It Is What It Is is Stephen Lee Bruner‘s fourth album as Thundercat and features the singles ‘Black Qualls’, ‘Dragonball Durag’, ‘Fair Chance’ and viral hit ‘Funny Thing’. Joined by a stellar cast of musical friends – Ty Dolla $ign, Childish Gambino, Lil B, Kamasi Washington, Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole, Pedro Martins and Zack Fox – the record was produced by Thundercat and his longtime partner Flying Lotus who was GRAMMY-nominated in ‘Producer of the Year, Non-Classical’ for his work on the album.
Silly, sentimental and serious – often all at the same time – “This album is about love, loss, life and the ups and downs that come with that,” Bruner says. “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.” The record is dedicated to his close friend Mac Miller who tragically passed away in 2018.
Thundercat is a cornerstone of the Brainfeeder label having released ‘The Golden Age of Apocalypse’ (2011), ‘Apocalypse’ (2013), and ‘Drunk’ (2017) which completed his transition from virtuoso bassist to bonafide star and cemented his reputation as a unique voice transcending genre. He was “at the creative epicenter” of the 21st century’s most influential hip-hop album Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, and he won a Grammy for his collaboration on the track “These Walls”.
With his worldwide tour cut short by the global pandemic in April 2020, Bruner still managed to play a special drive-in show at the Rose Bowl in LA with Hannibal Buress in October last year and he casually brought out Ariana Grande to duet on his hit “Them Changes” at the virtual Adult Swim Festival 2020. His latest musical collaborations were with Ty Dolla $ign, Anderson .Paak and Kanye West on “Track 6” from Ty Dolla $ign’s 2020 album and most recently featured on HAIM’s expanded ‘Women in Music Pt III’ album on the track “3am” (2021).
Bruner found his instrument at the age of 4. That made him a late-bloomer in the house of Ronald Bruner, Sr., who drummed with the Temptations among others. His first bass was a black Harmony, and he practised to the Ninja Turtles soundtrack until pops played him Jaco Pastorius. He joined thrash legends Suicidal Tendencies as a teenager and has spent road and studio time with everyone from Stanley Clarke and Herbie Hancock to Leon Ware, N.E.R.D., Travis Scott and Erykah Badu.
The name Thundercat is a reference to the cartoon he’s loved since childhood and an extension of his wide-eyed, vibrant, often superhuman approach to his craft. In 2020 things came full circle when Bruner voiced a character (and penned a song) named ‘Grune the Destroyer’ in Cartoon Network’s Thundercats Roar animated series.