It’s no secret that Thundercat is one of the most interesting personalities in music. Aside from his name, (which may be the greatest stage name I’ve ever come across), he has continuously dazzled listeners for years with his exceptional skills on the bass paired with his knack for both singing and producing. Even if you haven’t listened to his solo material, I can almost guarantee that you’ve been enamored with his work before. From his countless collaborations with Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, and so many others, Thundercat’s talent has been tapped by some of the leading innovators in music today.
Having released two full-length albums of his own in 2011 and 2013 respectively, as well as a shorter EP that came out in 2015, it is time for Thundercat to take center stage once again as he presents us with his latest offering, Drunk.
Coming into this album, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Thundercat is an artist that is constantly experimenting with different sounds, as he finds new ways to blend his wacky personality with his unique mix of funk, soul, and electronic music. Thankfully, Drunk is the product of all these characteristics working together in perfect harmony.
It becomes immediately apparent that Thundercat’s eccentric sense of humor is a driving force for the album. With the openers “Rabbot Ho” and “Captain Stupido,” we find Thundercat telling himself to “beat your meat // go to sleep,” after a long night at the club (where he, unfortunately, left his wallet). While it may sound a little juvenile on the surface, that’s because it is. The beauty behind the comedic undertones of this album is that he takes this tongue-in-cheek style humor and runs with it, without ever having it get in the way of the music. The humor works more as a complimentary aspect to the instrumentals, ensuring that it never becomes a comedy album.
This sentiment also appears on tracks such as “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song II),” where Thundercat unearths his overwhelming desires to be a cat. While it is an outlandish concept, it is laced with deeper aspirations of wanting to be free from responsibility to enjoy life as he sees fit. This is all done over a silky smooth bass line fit for the feline himself; and what good would a Thundercat song about cats be without a “meow, meow, meow,” refrain echoing throughout the track? “Friend Zone” is another standout where Thundercat hilariously describes the pains we have all endured from being stuck in the friend zone. This is another instance where he manages to craft a funny song out of a less than funny situation.
While comedy does play a huge role in why this album works, that is not to say there are not a fair share of somber tunes in the tracklist. “Lava Lamp” for instance is a beautifully heartbreaking ballad where Thundercat contemplates his own life after having lost someone close to him. You can hear the distress in his voice as he harmonizes over a soothing and almost dreamlike instrumental. This is followed by the equally heartfelt, yet painfully short “Jethro.” Aside from its criminally brief runtime, it perfectly showcases his ability to craft soulful R&B tunes that blend his expert musicianship and consoling vocals to tug at your heartstrings. That is the genius of Thundercat though. He is able to effortlessly switch between gut busting humor and heart-wrenching soul without missing a beat. “Walk on By” continues this emotionalism with lines like “don’t wanna put up a fight anymore, I’m down to the end of my rope.” This track is aided by long-time collaborator Kendrick Lamar as the two express their struggles in life and what they must do to solve them. The instrumental is extremely stripped back and bare, allowing for both artists to take the forefront.
Consisting of twenty-three songs, it only makes sense that Thundercat would enlist other musical guests to help carry the album along. Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins contribute what is arguably the best set of features on the album with “Show You the Way.” This song is a perfectly crafted lovechild of 70’s soul and R&B, with a contagious melody that never escapes your head once it enters. The chemistry between these three artists is amazing, as their styles coincide with one another in perfect harmony. Wiz Khalifa appears on “Drink Dat” where he returns to form with a laid back, intoxicating performance. The two meet each other halfway creatively, as Thundercat provides a smooth, piano lounge-style instrumental for Wiz to float over with a mix of rapping and crooning alongside Thundercat. Pharrell lands on “The Turn Down,” where he contributes a politically charged verse on the race problems plaguing America. The song as a whole falls a little short for me personally, but the lyrics are extremely telling and offer one of the more serious moments on the album.
“Them Changes,” a song which previously appeared on Thundercat’s 2015 release The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam, is easily my favorite track on the album. This song has been on repeat since its initial release and I still cannot pull myself away from it. This is arguably the most well crafted and catchy melody I have heard in recent years, and I don’t say that lightly. Not to mention the clever lyrics and funky groove that takes control of your body and doesn’t let go. This track is the epitome of what I love about Thundercat and the way he is able to fuse funk and soul into a new age sound.
While I may not love every song on the album, there isn’t a single one that I flat out dislike. With over fifty minutes of material spread throughout twenty-three tracks, I see that as a complete success. My only complaints with Drunk are the criminally short song lengths that make up such a large part of the album. With songs like “Day & Night,” “Jameel’s Space Ride,” “I Am Crazy,” and “3AM” barely making the one minute mark, I wish they were more fleshed out or done away with completely. However, I understand the structure of interludes when so many of the other songs are short as well I don’t see much need for them.
All in all, this is easily Thundercat’s strongest release to date, which garners it an 8/10 from me. My few complaints with the album stem more from song length instead of the execution of said songs, which goes to show how great the material is that Thundercat has delivered. I look forward to seeing what is next and how he continues to evolve his sound.
Favorites: Bus in the Streets, Lava Lamp, Jethro, Show You the Way, Them Changes, Inferno
Least Favorites: Day & Night, Jameel’s Space Ride
Be sure to support the album on iTunes/Apple music here and enjoy your listen!
The album review of Thundercat’s Drunk was written by Cody Upchurch. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @CodyUp21!