Thundercat brings the funk with “Drunk”
By Andrew Willoughby
Flying Lotus created his label, Brainfeeder, in 2008 with the goal of giving the oddballs and weirdos of hip-hop and R&B a home.
No artist fits that description quite like bassist/vocalist Thundercat.
Thundercat’s unique brand of bass lines combine funk and hip-hop, and have generated a lot of attention over the years. Not only his two previous solo albums, but the records that Thundercat has had a major part in – such as Flying Lotus’ “You’re Dead!” and Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” – have garnered major acclaim from critics and consumers alike.
At 23 tracks and nearly an hour long, “Drunk” is a wild ride of humor, social commentary and emotional anecdotes. Often, all three at the same time in a mishmash of funk/R&B fusion.
The album kicks off with “Rabbot Ho,” a short, somber intro which shares its vocal melody with the record’s closing track, “DUI.”
Though the opener is absent of Thundercat’s signature funk-slathered basslines, they’re abundant in the hilarious second track “Captain Stupido,” as well as the rest of the album.
While Thundercat’s debut LP “The Golden Age of Apocalypse” was largely instrumental, his most recent releases have incorporated more of his falsetto vocals – and they’re all over “Drunk.”
Thundercat manages to make these songs feel more complete. While some of his earlier output felt more like instrumental tracks with vocals thrown on top, “Drunk” combines the two seamlessly.
At times, one of the best aspects of this album is also its worst – its featured artists.
“Show You The Way” features Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. Both of their voices pair beautifully with Thundercat’s soulful production and contribute to one of the best tracks on the record.
On the other hand, there’s “Drink Dat” featuring Wiz Khalifa, which is so boring and uninventive that it basically boils down to “Hey, man, I have lots of money, isn’t that cool? Let’s use that money to buy weed and get high.” Even the chorus and beat by Thundercat can’t do enough to save this track. It’s one of the worst on the album.
Thundercat’s sense of humor meets his knack for social commentary on the track “Bus In These Streets,” which sounds like it could be the theme song to a cheesy ’80s cartoon, and I mean that in the best way possible.
He comments on modern society’s attachment to social media: “From the minute I wake up I’m staring at the screen / watching the world go insane. ... Thank god for technology / ‘cause where would we be if we couldn’t tweet our thoughts?” Toward the end of the track he assures listeners “It’s okay to disconnect sometimes.”
While Thundercat’s social observations complement his humor perfectly, there are a few tracks on “Drunk” that are just silly and fun – songs such as “Tokyo,” “Friend Zone” and “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II).”
The latter is a soulful ditty – named after Thundercat’s real-life pet, Tron – about how “cool” it would be to be a cat, complete with background “meow” harmonies.
On the other side of the lyrical spectrum is Pharrell William’s verse on “The Turn Down,” which
comments on America’s current race-relations climate as he asks, “If all lives matter, when we mention black, why do you gasp?”
While the title may suggest the glorification of alcohol, lyrically “Drunk” is more of a cautionary tale of the downward spiral to which drinking may lead and that when one is drunk, they may just “miss it all.”
What makes “Drunk” shine is its ability to juxtapose humor with social and political issues – sometimes all within one song. Not too many artists have the finesse to pull this off, but Thundercat does it wonderfully.
The masterful bass work and hint of cheese don’t hurt, either.