Netflix Pick – Hip-Hop Evolution

Your Weekly Netflix pick has finally arrived! Sorry about the delay but it has been a terrible week of bland mediocrity. I watched the first 2-3 episodes of so many lackluster TV shows and sat through a handful of movies that weren’t all bad, but weren’t exactly good either.

I thought about doing my fist Netflix un-recommendation or reposting an old Netflix Pick and claiming it was a throwback and doing a quick blurb as to why it’s still relevant. I didn’t want to cheat the loyal listeners/readers so I kept watching bad. I ended up stumbling into a trailer for part 2 of The Get Down. The next chapter in Baz Luhrman’s silly but fun visually impressive and fantastical music based drama about the birth of Hip Hop comes in April. That sparked something.

Your weekly Netflix Pick is Hip-Hop Evolution.

Hip-Hop Evolution follows Shad Kabango, an MC himself, as he retraces the locations and pioneers of Hip-Hop, DJing, and Rap. The amount of celebrity appearances and on-location shooting is staggering and this incredibly professional documentary is as entertaining as any fictional story could be.

Just a couple generations back Hip-Hop wasn’t a term. It wasn’t a genre, and the seeds that were there weren’t all that popular. When Disco ruled a crime ridden NYC and the Bronx was literally burning to the ground a handful of rebellious kids got the idea to cut out the noise they didn’t like and just play the breakdowns on the records. This unique idea sparked creativity that spread like a wildfire. Hip-Hop was born and it was all about the DJs. The music was all about base and creativity. DJs created perfect loops off the records using clever tricks that they discovered and invented themselves. The notion of a young black man from Harlem or the Bronx buying multiple copies of the same record was reported to be a rare thing, owning two turntables to play the records at the same time was unheard of.

The time was all based around the music but the dire circumstances really let the party grow. The neighborhoods were drug fueled. People had nothing but time. With unemployment kicking up toward 30% people were desperate. In the infamous blackout of 1977 NYC fell into chaos. Aspiring DJs took the chaos to be opportunity. Looting was rampant and that’s how many pioneers got their start or took their skills to the next level.

Following Kabango around the neighborhoods and establishments where the very first Hip-Hop party was held is exciting for on the scene shooting despite the fact that forty years have passed. The amount of archival footage, newsreels, and images is like stepping through a portal into the past. The fact that this past isn’t so far away makes it even more exciting since the sense of familiarity is there. It makes the subject matter so much more tangible. It breaths new life into songs you may have been listening to since your early teens. Grandmaster Flash’s The Message is one particular genre busting song that gets a lot of attention and I’m sure will strike a chord (sorry about the pun) with many readers.

Another joyous benefit to the era being not so far gone is that almost all the big names, the pioneers, the inventors, the musical geniuses are still alive. In just the first couple episodes Kabango uncovers Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5. The first really famous DJ, the first really famous Rap group, and one of the first groups to mix the two in a way that resembles what the genre is today.

The music was definitely something born of the era. A crazy era where style and flash was everything despite the majority of the black community in New York City and Northern Jersey where it started being poor. Disco has its flash in the pan and as the pioneers of Hip-Hop started seeing the crazy explosion happen they held on thinking this too would be a passing fad.

One really interesting aspect is the similarity and symbiotic relationship Hip-Hop had with the punk music. One DJ describes Punk as an alternative to Rock and Roll where Hip-Hop was the time’s alternative to disco. The two genres, that really don’t have much in common musically or tonally, would play in the same venue and cross promote to their respective audiences.

Hip-Hop Evolution is a non-stop high-energy ride with a ton of amazing sound bytes and drops. The songs featured are classics to an ever increasing audience and the evolution of the music from its roots to its present day form are clearly drawn.

Hip-Hop Evolution: 5/5

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