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Getting ‘Drunk’ with Thundercat

Keakie speaks to AFROPUNK act Thundercat on the European leg of his World Tour.

2nd Apr 2017

Thundercat (aka Stephen Bruner) has been behind the scenes with some of this generation’s best talent such as Hip Hop saviour Kendrick Lamar, multi-talented creative genius Childish Gambino and production God Flying Lotus and has released great projects in the past but his new album ‘Drunk’ feels like his most personal and masterful work to date.

Initially making a name for himself as a bassist for legendary Neo Soul queen Erykah Badu, Thundercat was heavily involved on the production of iconic Hip Hop album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ by Kendrick Lamar which racked up a combination of four Grammy awards in 2016 – one for best rap album and the three others for singles released from the album.

For those of you who might not be familiar with Thundercat’s most recent release ‘Drunk’ it brilliantly encapsulates the style, quirkiness and wit of the bassist.

Packed with remarkably unique and intricate music, ‘Drunk’ has made the case for a stone-cold classic, whilst not taking itself too seriously. Oddities such as using “Meow” as the backing vocals for a song seems out of place any serious musical enterprise but the little spurts of humour seamlessly woven into the album add a layer of comedy to the project whilst staying well away from any potential corniness.

Fat, chunky basslines are omnipresent on ‘Drunk’ on tracks like ‘Them Changes’ which breathes life into an ‘Isley Brothers’ drum sample which has been otherwise exhausted by producers and artists everywhere (most notably sampled on Ice Cube’s ‘It was a good day’).

Ahead of his upcoming AFROPUNK Fest London performance, we decided to track the artist down in person. Our search led us to the French stop of his European Tour, where he gave an ethereal performance at an intimate venue. It was a very dynamic and jam-laden gig where he ran through much of his old and new discography as well as deconstructing notable tracks he’s produced on like Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Complexion // A Zulu’s Love’, offering up a funkier rendition. After an exhausting set, Thundercat was kind enough to grace Keakie with a few comments on touring, the new generation of artists and future projects.

Considering the quirky humour on the project and his close friend/collaborator Flying Lotus releasing a new comedic horror film ‘KUSO’, we asked Thundercat whether he has thought about moving into different mediums of art too.

He responded by saying: ‘Yeah, also I do illustration a bit. Sometimes I think of it but at the same time I try not to think [too] much about things instead of thinking in moment. That’s where I like to stay.’

In relation to a conversation a drunk fan was having with him earlier about the supposedly trash new generation of Hip Hop artists (who Thundercat valiantly defended), we asked him who he thought are some of the best new artists of this generation.

He replied: ‘Psybaba, you know Abra, Father. There’s few of people I like, you know…. I’m always looking to be turned on to new music. I like to check out what’s coming up. See how people think and feel. Atlanta has a lot going on right now. It always has.’

We also asked Thundercat given the diverse array of projects he’s worked on in the past, whether he has given thought to any new directions and about how excited he is to get back in the studio after he’s finished touring.

The legendary bassist responded: ‘I am very excited about things to come. I’ve been touring for a long time right now and it’ll be nice to get back to work, writing stuff. I feel like it’s hard to do that sometimes, so I’m just looking forward to starting that engine back up of writing. But for the most part it’s just been playing live right now. That’s what more I’m excited for and going back home and getting the chance to hang out with [Flying] Lotus.’

We ended our conversation by reminiscing on a Flying Lotus show in London two years ago which we were both at. Incredibly, Jay Electronica almost shut down the show by ordering fans to bum-rush the stage. He said laughing ‘That was real crazy man. Jay Electronica almost destroyed [Flying] Lotus’ set. We had to stand in front of the barrier. Jay Electronica man…’

Buy tickets to his next major gig, AFROPUNK Festival on July 23rd 2017

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