Art sets my soul on fire
When it’s right, it’s right.
I started watching The Get Down. Actually, I started watching it a week ago but I got distracted half way through the first episode and didn’t get back into it until today.
In truth, I still wasn’t paying attention until I saw this boy with an Afro with tears pooling in his eyes having a heart to heart with this bombshell Latina girl, who all but tore out the poor dude’s heart with a hunting knife. She may as well have taken a bite out of it or speared the thing to his leg, it was so cruel.
At this point, this little dude has got my attention. He’s crying, he’s screaming, he’s making a scene right, out in the middle of nowhere with his boys pouring his heart out–I mean, this kid is hemorrhaging some seriously raw emotions.
I watched him like that 5 car-pile up you start going 25 in a 60 zone for. You can’t look away even if you wanted to.
And the worst part of it, his boys are like, “Yo, but you can’t tell us anything about that fight?” (Apparently, homeboy had just been at this club where there was a brutal showdown.)
I couldn’t stop watching because I know what if feels like to be hemorrhaging like that, feeling everything so hard it feels like you could vomit your own heart out, if you weren’t choking to death on it.
But then, an honest to God magical Negro LITERALLY flies over the edge of this rock they’re all hanging at on the outskirts of the city and slides down it like we’re suddenly in a Bruce Lee film.
This dude is apparently “Shaolin Fantastic,” graffiti artist extraordinaire, who leads my poor boy (his name is Zeke, by the way) and his homies to this wild party where Zeke comes to a beautiful self-discovery: he is the Wordsmith.
When it’s right, it’s right.
The Get Down is visually the Disco aesthetic. It’s warm colors on bodies in beautiful shades of brown. It’s big hair and lilting speech, accents and foreign tongues. It’s youth, the best and worst of youth. It’s that age when the world’s still so big and still so new and you can only discover that it’s not all so shiny through experience even though your parents want to save every bit of you they still can. That time when you really truly believe that you can do or be anything, and the chase is the only thing that matters.
The Get Down sounds like my dad. It sounds like my granddad and my grandma, and the stories they’d tell. The soundscape it creates…it folds in gospel, Disco, pop, hip-hop, every defining sound of that moment and sends shivers down my spine. Those shivers I get when I’m hearing the answer to the question, “What is the meaning of life?”
It’s art about the creation of art, the creation of new art. It’s youth and exploration and it’s only appropriate it’s told from the point of view of teenagers.
These beautiful creators…Zeke with his raps, Shao in his beats, Mylene when she opens her mouth, Dizzee when he tags. Every time Zeke raps, it feels like that scene when he’s hemorrhaging his emotions, every last one that burns in his veins. They aren’t holding anything back. Their intensity is hypnotic.
They, the characters and the city, the soundscape and landscapes of their lives, are filled with so much–rage, joy, desperation, laughter, hope…love. It’s layers upon layers of art, each layer as profound as the one before it. You don’t need to get to the middle because just being pulled into their experience with their music and their art and their dance is enough. Every bit of it fills me up. Every piece taps into a different part of my soul.
And I’m sure there are theories a plenty for why I’m so touched by this sound, this aesthetic, but at the end of the day, I know at least why it touches me.
I am an emotional sponge. I am an empath. I am an artist.
The best way to get me to understand a time and a place is to show me the art that was created.
This manufactured reality of a time and a place so foreign, yet familiar, colors the stories that were passed down to from grandparents to father to me.
Once they start creating, I couldn’t look away.
Their fire was so bright.
Their emotional hemorrhaging was so real.
And the best way to honor it was to keep watching.