Grandmaster Flash is pacing around Behagen Playground, a park draped by Bronx apartment buildings and full of basketball courts and jungle gyms that the legendary DJ has hung out at since he was a teenager in the mid-seventies. To residents of the nearby Forest Houses, who are chilling on benches eating shaved ice, seeing Flash is just an everyday occurrence. Some were even there decades ago, when he was more commonly known as Joseph Saddler and would “plug up in the parking house and jam,” Flash, 58, recalls.

The DJ checks his watch. He’s waiting for Shameik Moore, the 21-year-old actor who stars in Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix original series The Get Down, which features a fictionalized version of Flash (the DJ also consulted for the show, and makes a cameo himself). When he finally spots Moore strolling onto the courts, about an hour later than when the two agreed to meet, Flash turns into something like a jocular uncle. He slings his arm around Moore and starts schooling him on the importance of timeliness. Moore, apologetic, slumps his shoulders as if to say, “I KNOW,” before leaning in for the lesson.

For the last 17 months, Flash and Moore have been side by side making The Get Down, a quintessential Baz Luhrmann production about the sliver of time when disco was dying and Flash and other Bronx DJs like Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa were creating what would come to be hip-hop with their fingertips. To become Shaolin Fantastic, a youngblood graffiti artist turned aspiring DJ in The Get Down, Moore relied on Flash, picking his brain on the art of the turntables and the era in which Flash blossomed. The two quickly became like family, Flash says: “The first time I seen him, I’m snatching him up and grabbing him. It’s like we grew up together.” On this sunny afternoon in August, they’ve reconvened in the Bronx so that Flash can show Moore around his old stomping grounds and, yes, continue to impart wisdom.

Large play button icon