Seeing Thundercat’s musical metamorphosis throughout the last decade has been nothing short of inspiring. My first introduction to him as an artist came from his contributions to Flying Lotus’ 2010 classic album Cosmogramma. Since then he has released 4 studio albums, worked with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Mac Miller (RIP) and has become one of the most celebrated bass players of his generation. It Is What It Is is his fourth studio album and it might be his most complete to date.
As a bass player, I cannot think of anyone doing it quite like Thundercat. His ability to convey such funk and soul through intricate bass compositions is just spellbinding, and he doesn’t disappoint at all on It Is What It Is. One thing to note about the production on the album are the contributors. BadBadNotGood, Kamasi Washington, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Sounwave all worked on this album, and I can tell from the rich textures and intricate compositions. The very first thing I noticed listening to this album is the clear shift in tone from a more punchy and defined sound on 2017’s Drunk to a more ethereal, spiritual one on this new project. A lot has happened in Thundercat’s life since the release of his last album, namely the death of his close friend Mac Miller. He navigates through sadness and grief on this album like he hasn’t before on previous releases, and I feel that from the weight of this album. It’s an emotionally poignant project that shows his softer, more vulnerable side. “Lost In Space / Great Scott / 22-26” and “Interstellar Love” open the album up with ethereal synths and subtle but groovy basslines that add texture to the tracks. Thundercat’s vocals on these tracks and throughout the entire album are beautiful, emotive and soulful and carry his passions and emotions with such incredible strength. The groovy and infectious rhythms of “Funny Thing” are mesmerising, as he talks about being drunks and wanting to party. His sense of humour is still present, as exemplified by the subtle but hilarious Zack Fox feature, as well as lyrics such as “I may be covered in cat hair, but I still smell good” on the lighthearted “Dragonball Durag,” which also has a hilarious music video to accompany it. I’m happy to see “King Of The Hill” on the album, a personal favourite track of mine from the Brainfeeder X compilation album released in 2018. The stunning basslines and beat on “Unrequited Love” makes it one of my favourite tracks off the album, while the incredible basslines on “Fair Chance” featuring Ty Dolla $ign & Lil B are among the best on the entire project. And for those complaining about the Lil B feature, please get familiar with his music before making ill-informed opinions. His contribution is brilliant and adds to the lightness and humour of the track. “It Is What It Is” is a gentle and ethereal closer to the album, with stunning guitars and basslines adding to the atmospheric synths and drums. It’s a a beautiful and reflective way to end this memorable project, and I’m so happy that Thundercat is able to continue his streak of great albums, because he hasn’t missed the mark once in his career so far.
Overall, It Is What It Is is Thundercat’s most defined album to date, with an ethereal, atmospheric quality that sounds beautiful and incredibly produced. It’s a personal and emotive project that captures Thundercat’s vulnerabilities and sense of humour perfectly. It’s a great project and I’m looking forward to seeing him continue to shine this year. Go check it out and support!