“Friends they come and go/That’s okay I’m kind of bored/Let’s go hard, get drunk, and travel down the rabbit hole.”
Those are the words at the end of the first track, “Rabbot Ho,” on Thundercat’s highly anticipated third album, Drunk. They serve as a good indicator for the direction that the album as a whole goes — down into the rabbit hole that is Stephen Bruner’s (AKA Thundercat’s) psyche.
Bruner is best known for being a key collaborator on Kendrick Lamar’s wildly popular and critically acclaimed 2015 album, To Pimp a Butterfly. However, he is a brilliant artist in his own right. Drunk demonstrates that Bruner is unapologetic when it comes to expressing his desires, interests, and struggles.
“Captain Stupido,” the second track on the album, seems to follow the stages of a typical buzz, both lyrically and sonically. The same refrain is used throughout the song:
“I feel weird/Comb your beard, brush your teeth/Still feel weird/Beat your meat, go to sleep…I think I left my wallet at the club…Jesus take the wheel.”
All the while, Bruner uses his signature dizzying bass lines layered with synths, guitar, and an erratic beat which takes the listener on a journey through the progression of intoxication. “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song II)” has Thundercat living up to his stage name by literally meowing, expressing his desire to be a cat. He speaks of his wish to have nine lives, to be able to sit in the sun’s rays, and to have complete and total freedom. He cites Disney movies with quotes like “everybody wants to be a cat” and “everything the light touches, it’s where I would roam” from The Aristocats and The Lion King, respectively.
The drowned bass line and steady beat of the track evoke a sense of longing in the listener, which is appropriate given the subject matter of the track. The track right afterward, “Lava Lamp,” sounds similar to “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song II),” but is slower and more melancholy. The onomatopoeic meowing is replaced with Bruner’s haunting “oooh’s.” The track deals with loss:
“I’m so tired/Where can I lay my head?/I’ll just close my eyes/Hope I wake up dead/Don’t wanna live without you/Don’t leave me out here to die.”
The atmospheric synths accompanied by Bruner’s vocals take the listener to a place much like a the hypnotic rising and falling of a lava lamp.
In “Tokyo,” Thundercat talks about being in Japan’s capital and wanting to experience everything the city has to offer. “I think I’m Kenshiro/I think that I’m Goku/Can I just stay one more day?” he sings, mentioning Goku, a saiyan warrior from the Dragon Ball series, and Kenshiro, a martial artist from the Fist of the North Star.
He then talks about the roots of his “love affair with Tokyo,” recalling a visit to the dentist where he received a Dragon Ball Z wrist slap bracelet. He says “Goku fucking ruined me,” which suggests that even though he loves manga, and subsequently grew to love Japan itself, he can’t deny that becoming so immersed in the culture lead to some drawbacks in his life. Despite this, or even because of his immersive joyful abandon, the entirety of the track is poppy and upbeat.
“Friend Zone” deals with Bruner being rejected romantically, and he attributes the rejection to his hobby of playing video games. He asks “is it ‘cause I wear my hair in or because I like to play Diablo?”
He then asserts, “You stuck me in the friend zone/That’s that bullshit/I’m gonna play Diablo anyway.” Although the subject matter of the song is rejection, the track itself is upbeat, with its funky bass line and cascading synths lending themselves to evoke a feeling of apathy rather than sadness. Bruner also delivers a clever ironic verse, saying:
“I will throw you in the garbage/‘Cause you play too many games/I’m better off by myself/Loving you’s bad for my health.”
This leads seamlessly into the next track, “Them Changes,” which was previously released on Thundercat’s 2015 EP, The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam. The song also deals with rejection, but this time the tone is much darker and delves into heartbreak. Bruner uses powerful imagery, painting a gruesome scene with a blood-covered floor and his missing heart.
“Why in the world would I give my heart to you?/Just so that you could throw it in the trash?” he asks, accompanied by a sample of The Isley Brother’s “Footsteps in the Dark” and Kamasi Washington’s saxophone.
The features on the album are sparse but memorable, as they should be. The first is “Show You the Way,” a synth-heavy slow jam with accompanying vocals from rock musicians Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. Lamar delivers a satisfyingly lengthy verse on “Walk on By,” a track with a droning melody and simple but varied percussion that deals with not wanting to drink alone and repenting for sins of gang violence.
“Drink Dat” is a radio-ready track with a feature from Wiz Khalifa that works surprisingly well, but doesn’t achieve much depth otherwise. The last feature track on the album is “The Turn Down,” which doesn’t distinguish itself from many other tracks on the album sonically, but has some of the best one-liners of the album delivered by Pharrell, including “Black, white, gay, straight human beings all pee and want some ass,” and, “If all lives matter when we mention Black why do you gasp?”
Drunk provides an insight into one of the most eclectic figures in the music industry. There is room for refinement, but Thundercat seems to embrace the jaggedness of his character and his music while still remaining accessible for casual listeners.
Some highlights of the album not mentioned include “Jethro,” “Inferno,” and “Where I’m Going.” Bruner is eccentric, but easy to identify with. Desiring to live the life of a cat, being interested in Japanese culture and Disney, and struggling with heartbreak are all integral parts of the human condition.
The last track on the album, “DUI,” retains the same melody as the opener, giving the album a cyclical quality. Bruner prophesies “One more glass to go/Where this ends we’ll never know,” signifying that he is about to embark on another journey down the rabbit hole. Given all that he shares with the listener, one would be remiss not to join him.