A hip-hop Vinyl, anyone? Baz Luhrmann’s forthcoming 13-hour Netflix epic is a journey into the genesis of rap music, emerging from New York block parties as an edgier foil to the disco era in 1977-79. Following such characters as Shaolin Fantastic, Ra-Ra Kipling and a gangster called Cadillac, it promises to be a hip-hop origins story with heart, pizzazz and more stacked heels than Bono’s wardrobe. With a musical-style song performance each episode, it’ll also have a soundtrack liable to start impromptu parties around any contained area of water within three or four beats so, to gen up, here’s five albums you should hear to help you get your strut on through The Get Down.
Chic, ‘C’est Chic’ (1978)
The Get Down traces the emergence of rap from beneath the skirts of disco, and no band encapsulated the glitterball era better than Nile Rodgers’ Chic. Surely a soundtrack staple, it was the sparkling grooves of ‘Le Freak’ and ‘I Want Your Love’ and the low-slung funk of this peak-era Chic album that rap bounced off and rocked against.
Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five, ‘The Message’ (1982)
Joseph Saddler, aka Grandmaster Flash, actually makes appearances in The Get Down, played by Mamoudou Athie. So expect plenty of raw cuts from Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five’s debut album, a seven-track rap-pop classic that bridges the gap between Rick James and Stevie Wonder and the new rap breed, culminating in the legendary title track, the song that shifted rap from bad-hipped party groove to socio-political firebrand. As close to the edge as rap got in 1982.
The Sugarhill Gang, ‘Sugarhill Gang’ (1980)
The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was the single that broke hip-hop into the mainstream charts in 1979, so The Get Down will no doubt be awash with Wonder Mike and his hip-hop hippies and bang bang boogies like hot buttered pop da pop dibbie dibbies. Though their fame was fleeting, their crossover broke the barriers for hip-hop and their debut album stands as a snapshot of the seismic cultural shifts in the clubland scene of the late 70s.
Kurtis Blow, ‘Kurtis Blow’ (1980)
Mentor to Run-D.M.C.’s Joseph Simmons, Blow is a prime example of the clarity and slightly laboured precision of early rap, back when rappers aspired to support The Commodores. His debut documents the formative development of the style from what is often essentially just spoken-word funk towards more motor-mouthed mic gymnastics and laid the foundations for political hardship raps (‘Hard Times’), rock crossovers (his Bachman-Turner Overdrive cover ‘Taking Care Of Business’) and semi-comic hip-hop – the album’s big hit ‘The Breaks’ was a list of existential disasters from your partner running off to Japan to running up mob debts that made Alanis Morrissette look like one of life’s greatest optimists.
Various Artists, ‘The Great Rap Hits’ (1980)
Hip-hop was largely confined to singles and 12” until the mid-80s, so the two early-80s Sugar Hill label compilations of block party tunes were essential listens, taking in the visceral mob jams of Funky 4 + 1, the proto gangsta rhymes of Spoonie Gee and the semi-comic yodel raps of Sequence. A kind of proto-mixtape, these are the sounds that will form the backbone of The Get Down.