Next month, the space-funk bass virtuoso and former Suicidal Tendencies member Thundercat will release It Is What It Is, a new album that features the input of some of Thundercat’s best friends. Last night, many of those friends were on hand when Thundercat served as musical guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Thundercat performed “Black Qualls,” the bubbling zone-out of a single, and brought his collaborators on the song. Co-producer Flying Lotus, Thundercat’s longtime collaborator, played keyboard. Steve Lacy, the young wizard from the Internet, played guitar and sang. Also, Thundercat and Lacy shared lead vocals with Steve Arrington, the 64-year-old lifer who once led Ohio funkateers Slave. During that performance, they included a very cool musical salute to another friend who couldn’t be there.
The whole performance is a whole lot of fun, on both a musical and a visual level. Thundercat seems to become more of an outsized personality everytime he touches a stage. Last night, he had more outsized personalities with him. Everyone wore extremely tight pants. Everyone except Steve Arrington wore some extremely sparkly things. (Arrington wore a denim vest and a Hendrix shirt, which looked cool as hell.) The people onstage obviously enjoyed the hell out of playing together, and there’s a magical moment toward the end where Lacy and Thundercat lock eyes and move into the song’s big change.
The big change is this: They change to the beat from the late Mac Miller’s 2018 track “What’s The Use?” Thundercat played on the original version of that song. Arrington’s frequent collaborator DâM-FunK also played on it, and Steve Lacy’s Internet bandmate Syd sang backup. This is clearly a song that means a lot to this community of musicians, and when they launch into it, they all look like they’re getting away with something. Nobody onstage says Mac Miller’s name; it’s just one of those cool touches that’s there if you’re looking for it. Check out the performance below.
It Is What It Is is out 4/3 on Brainfeeder. Pre-order it here.