Netflix Cancels Nas & The Get Down: Will Hip Hop's Origin Story Ever Be Finished?

Last Night, Netflix stunned hardcore Hip Hop enthusiasts everywhere when it confirmed it was cancelling the critically acclaimed Hip Hop series, The Get Down. The cancellation brings an official end to a series that was rumored to be plagued by behind-the-scenes troubles. Netflix and others close to the matter say the show failed to connect with viewers like other Netflix hits  “Stranger Things” and “Orange is the New Black”. Season one premiered last year 2016, with the second season debuting on the streaming service this past April to great acclaim.  

But this cancellation seems very suspect to us at the incubator. Recently Variety magazine reported this about The Get Down cancellation: 

“The first part of season one, which premiered last year, drew 3.2 million total U.S. adults 18-49 in its first 31 days, according to Symphony Advanced Media — roughly one fifth the audience that viewed “Orange is the New Black” season four in its first 31 days.”
— Variety

Now, I don’t know about you, but to compare a new show’s season premiere to a hit show's four season premiere seems very unfair. The Get Down was a masterpiece of Hip Hop history and black culture. The writing and production staff boast the talents of Nas, Dj Kool Herc, GrandMaster Flash and many more. What this really comes down to isn’t that the show failed to connect with viewers, but rather Netflix failed to connect with what they created.

 Image credit; La TImes

Image credit; La TImes

Netflix Wasn’t truly Vested

A show like The Get Down does not follow the traditional bubble gum approach used in most TV show productions. This is something that even the director, Baz Luhrmann, admitted to during an interview. 

“The mechanism that pre-existed to create TV shows didn’t really work for this show. At every step of the way there was no precedent for what we were doing. The standard process really didn’t work, so progressively, I was drawn more and more into the center of it.”
— Baz Luhrmann

The visual storytelling, musical elements and strong emphasis on accurately explaining the origins of “Hip Hop culture” proved to be much of a challenge? No way! Get the f**k out of here ( In my Italian good fellas voice lol ). 

It’s real simple, The Get Down does not represent white history or european culture - and because of that they have no true connection to it.  You can make the excuse that The Get Down is too difficult to make or it cost to much to produce ( $120 million for both seasons), but that explanation falls apart when we look at other shows you’ve invested in that are getting multiple seasons.

Innovative new shows like  “The OA”,  “Chewing Gum”, “Narcos” or “Sense 8” are not the biggest smash hits on Netflix. Yet somehow their budgets are getting extended and they’re getting renewed.

We Need To Control Our Narrative

Why does Baz Luhrmann get to direct a show about Hip Hop? Why does the show then face extinction when he decides to leave because it’s distracting from him making a movie? Netflix, are you indirectly saying there are no qualified black directors who can accurately portray a history and culture that is an integral part of their own DNA?
These are the questions black filmmakers, TV producers and fans should be asking when a giant like NetFlix cuts culturally relevant show like The Get Down. Last Month in April Netflix unveiled “Dear White People” a spin series of the debut movie of the same name and title. The show adaption created and directed by black filmmaker, Justin Simien, is considered to be a top hit - garnering a perfect 100% score on rotten tomatoes.  This success along with the success of “Get Out” the thriller block buster by Jordan peele just baby steps in the right direction.
Ultimately, the true solution lies not in protesting or just partnering with streaming services like Netflix, Amazon or Hulu. We must begin to take greater strides in authoring, directing and broadcasting our narratives under our own platforms. That is the only true long term solution to guarantee our stories continued to be heard.

This September, SMAART will be formally launching our Build It Black initiative to develop and scale 100 black startups to $100 million revenue by 2021.  We invite you to take part in this initiative  by either sharing this article, using the hashtag #Builditblack in your posts for a week or by joining the Incubator.

Khufere Qhamata, is the founder of the SMAART INCUBATOR, a serial entrepreneur, and dedicated futurist. He is chief executive of Leap72, a strategic innovation consultancy advising corporations on how to use startup economics to grow and compete for the future. He is also a co-founder and board member of Academy M, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit specializes in the mentorship and career development of millennials. You can follow him on Linkedin.