The man with many sounds is back out with his fourth solo album, It Is What It Is. Thundercat has a very interesting sound to him and a different way of making music. He has been in the music game for quite some time as a member of Suicidal Tendencies and Infectious Grooves as well as a session musician. After working with Flying Lotus and Erykah Badu, he was able to put out solo work. He had great reviews from his first two solo albums in 2011 and 2013, but in 2015 things changed when his creative contributions to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly were revealed. From a mainstream aspect, Thundercat was looked at in a different light. Then he dropped Drunk in 2017, his best work to date.
So what I truly expected from this is great music and that’s what I got. Thundercat kept it short and sweet, psychedelic and jazzy. He is honest about his feelings, going through the up-and-down emotions that he has been dealing with on the daily. The intro “Lost in Space” describes his mood, which he tells us is “Somewhere lost in space.” However, he tries to set a more positive mood at the beginning of the album. “I Love Louis Cole” is essentially a track about their friendship and how they brighten each other’s mood with this groovy, fast-paced beat. “Black Qualls”, which is one of the best tracks, features Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, and Childish Gambino speaking on being mentally free. The funky beat oozes positive vibes and makes you want to dance your problems away.
Even tracks that are only a minute long that don’t carry much lyrically fill in perfectly. Something like “How Sway” repeating the same “ayy, yo” refrain just makes it so catchy. It leads perfectly into the funkiness of “Funny Thing”. The light-hearted single “Dragonball Durag” still leads in that positive mindset, being confident in your own skin. It’s one of the best tracks, and one of Thundercat’s most clean vocal performances. Also the funniest track with him talking about wearing a Dragonball durag while being covered in cat hair. But after that Thundercat takes a dramatic turn in terms of mood.
This is where Thundercat feels a bit more lost, almost like all that positive vibes were masking how he really feels. A love interest hurts him and things start to spiral. “Fair Chances” is one of the smoothest trackest, revealing Thundercat to be in a vulnerable state of missing a homie, good friend Mac Miller. Thundercat notes that this song is about missing Mac and things not being the same. Thundercat gives us his best hook along with Ty Dolla Sign and Lil B giving some of their best verses about this situation in a while.
The album ends on the title track “It Is What It Is” reflecting on the Mac situation on a somber mood. The two-part track shows Thundercat harmonizing on this sad realization of his passing. However the second part shows that maybe he can live with this. The upbeat in production sounds like Thundercat is at peace with him saying “Hey Mac” and only that on the track.
It Is What It Is gives you a great story of a man going through highs and lows. Sometimes life just turns out to be something you can’t control or do anything about. Thundercat showing you a person who is going through it, while trying to stay positive. While looking at this as a whole, I think some of the mixing was rough with his light voice. But that same production vividly coincides with whatever feeling he is going through while being fresh. The album is great though, Thundercat gives you his all here.