung Fu movie. It is like a superhero origin story of hip hop, basically, but with real, historical people like Grandmaster Flash mixed up in it, playing a sort of wise sensei to the protagonists’ kohai. It’s such an amazing trick to pull, showing how history becomes mythology.

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The second endorsement is an absolutely amazing piece of pop-cultural scholarship I found through the latest episode of the ever-lovely Culture gabfest podcast at Slate. It is a work that catalogues what comes after the period The Get Down chronicles.

Basically, the mp3 blog Fluxblog has been making massive, epic mixtapes of the entire 1980s. One for  each year of the 1980s. This is deep, an ocean of songs to fall into. It is the music I grew up in. And it is releasing unfathomable energies of memory and emotion for me. It is just a staggering work of cultural curation. You can hear, as you do in The Get Down, the acceleration of cultural evolution. It is an electric period in cultural history I have been fortunate enough to live through. These two cultural artifacts hammer that fact home.

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