After 4 years, Thundercat finally releases his third LP. Those 4 years, however, were not spent in silence. Thundercat has appeared prominently on experimental cuts like “You’re Dead” by Flying Lotus, and “To Pimp A Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar, to name a few.
Thundercat did not take a break from experimental music however, as is apparent from the first track of the album, “Rabbot Ho,” a 39 second intro about how Thundercat is bored and wants to go to a bar and let loose. The wild start to the story gets even more wild on the next track, “Captain Stupido,” where Thundercat loses his phone. Truly thrilling story-telling. The lyrics are perfectly complemented by instrumentals of the like that you have never heard before. The third track, “Uh Uh,” is an instrumental that will blow your mind with its fast-paced, upbeat, funky nature. But don’t think that the story takes a break there, because even though it’s an instrumental, it holds onto the essence of the established story from the first two tracks.
Keep in mind, most of the tracks are under 3 minutes long, so forgive me if I don’t take a long time to fully discuss them. My goal here is to discuss all the tracks with enough detail to make you want to listen to the actual album. There’s 23 in all. The song “Bus in These Streets,” is a somewhat satirical piece about our society’s dependence on technology and social media. Thundercat’s character is “doing the most” without his phone. He’s also high. The beat is so happy and uplifting it could make you die. My one criticism is that the satire is very obvious and blatant. Not a lot of subtlety. But the heavenly nature of the beat more than compensates for this flaw (as to be expected from a track produced by Flying Lotus).
“A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II)” opens with a beautiful arpeggiated guitar chord. Thundercat’s beautiful vocal performance blends in flawlessly with the instrumental. At this point in the story, Thundercat’s character muses on life as a cat. He seems to have a desire to be a cat, most likely because he wants to be able to get out of dangerous situations easily and because he likes the Lion King. It’s a bit deeper than that, but… well, listen to the song. An already excellent mellow song is followed by an even more mellow song in “Lava Lamp,” where another guitar arpeggio is coupled with heavenly atmospheric vocals. Whereas on the previous, more uplifting track, Thundercat thought about having nine lives, here we have Thundercat thinking about death on a more melancholy track. The song is truly heart-breaking, both sonically and lyrically. “Don’t want to live without you, Don’t leave me out here to die.”
“Jethro,” the next song, continues the theme of death we saw in “Lava Lamp.” Obviously a stellar instrumental accompanies, with Thundercat talking about a “young drifting light.” “Day & Night” is mind-fuckery. On “Show You The Way,” Michael McDonald steals the spotlight from Thundercat and Kenny Loggins with his positively orgasmic voice. All musicians provide an amazing performance, and Flying Lotus had a hand in the production, but Michael McDonald’s “There ain’t no other way, baby” gave me goosebumps. “Walk on By” shows us that Thundercat’s relationship with Kendrick Lamar is still strong as ever. The song opens with a strange and off-putting drum pattern. The song contemplates loneliness and Kendrick’s verse touches on topics of African-American hood culture and street violence.
“Blackkk” is a strange song because of how jazz influenced it is, yet how it maintains an electronic influence with the keyboard. At this point in the album I started receiving violent flashbacks to Bill Wurtz’s YouTube videos. It’s clear that this is a style of music that I am not familiar with. Anyone who doesn’t know Bill Wurtz should watch some of his videos before entering this album. Watch about 50, they’re mostly less than 15 seconds long. On “Tokyo,” Thundercat unleashes his inner weeb, something that I, as an avid anime fan, can appreciate fully. Not only that, but I am a huge fan of the DragonBall franchise, so the references made my smile a lot. Except for the “Over 9000” one. That cliche would’ve killed the song if the instrumental wasn’t so fast-paced and low-key and enjoyable.
“Jameel’s Space Ride” is a song about Thundercat’s younger brother. It is also an ode to freedom and is rather fast-paced, like a space ride. More specifically, Jameel’s. Here comes the funkiest, most 80’s inspired track you will find on the album, or in 2017 for that matter. The synthesizer arp crawls across the track like an arcade sound-effect. A masterfully produced track about the friendzone. On “Them Changes,” Kamasi Washington features on saxophone for one of the darker cuts o the album. A song about heart-break, and Thundercat being reasonably bitter about the whole situation. The song is very reminiscent of “Wesley’s Theory” and “Complexion” from To Pimp A Butterfly. “Where I’m Going” starts off with a melodic pairing of bass and guitar that persists throughout the song. Lyrically it seems kind of nonsensical to me, but given the context of the album being experimental, I’m totally 100% okay with that. My interpretation is that the song is about Thundercat losing his strength and power, but still persisting and asking if someone can help carry him on.
“Drink Dat” showcases a Wiz Khalifa feature where, surprisingly, Wiz’s voice fits in amazingly with the instrumental. It’s a song about getting drunk and high with a girl and the girl just keeps on getting them more wasted. “Into The Fire” is a song where the fire represents madness, I guess, because we’re going into the fire, but we’re also descending into madness. I always thought the “fire” and the “light” were what guided us away from madness, but Thundercat takes a new perspective on the issue. On “I Am Crazy,” Thundercat spends 26 seconds telling us he regrets stuff and wishes he could press rewind, supposedly so that he can correct his mistakes. On “3AM” however, he spends about a minute telling us that it’s 3 in the morning and he can’t sleep because the streets are calling him. Very interesting instrumental to be experienced here.
“The Turn Down” shows Pharrell at his most conspiracy-minded over an eerie beat. His verse plays asthe left-wing version of Alex Jones (Paul Joseph Watson’s liberal cousin probably schlicked it to this verse). The song holds some truth about the media and popular culture, but for the most part it feels comical, and probably not by accident. The song shows that Thundercat and Pharrell believe truth is more important than material possessions and joy. But they also include “red-pilling” and “subliminal messages,” which may very well be true, but this is just one perception. What is truth, after all, if not a temporary agreement based off of our own perceptions of reality? “DUI” is the ribbon that ties the album together. Literally. This final track makes the album what it is. The whole album alludes to alcoholism and getting wasted. This song uses the same melody as the first track, “Rabbot Ho,” and also uses the same themes of being drunk. The album starts off with Thundercat aiming to get drunk and ends with Thundercat eventually being drunk. Or does it start with Thundercat being drunk and end with him leaving for home? Whatever the case, the song ends with the words “One more glass to go/ Where this ends we’ll never know.” This eerie touch makes the album a little bit more foreboding but also a little bit more conceptual. The whole album is a rollercoaster ride that you should definitely listen to. Both sober and drunk. My number one complaint against the album is about the lyrics, which are generally fitting, until it comes to a critique of something societal. I like it when Thundercat gets up close and personal and muses on philosophical questions that dwell in his mind. I think his critique of society, however, isn’t very original or compelling. We’ve heard these things before. But it’s just a minor complaint. The production is absolutely flawless, and all guests featured provide amazing performances.