Thundercat (musician)

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Thundercat performing in Sydney (2018)
Thundercat performing in Sydney (2018)
Background information
Birth nameStephen Lee Bruner
Born (1984-10-19) October 19, 1984 (age 36)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • bassist
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • Bass guitar
  • vocals
  • guitar
  • keyboards
  • drums
Years active2000–present
Associated acts

Stephen Lee Bruner (born October 19, 1984),[2] better known by his stage name Thundercat, is an American musician, bassist, singer and songwriter from Los Angeles, California. 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 appearance on Kendrick Lamar's critically acclaimed 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly.[3] In 2016, Thundercat won a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Performance for his work on the track "These Walls" from To Pimp a Butterfly.

Music career[edit]

Born into a family of musicians, Bruner began playing the bass at an early age: 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.[4]

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).[5]

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.[6]

Along with the involvements with previous artists, Thundercat draws inspiration from jazz musicians such as Miles Davis, Mary Lou Williams and Ron Carter. Through this, he is frequently able to renew elements from old soul, funk, and jazz albums. Known as "digging in the crates", this method is best used to bring the sound, feel and emotion he wants to convey in his music. An example of this can be heard on his EP released in 2015 titled The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam. The EP's most popular track, titled "Them Changes", also shares this creative renewal element. "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".

In 2016, Bruner revealed to XXL that he is 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.[7]

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.[8][9] The second single, "Black Qualls" featuring Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, and Childish Gambino was released on January 16.[10] Another single, "Dragonball Durag", was released on February 17.[11] It Is What It Is released on April 3, 2020 and was met with critical acclaim.[12] Thundercat dedicated the album to friend and frequent collaborator, Mac Miller.[13] In 2020, 'It Is What It Is' was nominated for the 'Best Progressive R&B Album' at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Thundercat identifies as a Christian, and incorporates many of the religion's themes in some of his music.[15] He has a teenage daughter named Sanaa.[16]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Grammy Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2016[17] To Pimp a Butterfly (as featured artist and producer) Album of the Year Nominated
"These Walls" Best Rap/Sung Performance Won
2021[18] It is What It is Best Progressive R&B Album Nominated



  1. ^ Newman, Jason (August 22, 2011). "Thundercat's Acid-Jazz Apocalypse". MTV News. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  2. ^ "The Birth of Stephen Bruner". California Birth Index, 1905 - 1995. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  3. ^ "Rising: Thundercat | Features". Pitchfork. 2011-09-01. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  4. ^ "The Proclamation: Kamasi Washington". Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  5. ^ Kellman, Andy. "Apocalypse - Thundercat : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  6. ^ Weiss, Jeff. "Meet Thundercat, the Jazz-Fusion Genius Behind Kendrick Lamar's 'Butterfly'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  7. ^ The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2017-06-06), Thundercat ft. Michael McDonald & Kenny Loggins: Show You the Way, retrieved 2017-06-06
  8. ^ "Thundercat - It Is What It Is. Vinyl LP, CD. Bleep". Retrieved 2020-04-04.
  9. ^ "Thundercat (feat. BADBADNOTGOOD & Flying Lotus) - 'King of the Hill'". YouTube. 2018-10-30. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
  10. ^ "Thundercat - 'Black Qualls (feat. Steve Lacy & Steve Arrington) [Single Version]' (Official Audio)". YouTube. 2020-01-15. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
  11. ^ "Thundercat - 'Dragonball Durag' (Official Audio)". YouTube. 2020-02-17. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
  12. ^ "It Is What It Is by Thundercat Reviews and Tracks". Metacritic. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  13. ^ "Thundercat comes up for air". Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  14. ^ "Thundercat". 2 December 2020. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  15. ^ ""You've Gotta Laugh to Keep from Crying": An Interview with Thundercat". Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "2015 GRAMMY WINNERS". Grammys. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  18. ^ Willman, Chris (November 24, 2020). "Grammy Awards Nominations 2021: The Complete List". Variety. Retrieved November 24, 2020.