"Flash, he doesn't play games." Hip hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash and his on-screen counterpart Mamoudou Athie go behind the scenes of Baz Luhrmann's The Get Down.
The Get Down is a mythic saga of how New York at the brink of bankruptcy gave birth to a new art form. Set in New York in 1977, this music-driven drama series chronicles the rise of hip-hop and the last days of disco -– told through the lives, music, art and dance of the South Bronx kids who would change the world forever.
About The Get Down:
The Get Down is from Baz Luhrmann and a team of collaborators including four-time Oscar® winner and fellow executive producer Catherine Martin, legendary MC and executive producer Nas, associate producer Grandmaster Flash, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, co-creator and executive producer Stephen Adly Guirgis; and expert collaborators, including hip-hop historian and supervising producer Nelson George.
Shameik Moore (Shaolin Fantastic), Justice Smith (Ezekiel “Books” Figuero), Herizen Guardiola (Mylene Cruz), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Cadillac), Jaden Smith (Dizzee Kipling), Skylan Brooks (Ra-Ra Kipling), Tremaine Brown Jr. (Boo Boo Kiping), Mamoudou Athie (Grandmaster Flash), Jimmy Smits (Francisco “Papa Fuerte” Cruz) and Giancarlo Esposito (Ramon Cruz) star.
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The Get Down | Grandmaster Flash Featurette | Netflix
“I look at myself as a scientist,” Flash says after a long day of working on the upcoming Netflix Series The Get Down. He elaborates, “I started doing studies on Nicola Tesla, George Westinghouse and George Ohms.” He shares how at Samuel Gompers High School in the Bronx he learned about push pull circuits, AC/DC, diodes, resisters and capacitors.
Before there was Grandmaster Flash, there was Joseph Saddler. Joseph knew that he’d get beat for playing with his dad’s records, but did it anyway. By the time he was sent into the foster care system, due to his mother’s illness, his father had already left.
When asked, “How many foster homes were you in?” he responds, “There were a few, I was kind of running away from it. I wouldn’t stay. Any chance that I had to leave, I would.” This challenging environment set the tone for scientific discovery and the desire to run with it.
Finding the materials wasn’t easy either, as Flash remembers, “I gathered as much electric equipment as possible. I’d go to backyards and junk yards where people threw away stuff and bring it into the home and try to diagnose it.” In order to fund his project he mentions, “I got a delivery boy job. I used to deliver packages, getting money together to get turntables and equipment that I had to jerry-rig. Things that were sold at that time were used for other purposes.”
Young Flash worked with thrown away electronic machinery including turntables, stereos, speakers and mixers, rebuilding them to suit what he was seeing in his mind. His contribution played a major roll in what is now known as Turntablism. In the 70s Flash manually extended the drum solos by using duplicate copies of Vinyl from the 60s and 70s including the genres of Pop, Rock, Jazz, Blues, Funk, Disco, R+B, Latin and Alternative. By placing his fingertips on the vinyl, moving it back forth and counterclockwise he doubled the purpose of the record and became what we know today as the Controller of Sound. From this point forward individuals known as MCs can now rhyme over a clean bed of manually extended music on time to the beat with no interruption. This is the birth of what is now known as Rap.
Additionally, Flash had a manually operated drum machine in the 70s that he played with his fingertips that he called “The Beat Box”.
As Flash puts it, “Being a scientist, you try things that most people won’t try. I look at Hip Hop as a science. It’s a science and it’s math. It’s how I am able to do what I am able to do in the different parts of the world. The equation to that is joy.”
From foster care to world tours, Flash gives the following advice, “There is no such thing as quit. There is no such thing as believing you can not do it.”
DJ Grandmaster Flash is up to making history again. As he sits in front of the Avid S6 video console, you see him in his associate producer role of Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Netflix series called The Get Down. The series will tell the story of the New York music scene in the 1970s and the birth of hip-hop, disco, and punk.
It makes perfect sense to have the father of hip-hop included in this project. Not only is Flash a producer, but he is also a key character in the much-anticipated show. The Get Down will depict a crew of rag-tag South Bronx teenagers, who, despite their challenged environment, change the world forever…through music.
Although the highlight of the series is the history of the music scene, most will get a taste of nostalgia with the dance moves and graffiti art. Through this series, viewers will feel connected to the overall culture of that time. While DJ Flash works his magic behind the scenes, he will be portrayed by actor Mamoudou Athie onscreen.
Netflix has announced The Get Down will premiere August 2016. You can learn more about the project here. Grandmaster Flash made transformational music history that started in his Bronx apartment, and he is honored to a part of this project.
Wanna be part of history? Flash and Baz call on New Yorkers to get it popping as extras on their new Netflix series THE GET DOWN.
Casting call is next Tuesday 9/8. They are looking for people to portray black and Hispanic Bronx residents, ages 18-23. We're looking for that '70s look so no extensions and no shaved heads or buzz cuts --- See below for more details. Its going down on Tuesday and its gonna be Epic!