Thundercat: It Is What It Is
For a while, it seemed like Los Angeles bassist and musical polymath Thundercat would be best known as a secret-weapon session musician—he was a key collaborator on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and appeared on tracks with genre-bending aces like Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, Mac Miller and Erykah Badu. But on his 2017 breakthrough, the labyrinthian Drunk, with its impossibly grooving hit “Them Changes,” he made his own vision clear. Seriousness was the enemy; his brand of funk was meant to be fun. And, at times, it was even funny. Now comes his big moment: It Is What It Is, on which the man seems driven to push his brand of cocked-eyebrow, future-funk to even more intergalactic places. Thundercat is a bassist first and foremost, never satisfied to rest behind a guitar or just follow a drummer’s rhythm—as such, It Is What It Is places his wildly complex bass melodies front and center, using his playful falsetto to croon grinning R&B songs about international love affairs, fashionable durags and fellow musicians (the frenetic, electrifying “I Love Louis Cole,” featuring Louis Cole, of course). The album doesn’t have the same lasting impact of Drunk, but it certainly doesn’t find Thundercat being lazy. These grooves are heavy and fat, the percussion is stacked, the lyrics are absurdist (try this one at a bar: “I may be covered in cat hair, but I still smell good”), and the basslines are head-spinning. A handful of tracks should’ve been given room to stretch out and breathe—only six of the 15 crack three minutes—but there are so many ideas packed into It Is What It Is that you’ll find yourself listening on a loop.