Thundercat (musician)

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Thundercat performing in 2018
Thundercat performing in 2018
Background information
Birth nameStephen Lee Bruner
Born (1984-10-19) October 19, 1984 (age 37)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
InstrumentsBass guitar, vocals
Years active2000–present

Stephen Lee Bruner (born October 19, 1984),[3] better known by his stage name Thundercat, is an American bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and actor from Los Angeles. First coming to prominence as a member of crossover thrash band Suicidal Tendencies, he has since released four solo studio albums and is noted for his work with producer Flying Lotus and his appearances on Kendrick Lamar's 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly.[4] In 2016, Thundercat won a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Performance for his work on the track "These Walls" from To Pimp a Butterfly. In 2020, Thundercat released his fourth studio album titled It Is What It Is, which earned him a Grammy Award for Best Progressive R&B Album.


Born into a family of musicians, Bruner began playing the bass at an early age, listening to bass players such as Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller for inspiration.[5] By 15 he had a minor hit in Germany as a member of the boy band No Curfew. A year later he joined his brother Ronald Jr. as a member of the Los Angeles punk band Suicidal Tendencies, replacing former bass player Josh Paul. Bruner's earliest studio album appearances include playing electric bass on Kamasi Washington's Live at 5th Street Dick's and The Proclamation.[6] In 2004, Bruner collaborated once again with Kamasi Washington, as well as Cameron Graves and Ronald Jr, under the label, the Young Jazz Giants.[7]

Along with his band duties Bruner is also a session musician, acclaimed for his work on Erykah Badu's New Amerykah (2008) and Flying Lotus' Cosmogramma (2010). He released his first solo album in 2011, The Golden Age of Apocalypse, which featured production from Flying Lotus, and was influenced by 1970s fusion artists such as Stanley Clarke and George Duke. The next two years saw a return to the recording studio with fellow Brainfeeder artist Flying Lotus, with contributions to the Lotus's Until the Quiet Comes (2012) and You're Dead! (2014), and the release of Thundercat's second album Apocalypse (2013).[8]

To Pimp a Butterfly[edit]

Bruner has been described as being a major contributor to and "at the creative epicenter" of Kendrick Lamar's critically acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly.[9]

Along with the involvements with previous artists, Thundercat draws inspiration from jazz musicians such as Miles Davis, Mary Lou Williams and Ron Carter.

Thundercat in 2015

In 2016, Bruner revealed to XXL that he was working on a new album with Flying Lotus as a main contributor. In May of that year, Bruner appeared live with Red Hot Chili Peppers to play additional bass on their song "Go Robot" at iHeartRadio's release party for the band's 2016 album The Getaway. In August 2016, Bruner appeared live with singers Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald in Chicago.


In June 2017, Thundercat appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to promote his studio album Drunk with Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins.[10] "Them Changes" contains a drum sample from the 1977 track "Footsteps in the Dark" by the Isley Brothers, the same sample used in Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day" (although the latter more heavily sampled the original).

It Is What It Is[edit]

In October 2018, Thundercat premiered the song "King of the Hill" from his then upcoming album It Is What It Is.[11][12] The second single, "Black Qualls" featuring Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, and Childish Gambino was released on January 16.[13] Another single, "Dragonball Durag", was released on February 17.[14] It Is What It Is released on April 3, 2020, and was met with critical acclaim.[15] Thundercat dedicated the album to friend and frequent collaborator Mac Miller.[16] In 2020, It Is What It Is was nominated for the Best Progressive R&B Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, and won.[17]

In 2021, he received the Libera Awards for Best R&B Record 2021 for his album It Is What It Is (Brainfeeder Records) by the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM). The album had also been nominated as Record of the Year, but Phoebe Bridgers' album Punisher won over.[18]

In 2022, he made a guest appearance in the fourth episode of The Book of Boba Fett as a "Mod Artist" that Boba Fett enlists to save Fennec Shand's life in a flashback where he replaced her damaged parts with cybernetic replacements.[19]


Bruner is most often seen playing his Ibanez Custom Shop model bass, possessing six strings (Which are tuned to BEADGC), a hollowed out maple body, five-piece maple/jatoba neck, and rosewood fingerboard.[20] It utilizes EMG magnetic pickups, Graph Tech Ghost piezo saddles, and a MIDI program In/Out.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Thundercat is a Christian, and incorporates many of the religion's themes in some of his music.[22] He has a teenage daughter named Sanaa.[23]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Grammy Awards

Year Award Work Result Ref.
2016 Album of the Year To Pimp a Butterfly (as featured artist and producer) Nominated [24]
Best Rap/Sung Performance "These Walls" Won
2021 Best Progressive R&B Album It Is What It Is Won [1]

Libera Awards

Year Award Work Result Ref.
2016 Heritage Album of the Year The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam Nominated [25][26]
2017 Album of the Year Drunk Nominated [27][28]
Best Blues/Jazz/R&B Album Nominated
Creative Packaging Won
2021 Record of the Year It Is What It Is Nominated [29]
Best R&B Record Won



Year Title Role Notes
2022 The Book of Boba Fett Mod Artist Episodes 4, 7


  1. ^ a b Willman, Chris (November 24, 2020). "Grammy Awards Nominations 2021: The Complete List". Variety. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  2. ^ Newman, Jason (August 22, 2011). "Thundercat's Acid-Jazz Apocalypse". MTV News. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  3. ^ "The Birth of Stephen Bruner". California Birth Index, 1905 - 1995. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  4. ^ "Rising: Thundercat | Features". Pitchfork. September 1, 2011. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
  5. ^ "Thundercat On Making Music Outside The Lines". Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  6. ^ "The Proclamation: Kamasi Washington". Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  7. ^ Bradman, E. E. "Nine Lives of Thundercat". Bass Magazine - The Future of Bass. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  8. ^ Kellman, Andy. "Apocalypse - Thundercat : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
  9. ^ Weiss, Jeff. "Meet Thundercat, the Jazz-Fusion Genius Behind Kendrick Lamar's 'Butterfly'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  10. ^ The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (June 6, 2017), Thundercat ft. Michael McDonald & Kenny Loggins: Show You the Way, retrieved June 6, 2017
  11. ^ "Thundercat - It Is What It Is. Vinyl LP, CD. Bleep". Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  12. ^ "Thundercat (feat. BADBADNOTGOOD & Flying Lotus) - 'King of the Hill'". YouTube. October 30, 2018. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  13. ^ "Thundercat - 'Black Qualls (feat. Steve Lacy & Steve Arrington) [Single Version]' (Official Audio)". YouTube. January 15, 2020. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  14. ^ "Thundercat - 'Dragonball Durag' (Official Audio)". YouTube. February 17, 2020. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  15. ^ "It Is What It Is by Thundercat Reviews and Tracks". Metacritic. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  16. ^ "Thundercat comes up for air". Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  17. ^ "Thundercat". December 2, 2020. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  18. ^ "A2IM Libera Awards 2021 winners". Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  19. ^ O'Keefe, Paul. "Who is Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner, Book of Boba Fett's Mod Artist?". Decider. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  20. ^ "Gear Rundown: Thundercat". Mixdown Magazine. June 8, 2021. Retrieved February 25, 2022.
  21. ^ "TCB1006 | TCB | ELECTRIC BASSES | PRODUCTS". Ibanez guitars. Retrieved February 25, 2022.
  22. ^ ""You've Gotta Laugh to Keep from Crying": An Interview with Thundercat". April 24, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  23. ^ "Thundercat Talks 'It Is What It Is' and Raising His Teenage Daughter". W Magazine. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  24. ^ "2015 GRAMMY WINNERS". Grammys. November 28, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  25. ^ "SoundExchange Presents The 2016 A2IM Libera Awards". Shore Fire Media. Retrieved June 14, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. ^ "2016 Winners". Libera Awards. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  27. ^ "Nominees A2IM's Indie Music Libera Awards Announced [FULL LIST]". Hypebot. April 27, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  28. ^ "A2IM Showcases Excellence at 2017 Libera Awards –". June 9, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  29. ^ "2021 Nominees". Libera Awards. Retrieved June 14, 2021.

External links[edit]