The premise of Chillin’s Island is simple: hip-hop artists/personalities Despot, Lakutisand Dapwell visiting beautiful places to do nothing but, well, relax. They invite some of the biggest names in rap, and they talk about everything and nothing, get poetic, talk about philosophy and go nowhere.
Yes Seinfeld is the show on Nothing, Chillin’s Island is the show even less. To imagine Fishing with Johnif John Lurie was replaced by three wise slackers, with the focus on rappers rather than actors. Executive product by Josh Safdi, it’s basically a reality show – or music interview program – whose introduced plot beats really go nowhere. It’s hardly about what happens. The show is more about letting the guys hang out and letting the viewers come along.
In other words, Chillin’s Island is essentially a meeting show in the skin of an artistically shot travelogue. A reality-style program with a stripped-down premise is treated like an art house film. The cinematography is stunning, showcasing the awe-inspiring natural beauty of each location tastefully. The magnificent expanse of their destinations – in which hosts and their guests seem to get lost – is highlighted. Sand dunes dominate an arid landscape, swamps hide their many secrets and the ocean stretches out seemingly endless. Everything is beautifully captured in a sumptuous wide-frame ratio that one would expect in a star wars movie, an outlandish musical or a classic cinematic epic. Few series of this genre would use such a vast cinematic aesthetic, but Chillin’s Island make the most of it. The scale of each location visited is always apparent, with hosts and their guests dwarfed by the spectacular natural scenery that surrounds them.
It’s a bit ironic that so many stylistic finishing touches are put to the show’s aesthetic given the minimally edited nature of the conversations that come with the show. When the hosts talk, the discussion often doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. They start thinking about a subject, and they just as quickly either launch into jokes or change the subject altogether. The guys don’t take themselves – or their quasi-interviews – very seriously.
Which brings us to the interviews themselves. Chillin’s Island‘s prestigious guest list, which includes young thug, Rosalia, mike the killerand Lil Yachty, lends the show added cultural relevance and urgency. Guests bring their own big personalities, often as insightful as they are comedic. It’s a joy to see some of rap’s biggest names roaming the wilderness with the hosts, who are quiet veterans of the genre themselves. Occasionally, the hosts push their guests to answer questions, but the prompts given are as laid back as they come.
None of the questions ever seem prepared. They are impulsive and chat informally. That’s part of the charm of the show: it’s as natural as hanging out with a group of friends. “What are your biggest fears? » “What is your favorite animal?” These are simple questions that could lead anywhere or nowhere, as long as it’s natural. Lil Yachty reveals his disturbing diet (much to the hosts’ dismay), and Little Tecca offers insight into what people his age do with their time. The hosts react, reply and continue their conversation.
Besides its impressive list of culturally well-known guests, Chillin’s Island also attracts from each isolated destination ordinary people who are not lacking in their own eccentricities. Drunk fishermen break into song, a desert-dwelling nomad introduces the guys to some of the world’s most venomous snakes, and a strange but friendly man wanders the swamp in search of the elusive Skunk Ape. As always, Despot, Dapwell and Lakutis are up to it all. Like good hosts, they play along and follow wherever the day takes them. That’s part of what makes the show work so well: the guys stay adventurous throughout the film and adapt to their often-strange surroundings in perpetual good humor. From the start it’s clear: these guys know how inhabitand their adventurous spirit is nothing if not contagious.
It’s also worth noting that the show is narrated with gritty humor by Steven Wright. The actor/comedian narrates in a slow-as-molasses manner, lazily launching into jokes and introducing the hosts and their guests as if they were exotic creatures. Its narration is like a distorted take on the voiceovers found in a nature program, and Wright watches with a kind of clinical detachment that only helps the series’ occasional leaning towards the surreal. The series’ refusal to take itself too seriously reflects this. The surreal flourishes that appear – including Wright’s divine surveillance of the stars – look like a joke thrown to prove indifference.
A question often arises: is it real? Is it scripted? At the start of the first episode, when the boys are seriously injured by crashing their buggy, Young Thug suddenly appears in a helicopter as if called to rescue them. Each conversation seems meticulously aimless, but it also seems too raw to be unnatural. The boundary between the spontaneous and the anticipated is often blurred. In the end, it doesn’t matter. The show is intended to be quiet and understated, half a joke and half a sincere attempt to spark an affair. That being said, he East definitely an adventure. It is also a relaxing holiday. The undisclosed places, which are invariably places that one would not often have the opportunity to visit, are traversed with curiosity. Luckily, guys are mostly happy to take it easy. There’s plenty to see and plenty of scenery to soak in, but they spend just as much time sitting around a fire chopping it up. It is an undemanding escape for the mind.
Chillin’s Island works on the double level of an appreciation of the world less traveled and a love letter to hip-hop and its stars. It’s no surprise that a show centered primarily around musicians takes its music seriously. Most episodes end with a popular song by its guest, and the series also comes with an excellent score by Evan Mast (stage name E*vax), best known for his production for Jay Z and Kanye West besides being half of the electronic rock duo ratatat.
Visual excellence and killer soundtrack considered, Chillin’s Island is too neat a package to overlook. It’s clear that those involved care enough about the look, sound, and feel of the series to give it its signature veneer. Perfectly juxtaposed against the seeming distance of its stars and non-existent drama, the show’s aesthetic proves that the creative forces behind it are acutely aware of what constitutes a quality, stylish product…and are just right. a little too cool to make a big deal out of it.
At a time when there is an endless supply of worthwhile dramas and comedies, Chillin’s Island is a breath of fresh air. Due to its simple premise and structure, it demands very little from the viewer, but due to its distinctive style, it has a lot more to offer than meets the eye at first glance. It’s kind of a brief mental vacation and a chance to visit weird, less-travelled places with a bunch of guys who don’t have much to prove. They might as well be a bunch of your friends, just hanging out and shooting the breeze.
It’s not TV, it’s HBO Max.
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