Thundercat harnesses the sonic excesses of his previous production work and ideas to make a coherent, fun album that makes even more sense when intoxicated.
The past three years have seen the rapid expansion of a modern neo-soul movement characterised by hip-hop influences. In Tyler, The Creator’s 2015 album, Cherry Bomb, we see him explore this terrain in ‘Fucking Young / Perfect’ and ‘Find Your Wings’; Donald Glover continues this experimental soul albums “Awaken, My Love!”; and in 2017, we see Odd Future’s internet distribution for solo neo-soul albums Steve Lacy’s Demo and Syd as well as British recording artist, Sampha’s new album, Process. Thundercat’s latest release Drunk sits comfortably in a movement of jazz and hip-hop-literate instrumentalists.
Thundercat however is no newcomer to the music industry: he has worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg and was the bassist for Suicidal Tendencies from 2002 to 2011, as well as hooking up with countless other collaborators. Real name Stephen Bruner, he also holds a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for his work on the track ‘These Walls’ from Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly.
Thundercat’s Drunk is quite literally a 23-track exploration of stream of consciousness, his honest falsetto and playfully sarcastic lyrics create an air of intoxication. We see this on the track ‘Friendzone’, which is addressed to an unrequited lover, he vents in the lines “I will throw you in the garbage / Cause you play too many games / I’m better off by myself / Loving you’s bad for my health” over a jangly piano tune. Thundercat expresses his frustration and pays homage his to long-time collaborator Kendrick Lamar through use of the line “Bitch don’t kill my vibe”. An extra layer of irony was added to this song by its release on Valentine’s Day, acting as an anthem for all those experiencing the same.
Some tracks give us a sonically picturesque view of Thundercat’s influences: ‘Blackkk’ is a gospel influenced track with African drum and rhythms; ‘Show You The Way’ is a sonic homage to his musical inspirations, in which he calls on self-proclaimed influences Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald for a soulful funk track. He described to Red Bull Academy: “These are guys that I’ve listened to and where I felt that I’ve learned that honesty in the music” here we finally hear his influences and ideas come to fruition. ‘Jameel’s Space Ride’ the track sounds like a jingle from a late ‘80s cartoon, also giving us an auditory sneak peek into Thundercat’s influences.
‘Drink Dat’ carries the previous allusions towards drinking culture to the peripheral of the album, with help from the party culture connoisseur himself, Wiz Khalifa. Thundercat takes on the character of a guy at a party being prompted to drink more, he sings the chorus “Can’t open my eyes / Cause I’m just too wasted / You’re taking me higher / Straight shots with no chaser” followed by a playful hook of “Then she said, ‘Drink dat, drink dat, Drink dat’.”
On the hook of ‘The Turn Down’, one of the concluding tracks of the album, Thundercat makes a reference to Captain Planet, to emphasise the excesses of his night; “Oh cause look at the mess we’ve made / Who’s gonna clean it up? / Oh my God, where’s Captain Planet?” With a feature from Pharrell Williams, the track represents the stage of the night where ego death wears thin and political discussions begin as intoxicated minds attempt to engage in small talk with those around them. Pharrell sets straight his mocked ‘new black’ agenda in the line “If all lives matter when we mention Black why do you gasp?” The serious tones of the album play into the theme as we see the narrative “turning down”. The final track ‘DUI’ utilises the same melody as album opener ‘Rabbot Ho’, making a Drunk circular record, in which the listener can repeat the process again, much like many incidences of binge drinking. This theme is affirmed in the line “Bottom of the glass / At this point you’ve made an ass / And your friends will let you know tomorrow”
Overall, Drunk is a compelling album, Thundercat uses the sonic excesses of his previous production work and ideas to make a coherent, fun piece of work that makes complete, lucid sense when acknowledging the theme of intoxication. (7/10) (Benita Barden)
Listen to Drunk here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Benita Barden, Brainfeeder, Drunk, review, Thundercat
19 years old, born and bred in West London, currently studying Media, Journalism and Culture at Cardiff University. My musical listening habits waver between hip-hop, electronic and indie. Reviews, commentary and complaints are my current speciality, but as the great Jay-Z states ‘Everybody can tell you how to do it / they never did it’.
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