Like everything Baz Luhrmann touches, The Get Down — the Australian director’s brand new Netflix series that fictionalizes the birth of hip-hop in the South Bronx — favors melodramatic passion and fantastical visuals over mundane reality. And just as nearly everything in it looks bigger, brighter, and more mythological than it was, its accompanying soundtrack similarly plays fast and loose with history. For example, Donna Summer’s disco anthem “Bad Girls” toot-toots throughout the first episode that’s set in 1977, but it wasn’t released until two years later.
In this 13-track compendium (24 on the deluxe version), several cuts sample or remix tunes from back in the day, but very little on The Get Down soundtrack that wasn’t actually recorded in the ’70s sounds or even feels true to the period. Frank Ocean producer Malay audaciously sets “Losing Your Mind” – a collaboration between actor/MC Jaden Smith, who plays a graffiti artist in the series, and singer/rapper Raury – to a fat sample of “Vitamin C” by Krautrock titans Can. Their trippy concoction flaunts suitably psychedelic and psychological lyrics, even though hip-hop, which in 1977 was still two years away from getting pressed onto vinyl, was at the time concerned with little more than motivating dancers to raise their hands in the air and shake them like they just don’t care. The result is a compelling track for today, not the late ’70s.
Once you accept that this soundtrack is about artistic license and not authenticity, much like Luhrmann’s show, then much of it works. Miguel’s Malay-produced “Cadillac” samples and bases its chorus on Hot Chocolate’s “Heaven Is in the Back Seat of My Cadillac,” but brings so much soul and sonic audacity to the table that the result sparkles like a shiny new hit. Chic kingpin Nile Rodgers lends his trademark guitar scratching to Janelle Monáe’s drastic reimagining of the Jackson Five’s “Hum Along And Dance,” while R&B traditionalist Leon Bridges gets closest to the source on his foreboding interpretation of the Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion.” The Get Down soundtrack ain’t O.G., but it sure is operatic and grand.
Miguel’s throbbing fantasia is as seductive as it is danceable.
“Black Man In A White World (Ghetto Gettysburg Address)”
British artist Michael Kiwanuka partners with rapper Nas for a snapshot of race relations in 1977 that feels contemporary on every level.
“You Can’t Hide/You Can’t Hide From Yourself (Touch Of Class GMF Remix)”
Zayn Malik croons a Timberlake-worthy new jam that segues into Grandmaster Flash’s remix of Teddy Pendergrass’s soul-searching disco classic.