‘The Jellies’ brings Tyler, The Creator’s irreverent humor to the screen
Adam Ramos | Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Art has never been attached to a particular medium. Yet, as technology continues to sophisticate the ways we can both receive and create it, artists now have a greater spectrum of mediums to choose from than ever before. As such, musicians from every genre are abandoning their sonic palates for distinctly new materials to work with — whether it’s in fashion, as in the case of Kanye West’s successful “Yeezy” clothing line, television, as in the case of Vampire Weekend front man Ezra Koenig’s recently released Netflix original “Neo Yokio,” or whatever else. The results have been provocative insights into the creative minds of some of today’s most forward-thinking music artists.
The latest big-time artist to follow the trend has made a career of pushing on the tenuous border music shares with other art forms — Tyler, the Creator. The former leader of the now mostly defunct rap collective Odd Future and current successful solo artist recently premiered his latest project on the Adult Swim network — “The Jellies,” an animated comedy created alongside former collaborator Lionel Boyce.
But again, fans of Tyler shouldn’t be surprised by his seemingly new artistic direction. Revisiting some of the 26-year-old’s earlier music videos, both with Odd Future and as a solo artist, demonstrate Tyler’s clear knack with visuals. Tyler has also found major success over the years in channeling his goofy nature into a chic aesthetic thanks to his “Golf Wang” fashion line.
“The Jellies” isn’t even Tyler’s first try at television. “Loiter Squad,” which ran for three seasons on Adult Swim from 2011 to 2014, featured Tyler at the helm, acting alongside other Odd Future chums. Yet, with it’s completely nonlinear plot lines, improvisational tone and emphasis on music, the show felt more like the transition between music videos and television programs — not very distinct from the recently released music videos from emerging rap-group BROCKHAMPTON. Now, we have Tyler operating in a narrative fashion, and the results have been generally positive.
The program, which currently has two episodes out, follows the hip-hop-reference-saturated life of Cornell Jellie, a teenage human boy living in a family of personified jellyfish. The show will detail Cornell’s realization that he is indeed adopted and his subsequent quest to “find himself,” but in the first two episodes we haven’t gotten there yet.
What we do have is a strangely endearing, cheeky collage of half-baked, but drawn out, references from a variety of pop-cultural pools, most commonly hip-hop. Cornell, along with many of the other characters featured in the show, is pretty straight-forward, but the show’s erratic and absurdist humor ticks every Adult Swim animated comedy box. Visually, the 12-minute program benefits from the animation of Augenblick Studios — Adult Swim-heads will recognize their work in the network’s staple, “Super Jail.”
For now, with less than 30 minutes of content released, it’s hard to tell if “The Jellies” will find the success of Adult Swim’s popular shows, like “Robot Chicken” or “Rick and Morty,” but it certainly deserves a chance. Between the refreshing references, goofy but charming characters and Tyler’s impressive work on the score, the show is an example of yet another project Tyler, The Creator should take pride in.
“The Jellies” comes right on the heels of Tyler’s most ambitious and cogent record to date, July’s “Flower Boy.” With its deeply personal reflections, sonic diversity and sharp bars, the album forecasted a newly mature and focused artist. This newfound growth is likely a factor in “The Jellies” distinction from Tyler’s previous “Loiter Squad.”
Catch “The Jellies” at 12:15 a.m. Saturday nights on Adult Swim, his other currently airing show, “Nuts + Bolts,” on Viceland, or in any other medium the oddball-renaissance man decides to create it.