A New Series About Hip-Hop’s Birth Just Got Even Realer With Nas Writing All Its Rhymes (Video)
Over the years, there have been a number of films that have shown the early days of Hip-Hop. Style Wars, Wildstyle, Beat Street, Krush Groove and others all have had a role in memorializing the history of the biggest culture to be born in the United States in the last 40 years, whether fiction or documentary. While there have been several representations in theaters, a project for smaller screens, announced over a year ago, generated a groundswell of excitement due to the anticipation of the level of detail a full series dedicated to Hip-Hop’s birth could bring. In June of 2015, Netflix unveiled a teaser for a new scripted original, titled The Get Down. Since then, interest has only grown, as details about the series have emerged.
While Netflix has earned a reputation as an outlet for original programming of the highest quality, they had not ventured into the Hip-Hop space, until the release of their documentary, Rubble Kings. That film, with its story of the gangs that overran The Bronx in the 60s and 70s, and which ultimately were defused in part with the birth of Hip-Hop, served as a bit of a precursor to The Get Down. The acclaim for the film bode well for the series, but things got really interesting when Nas became an executive producer for the show. Widely-considered one of the finest MCs of all-time, He brought instant credibility to The Get Down.
Nas recently spoke with Rolling Stone about the project, going in-depth about why he chose to get involved and discussing the full extent of his role. “Working with film is like has been one of the things I always wanted to do since I don’t know when. Maybe even before rap…. I don’t know if I’m an expert, but I’m just a super fan of the old school and the golden era, and so it just felt like I couldn’t have asked for a better project to be involved with,” Nas said about the show. Given that the series begins in 1977, only 4 years after he was born, naturally he needed to educate himself about what New York City was like in that time period. Beyond studying the culture, he brought in some of the pioneers who created it as consultants, including Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, Kool Herc, Rahiem of the Furious Five, and Nelson George, an esteemed journalists who was one of the first to document Hip-Hop.
Nas spoke in detail about Kurtis Blow, citing his record “The Breaks” as one of the earliest Hip-Hop songs he recalls hearing. “That record was not just a rap record, it was a great music record. It was like a sign that something new was about to happen, or was happening. Kurtis Blow’s ‘The Breaks,’ sonically, could match any of the hit records of the time,” said Nas, who would later go on to make his own version of Blow’s “If I Ruled The World.”
One of Nas’ biggest disclosures, however, was that he wrote every one of the rhymes in the show, himself. In detailing how he was able to tap into the rhyme style and subject matter from the 70s, as an MC who came of age in the 90s, Nas said “This is an early style. This is the Seventies. These are the tapes that the older guys were playing in my neighborhood, listening to, partying to. This is a different style, this is not what I normally do…. I placed pictures around myself of parties like Harlem World, the Roxy, jams out in the Bronx in the park, DJs like Jazzy Jay on the turntables, of course Grandmaster Flash photographs everywhere, the Furious Five photographs around me. I really just went into that world.” His dedication shows that even masters at their craft forever remain students.