It’s Viola Davis’s greatest performance yet. It’s the film everyone’s talking about. It’s a movie NME hailed as “a fitting swansong for Chadwick Boseman, who gives a beautifully nuanced performance in a story that deftly explores racial inequality in the music industry.” It’s one hot, sweaty, music-filled journey into 1920s Chicago, where the blues is booming but the players are struggling against problems and attitudes that feel all-too relevant today. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which premieres on Netflix on December 18 (Friday), is the must-watch movie of the Christmas holidays.
To celebrate the release of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, we’re giving NME readers the chance to voyage back in time to the film’s 1927 setting by reviving NME’s sister publication Melody Maker as a site-within-a-site – and you can check it out for yourself today.
Visitors to the microsite will find everything they need to know about the film right now. Over the coming week, we’ll be adding lots and lots more about Ma Rainey’s world; listening guides on the blues, information about the formidable Ma Rainey, playlists for further viewing, video discussions about the film’s themes and a very, very special, exclusive performance video.
Launched in 1926 in the UK, the weekly, tabloid-sized Melody Maker newspaper was the world’s first dedicated music publication, concerning itself primarily with jazz and blues and – some decades later – missing the rock ‘n’ roll boat while its upstart sister publication NME, launched in 1952, stole a march. The two magazines, owned by the same publisher and for many years produced in the same building in London, nonetheless maintained a great and occasionally bitter rivalry until, in December 2000, Melody Maker folded and was merged into the pages of the then-more-successful NME.
Two decades on, this special partnership between NME and Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom marks the first use of the Melody Maker name since its closure.
Ma Rainey herself was a performer, venue owner, businesswoman and all-round badass who might challenge your perceptions about the 1920s. A rock star before the global media had begun seeking them out, Rainey was musician and mogul all in one, one of the first generation of blues artists to record their music and a prototype for the modern rock star – albeit one whose influence and work has been sidelined in the mainstream narrative. But think about it this way: you don’t get the nickname ‘Mother Of The Blues’ for nothing.
Originally a 1981 play by celebrated playwright August Wilson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is produced by Denzel Washington, who was appointed by Wilson’s family to adapt his work. Wilson is best known for The American Century Cycle, a series of 10 plays chronicling the lives of Black Americans in the 20th century, of which Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is part.
When you’re ready – and presuming you’re wearing the correct attire – click here to be transported to our sepia-tinted homage to the melting pot of 1920s, when the raw DNA of rock ‘n’ roll rebellion was bubbling up via thrilling blues and jazz scenes.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom hits Netflix on December 18