Thundercat’s latest release under the independent record label, Brainfeeder, feels purposefully distracted. For some works that is a negative aspect, however for the funk artist, it feels as if this is exactly what Thundercat is going for.
The subject matter of many of these songs can be seen as “millennial problems,” including self-care, leaving one’s wallet at the club and social media, all over electronic funk beats. In “Bus in These Streets,” Thundercat focuses on how dependent people have become on technology, talking about how glued they are to their smartphones, tablets and laptops, desperately seeking to remain connected and in the loop.
The second verse is sourly sarcastic on the subject of social media:“From the minute I wake up I’m staring at the screen, watching the world go insane. Gotta stay connected so I know what’s happening in these streets. Thank God for technology ‘cause where would we be if we couldn’t tweet our thoughts? Won’t you leave some things to mystery? Opening your mouth removes all doubt. So be quiet, technology is the key to it all”
Tapping into how people may feel about being too dependent on technology from time to time, all the while never actually disconnecting. We acknowledge how reliant we are on our constant connection to the seemingly endless wealth of information known as the internet, but we never actually consider just stopping cold. Thundercat ponders how on Earth we’ll get by without seeing our friends post pictures of their Chipotle order, grumble about their jobs or bless us with their pithy statements about society. He asks us to imagine how the world operated in the past without without our technological advancements.
In the end he implies that it might be better if one just left their phone lost, as that short time out of the loop may be the first step to disconnecting from the rat race, for one’s sanity.
“Show You the Way” was marketed as the lead single from “Drunk.” The track is an masterful showing of love and light that stretches bar to bar. With features from two artists that one probably wouldn’t guess would hop on a track in 2017 and use autotune: yacht rock icons Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. Through all the crooning, the trio implores the listener. Whichever emotional state they are in when they hear the song, realize that one can never go too far to where they cannot start over.
The twelfth track,“Tokyo,” is, of course, an love song to the capital of Japan, and talks about all the things that one can do in Tokyo, and Japan as a whole. The song is full of references to Japanese culture, such as anime and manga, pachinko and the notorious suicide forest. The frantic pacing of the song and the delivery of the lyrics might reference how staggering and imposing the city can be to tourists.
His allusions almost seem too personal, he drops them so clearly, as if they’re his own experiences. The song also speaks to the intense fetishization of Japanese culture. Towards the end, Thundercats sings that he’s in trouble for trying to get someone pregnant while losing himself in Tokyo, and even plans to evade the police – “I’d probably hide in the suicide forest (Sh*t!).” He goes on to blame a toy that a doctor he visited in his youth gave him for his obsession with Japanese culture.
On “Drunk,” Thundercat examines how we escape stress with more truthfulness than listeners are used to hearing on the topic, switching the focus of what begins as a party album, to turning up and eventually the concept of processing pain and disappointment. Its songs range in a controlled manner through sorrow and joy, distraction and uncompromising exploration of oneself, while hurtling through stages of self-destruction, coping, healing and blowing the whole thing up again.
Thundercat shows off his emotional range with his bookends to the album, “Rabbot Ho” and “DUI.” “One more glass to go,” he croons gently on “DUI,” which shares an identical rhythm with “Rabbot Ho.” “Where this ends we’ll never know.” The thing is we all know, or atleast have some idea, thanks to Thundercat. The voyage closes in the same place it began: descending the rabbit hole of self-medication and back to the same rut of old distractions.