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It Is What It Is follows Thundercat's game-changing third album Drunk (2017). That record completed his transition from virtuoso bassist to bonafide star and cemented his reputation as a unique voice that transcends genre. "This album is about love, loss, life and the ups and downs that come with that," Thundercat says. "It's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but at different points in life you come across places that you don't necessarily understand... some things just aren't meant to be understood."
The album, produced by Flying Lotus and Thundercat, features musical contributions from Ty Dolla $ign, Childish Gambino, Lil B, Kamasi Washington, Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole and Zack Fox.
It Is What It Is features heavy-hitters in Childish Gambino, Kamasi Washington, BADBADNOTGOOD, Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil B, and Flying Lotus, who also serves as executive producer alongside Thundercat. The all-star contributions provide extra support to Thundercat's usual whimsical humor, as well as bolster the jazz fusion artist's more serious inquiries, many of which have to do with mortality, grief, and the unknown. The album is Thundercat's first since Miller's passing in 2018, and much of it feels like an homage to him in some way, with 'Fair Chance' being directly inspired by the late rapper.
Listening to a player with a range that rivals the late bass giant Jaco Pastorius - and, arguably, the chops to match - part of the appeal comes from just watching the ideas roam free. That makes it all the more remarkable that Bruner has decided to rein in his wanderlust on his fourth solo LP, It Is What It Is. It's not that It Is What It Is lacks variety. Much like on his other output, Bruner once again draws freely from the wells of funk, soul, disco, jazz, rock, hip-hop and lo-fi experimentation. The crucial difference this time is that he shoehorns those influences into a startlingly smooth flow that somehow accommodates dazzling technical proficiency. On It Is What It Is, Bruner brings '70s-style R&B balladeering ('Overseas,' 'How I Feel') and fusion ('Interstellar Love,' 'How Sway') to the forefront as other styles recede into supportive roles. In terms of the impact of the record as a complete listening experience, the payoff is tremendous.
Left savoring the tasty morsels of 2017's critically-acclaimed Drunk and 2018's Drank (its 'chopped not slopped' remix album), it was an absolute pleasure to sink hungry ears into Thundercat's It Is What It Is this year. The bassist born Stephen Bruner blurs genre boundaries, dishing out dizzying acrobatics on 'How Sway,' beefy funk vibes on 'Black Qualls' (featuring Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington and Childish Gambino) and cheeky R&B hilarity on 'Dragonball Durag.' Coproduced by longtime collaborator Flying Lotus, It Is What It Is drips with curtains of lush vocals. The album chronicles a broken heart's analysis of grief and its subsequent recovery by asking probing questions and finding joy where it can to survive pain, uncertainty, rejection and isolation. It's an enchanting tale of hope and growth in a year that served us heaping portions of gloom and melancholy.
- 140g Clear Vinyl LP
- 6mm spined gatefold sleeve with gold foil detail and OBI strip
- Lost in Space / Great Scott / 22-26
- Innerstellar Love
- I Love Louis Cole [ft. Louis Cole]
- Black Qualls [ft. Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington and Childish Gambino]
- Miguel's Happy Dance
- How Sway
- Funny Thing
- Overseas [ft. Zack Fox]
- Dragonball Durag
- How I Feel
- King Of The Hill
- Unrequited Love
- Fair Chance [ft. Ty Dolla $ign & Lil B]
- Existential Dread
- It Is What It Is