Thundercat comes from a strong lineage of jazz and funk musicians that includes his father and his brothers. His latest album, It Is What It Is, represents the latest chapter in the fusion of his funky influences and a more modern sound that incorporates digital production in addition to live instrumentation.
Born Stephen Bruner, Thundercat’s persona combines a futuristic sound with throwbacks to 80s and 90s pop culture imagery. “Dragonball Durag” is a prime example of the L.A. bassist’s style and taste. He is known for producing “These Walls” on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy-winning album To Pimp a Butterfly, as well.
It Is What It Is follows 2017’s album Drunk. He has done some soul searching over the past three years. According to VIBE, his alcoholism nearly sabotaged his vision.
“I had to acknowledge that I was an alcoholic… It doesn’t mean that you have to confess it over yourself, but it’s one of those things where, if you don’t do it, that’s what causes the poison to seep through you,” Thundercat told the news outlet. “Erykah [Badu] used to say to me, ‘You’ll stop when you’re tired.’ And I got tired. I realized it was the same thing over and over and it was fun for a long time. I wouldn’t drink to stay in the room. I’d drink to be on the Space Needle right now.”
Mac Miller and Thundercat were close friends. The Pittsburgh artist’s unfortunate passing was an emotional influence on It Is What It Is. The title alone suggests the reaction one may have when trying to grapple with the sudden loss of a close friend to an overdose. The phrase evokes that feeling when something doesn’t make sense, but must to be accepted anyway.
He alluded to this later in his VIBE interview with, “You can pray for guidance through these moments, but sometimes it’s just meant to stick to you. I learned that it is what it is.”
The album rounds out at 15 songs and includes features from Flying Lotus, Ty Dolla $ign, Childish Gambino, among others.
Check out It Is What It Is below.