Thundercat paid tribute to his late friend Mac Miller while appearing as the musical guest on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Monday night (March 9). Joined by longtime collaborator Flying Lotus, the Internet’s Steve Lacy and 64-year-old funk legend Steve Arrington, Thundercat performed his new single “Black Qualls” as well as a riff from Miller’s Swimming cut, “What’s the Use?”
Although Thundercat never said Miller’s name, the intention was clear, as he and Lacy shared an intense look before bridging from “Black Qualls” to “What’s the Use?” The 2018 track initially featured Thundercat, as well as DâM-FunK and Lacy’s Internet bandmate, Syd.
Ahead of his forthcoming It Is What It Is album, Thundercat spoke with Zane Lowe about his close friendship with Miller. He also revealed that Miller’s tragic death played a role in the inspiration for his LP’s title.
“I never missed the chance to tell the guy I loved him, and I’m thankful I did,” he told Lowe. “As he was going to bed, I said, ‘I love you,’ and he said it back the next day, to wake up to, and like, it scarred the hell out of me. And not to make this such a dark moment like that, but from that moment it’s like I was changed forever, even if I didn’t want to, it just changed me, and that’s just one example of the thing of It Is What It Is.”
“Black Qualls” is expected to land on the upcoming project, with an added feature from Childish Gambino. Lil B, Kamasi Washington, Ty Dolla $ign, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole, and Zack Fox are also set to appear on the album, which will be executive produced by both Thundercat and Flying Lotus.
“This album is about love, loss, life and the ups-and-downs that come with that,” he previously said of the project in a press release. “It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but at different points in life you come across places that you don’t necessarily understand… some things just aren’t meant to be understood.”
It Is What It Is will arrive on April 3 via Brainfeeder. See Thundercat’s “Black Qualls” and Mac Miller tribute on “Kimmel” below.