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‘It Is What It Is’: Swirling in Thundercat’s Reflective Storm

Joshua Burrell, Features Editor

With over 15 tracks, playing for 37 minutes, Thundercat’s fourth studio album It Is What It Is moves swiftly through themes like love and longing with unsurprisingly languid songs. Luckily, its short length lends to the alluring replay value. Seasoned Thundercat fans will recognize the 2018 single “King Of The Hill” featuring BADBADNOTGOOD and the two 2020 singles “Dragonball Durag,” and “Black Qualls.”

At a glance, this album seems full of throwaways, yet every song on this project is equally important.

It Is What It Is can be broken into two parts. The former half hosts playful and upbeat tracks like “Black Qualls” and “Funny Thing.” The album version of “Black Qualls” adds a synth singing Childish Gambino on top of the smooth bass and voice of Steve Lacy. Tracks three and six – “I Love Louis Cole” featuring Louis Cole and “How Sway” – allow Thundercat to flex his finger control with fast-moving and energetic basslines.

“Overseas” doesn’t boast Thundercat’s wriggling runs, yet the funky bassline lies well under his high, lusty falsetto lines. This track gives the momentum to throw your hips without giving you motion sickness. This song captures movement but directs it to no finite place. 

 

“Girl you’re so fly // You really blow my mind // Let’s not waste any more time // I’ll just meet you overseas // We can do it on the plane // I just want to be with you.”

 

Like Thundercat’s falsetto or a plane passing turbulence the frame of mood is high from hot spots ranging from Brazil to Russia. “Overseas” will likely move you to sway your hips to this cool and relatively walking pace track. It also features comedian Zack Fox with a laughable ending skit that glides into Dragonball Durag.” 

“Dragonball Durag” is hands down the most popular pre-album release thanks to the comical YouTube music video in classic Thundercat style. The catchy chorus in “Dragonball Durag” is the album’s last song for laughs, because once it passes the tone grows serious.

“King Of The Hill” pivots the album from its first half to its deeply reflective and sobering second. “How I Feel,” is a stepping stone into more mellow melodies and darker themes. Song titles like “Unrequited Love” and “Existential Dread” are dead giveaways.

“Fair Chanceis a pick-me-up as it offers friendly features by Ty Dolla $ign and Lil B. Ty Dolla $ign reminisces the past over the rippling acoustic melody before Lil B waveringly reflects over relationship insecurities. The trio lament indecision between moving on in regret and getting over the relationships in question entirely. The song fades out and leaves time to ponder which direction to yield to before “Existential Dread.”

Nearly every song is short except for the outro track and album namesake “It Is What It Is”. This track opens by blending guitarist Pedro Martin’s Brazillian Jazz, Bossa Nova influence with Thundercat’s echoing vocals. This ballad is submission to the inevitable failed relationship. Martin’s finger-picked notes sorrowfully sting as Thundercat whispers kisses through lyrics that fade into dust like they’re carried on the wind. 

 

“Well there’s nothing left to say // It is what it is // I tried to make it work // my best just wasn’t enough.”

 

The album’s lowest point arrives with “It Is What It Is.” Thundercat laments uncertainty and hints at regrets until the song’s second part. A funk and jazz fueled breakdown raises a hopeful mood before the album’s subtle fade-out.

It Is What It Is swaggers a dynamic range with an amazing replay capacity. This album has the scope to include playlist popping singles and flowing, reflection worthy compositions. All things considered, the emotional gamut of It Is What It Is masterfully delineates depth and upholds Thundercat as one of modern hip-hop’s most respected musicians. 

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