Thundercat (musician)

Last updated

Thundercat (43228969271) - edited.jpg
Thundercat in 2018
Background information
Birth nameStephen Lee Bruner
Born (1984-10-19) October 19, 1984 (age 39)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationsMusician, producer, songwriter, singer
InstrumentsBass guitar, vocals
Discography Thundercat discography
Years active2000–present
Labels Brainfeeder
Member of West Coast Get Down
Formerly of Suicidal Tendencies

Stephen Lee Bruner (born October 19, 1984), [4] better known by his stage name Thundercat, is an American musician, singer, record producer, and songwriter from Los Angeles. First coming to prominence as a member of crossover thrash band Suicidal Tendencies, he has since released four solo studio albums and is noted for his work with producer Flying Lotus and his appearances on Kendrick Lamar's 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly . [5] In 2016, Thundercat won a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Performance for his work on the track "These Walls" from To Pimp a Butterfly. In 2020, Thundercat released his fourth studio album, It Is What It Is , which earned him a Grammy Award for Best Progressive R&B Album.


Early life

Raised in Compton and other parts of Los Angeles, Bruner was born into a family of musicians, including his father Ronald Bruner Sr., a drummer, and his mother Pam, a flautist and percussionist. His father played drums for The Temptations, The Supremes, and Gladys Knight, amongst others. After Bruner Sr. got sober from cocaine, the children would watch him play gigs at the Crenshaw Christian Center. [6] Bruner attended Locke High School, playing in the school's jazz band. His teacher, Reggie Andrews, produced and co-wrote the Dazz Band's 1982 single "Let It Whip" and collaborated with Rick James. Andrews re-introduced Bruner to Kamasi Washington; the two had originally met as children, through their fathers' membership in a gospel fusion band. The reunited duo would sneak into jazz concerts, driving around in a worn-down 1982 Ford Mustang to do so. They would later get to play the same venues as the performers they watched. They also did sessions with Bruner's cousin Terrace Martin in Washington's father's garage during this time. [7] [8]


Bruner began playing the bass at an early age, listening to bass players such as Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller for inspiration. [9] By the age of 15, he had a minor hit in Germany as a member of the boy band No Curfew. A year later, he joined his brother Ronald Jr. as a member of the Los Angeles crossover thrash band Suicidal Tendencies, replacing former bass player Josh Paul. Bruner's earliest studio album appearances include playing electric bass on Kamasi Washington's Live at 5th Street Dick's and The Proclamation . [10]

Erykah Badu was credited with helping Bruner find his stage presence and identity as Thundercat. Around this time, Bruner would play in live bands for Raphael Saadiq and Snoop Dogg, and both would make quips about his playing style. [7] Bruner credited Flying Lotus with pushing him to start singing and making his own projects. [11]

In 2020, Rolling Stone ranked him as one of the greatest bass players of all time. [12]


In 2004, Bruner collaborated with Kamasi Washington, as well as Cameron Graves and Ronald Jr., under the name The Young Jazz Giants. [13] The group later united with Terrace Martin and five other Los Angeles jazz musicians to form the West Coast Get Down collective, with whom they recorded several albums. [14]

Along with his band duties, Bruner is also a session musician, acclaimed for his work on Erykah Badu's New Amerykah (2008) and fellow Brainfeeder artist Flying Lotus' Cosmogramma (2010), Until the Quiet Comes (2012), and You're Dead! (2014).

Bruner was a major contributor to Kendrick Lamar's critically acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015, and has been described as being "at the creative epicenter" of the project. [15] Longtime Thundercat collaborators Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, and Terrace Martin were also major contributors to the album.

Bruner was a frequent collaborator on Mac Miller's tracks. On August 6, 2018, Bruner played bass during Miller's Tiny Desk Concert, during which the two played their collaborative track, "What's the Use?" [16]

In 2022, he collaborated with virtual band Gorillaz on their single "Cracker Island", the first single and title track for their album of the same name. The song was released on April 30, 2022. [17]

Solo albums

The Golden Age of Apocalypse and Apocalypse

He released his first solo album in 2011, The Golden Age of Apocalypse , which featured production from Flying Lotus, and was influenced by 1970s fusion artists such as Stanley Clarke and George Duke, who his brother also later toured with. Thundercat's second album Apocalypse was released in 2013. [18]

The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam

Thundercat performing at Stern Grove, San Francisco, 2021 ThundercatSternGrove2021.jpg
Thundercat performing at Stern Grove, San Francisco, 2021

On June 22, 2015, Thundercat released The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam EP, which was developed during the production of To Pimp a Butterfly. The EP includes tributes to his friend and collaborator Austin Peralta, a jazz pianist who was signed to Brainfeeder before his death in 2012. The EP also includes a feature from Herbie Hancock and was the first appearance of "Them Changes".

In 2016, Bruner revealed to XXL that he was working on a new album with Flying Lotus as a main contributor. In May of that year, Bruner appeared live with Red Hot Chili Peppers to play additional bass on their song "Go Robot" at iHeartRadio's release party for the band's 2016 album The Getaway . In August 2016, Bruner appeared live with singers Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald in Chicago.


In June 2017, Thundercat appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to promote his studio album Drunk with Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. [19] "Them Changes" contains a drum sample from the 1977 Isley Brothers track "Footsteps in the Dark", the same sample used in Ice Cube's 1993 single "It Was a Good Day" (although the latter more heavily sampled the original).

It Is What It Is

In October 2018, Thundercat premiered the song "King of the Hill" from his then upcoming album It Is What It Is . [20] [21] The second single, "Black Qualls", featuring Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, and Childish Gambino, was released on January 16. [22] Another single, "Dragonball Durag", was released on February 17. [23] It Is What It Is released on April 3, 2020, and was met with critical acclaim. [24] Thundercat dedicated the album to friend and frequent collaborator Mac Miller. [25] In 2020, It Is What It Is won Best Progressive R&B Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards. [26]

Thundercat performing in front of his logo in 2018 Thundercat (43228967431).jpg
Thundercat performing in front of his logo in 2018

In 2021, he received the Libera Award for Best R&B Record 2021 for his album It Is What It Is (Brainfeeder Records) by the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM). The album was also nominated as Record of the Year, but lost to Phoebe Bridgers' album Punisher . [27]

In 2022, he made a guest appearance in the fourth episode of The Book of Boba Fett as a "Mod Artist" who Boba Fett enlists to save Fennec Shand's life in a flashback where he replaced her damaged parts with cybernetic replacements. [28]

In April 2023, he released a new single collaborating with Kevin Parker/Tame Impala, "No More Lies." [29] Following the release of "No More Lies", Thundercat announced the In Yo Girl’s City Tour, to begin on August 5, 2023 in Newport, Rhode Island and conclude on November 14, 2023 in Santiago, Chile. [30]

Personal life

He has a teenage daughter named Sanaa. [31]

Bruner was a close friend of the rapper Mac Miller, and the two often spent time together in their personal lives. [32] Miller's death in 2018 made Bruner confront his own substance use and alcoholism, causing him to drink less and adopt better eating habits. "It's sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. It's real. You ride the line, you don't know how close you are sometimes. Do I think he meant to die? No, I don't think he did. Even though that sometimes creeps in there because you're always on the edge of a knife. Sometimes you mess up. That happens a lot," Bruner shared in a 2020 interview with The Guardian. [33]

Bruner is a big fan of anime and cartoons, and will wear outfits that reflect this, such as a Pikachu backpack, cat-ear headbands, and the Interface Headset from the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion . His stage name, taken from the 1985 cartoon series Thundercats , is further evidence of these influences. [34] Bruner is a Christian, and incorporates many of the religion's themes in his music. [35]


Bruner is most often seen playing his six-string Ibanez Custom Shop model bass (tuned to BEADGC); it has a hollowed-out maple body, five-piece maple/jatoba neck, and rosewood fingerboard. [36] It utilizes EMG magnetic pickups, Graph Tech Ghost piezo saddles, and a MIDI-capable in/out. [37]

Thundercat in 2015 Thundercat (musician) 2015.jpg
Thundercat in 2015

Ibanez produced a Thundercat signature model bass known as the TCB1006, with six strings. [38]



2022 The Book of Boba Fett Mod ArtistEpisodes 4, 7

Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards

2016 Album of the Year To Pimp a Butterfly (as featured artist and producer)Nominated [39]
Best Rap/Sung Performance "These Walls"Won
2021 Best Progressive R&B Album It Is What It Is Won [1]

Libera Awards

2016Heritage Album of the Year The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam Nominated [40] [41]
2017 Album of the Year Drunk Nominated [42] [43]
Best Blues/Jazz/R&B AlbumNominated
Creative PackagingWon
2021 Record of the Year It Is What It Is Nominated [44]
Best R&B RecordWon

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Daddy Kev</span> American DJ and audio engineer (born 1974)

Kevin Marques Moo, better known by his stage name Daddy Kev, is an American DJ, Grammy Award-winning audio engineer, record producer and executive from Los Angeles, California. He is the owner of Alpha Pup Records and the founder of Low End Theory. As an audio engineer, Daddy Kev has mixed and mastered albums by Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, and Leon Bridges.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flying Lotus</span> American record producer from California

Steven D. Bingley-Ellison, known by his stage name Flying Lotus or sometimes FlyLo, is an American record producer, DJ, filmmaker and rapper from Los Angeles. He is also the founder of the record label Brainfeeder.

Austin Topper Peralta was an American jazz pianist and composer from Los Angeles, California. He was the son of film director and Z-Boys skateboarder Stacy Peralta.

Ronald Ray Bruner Jr. is an American drummer, composer and producer. He has played with hardcore punk/crossover thrash band Suicidal Tendencies. Bruner was part of the band that received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 2010 for The Stanley Clarke Band.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Terrace Martin</span> American musician

Terrace Jamahl Martin is an American musician, rapper, singer, and record producer. He is perhaps best known for producing records for several prominent artists in the music industry, including Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, the Game, Busta Rhymes, Stevie Wonder, Charlie Wilson, Raphael Saadiq and YG, among others. Martin is a multi-instrumentalist whose music production embodies funk, jazz, classical and soul. Martin released his sixth studio album, Velvet Portraits, on his label, Sounds of Crenshaw Records, through Ropeadope Records.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brainfeeder</span> American independent record label

Brainfeeder is an independent record label based in Los Angeles, California, founded by Flying Lotus in 2008, focusing on electronic music and instrumental hip hop. It has signed artists such as Ras G, Samiyam, The Gaslamp Killer, Thundercat, The Underachievers, Lapalux, Daedelus, and Mr. Oizo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kamasi Washington</span> American saxophonist and bandleader

Kamasi Washington is an American jazz saxophonist. He is a founding member of the jazz collective West Coast Get Down.

<i>Youre Dead!</i> 2014 studio album by Flying Lotus

You're Dead! is the fifth studio album by American music producer Flying Lotus, released on October 6, 2014 by Warp Records. Flying Lotus recorded the album at his home in Los Angeles, using Ableton Live and other instruments and software. Like his previous two albums Cosmogramma and Until the Quiet Comes, You're Dead! features extensive contributions from Thundercat, who plays bass guitar on nearly every track and provides vocals on several. It also features guest performances from Angel Deradoorian, Niki Randa, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Kamasi Washington, Jeff Lynne, Kimbra, Herbie Hancock, and Thundercat, along with Captain Murphy, Flying Lotus' rapper alter ego.

<i>To Pimp a Butterfly</i> 2015 studio album by Kendrick Lamar

To Pimp a Butterfly is the third studio album by American rapper Kendrick Lamar. It was released on March 15, 2015, by Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records. The album was recorded in studios throughout the United States, with production from Sounwave, Terrace Martin, Taz "Tisa" Arnold, Thundercat, Rahki, LoveDragon, Flying Lotus, Pharrell Williams, Boi-1da, Knxwledge, and several other high-profile hip hop producers, as well as executive production from Dr. Dre and Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith. Guest appearances include Thundercat, George Clinton, Bilal, Anna Wise, Snoop Dogg, James Fauntleroy, Ronald Isley, and Rapsody.

<i>The Epic</i> (album) 2015 studio album by Kamasi Washington

The Epic is the third studio album by American jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington and his first on a major-label. It was released on May 5, 2015, by the Brainfeeder record label.

<i>The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam</i> 2015 EP by Thundercat

The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam is an EP by American musician Thundercat. It was released on June 22, 2015 via Brainfeeder.

"Them Changes" is a song by American musician Thundercat. It was first released on June 18, 2015, as a single from his EP The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam. The track, which Thundercat co-wrote with producer Flying Lotus, was later included on Thundercat's full-length album Drunk, released on February 24, 2017.

<i>Drunk</i> (album) 2017 studio album by Thundercat

Drunk is the third studio album by American musician Thundercat, released on February 24, 2017, by Brainfeeder. It features guest appearances from Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller, and Pharrell. It was released nearly four years after his previous studio album, Apocalypse.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thundercat discography</span>

The discography of American musician Thundercat includes four studio albums, an extended play, and twelve singles.

<i>It Is What It Is</i> (Thundercat album) 2020 studio album by Thundercat

It Is What It Is is the fourth studio album by American musician Thundercat, released through Brainfeeder on April 3, 2020. It was preceded by five singles: "King of the Hill," which was released as a single from the label's compilation album Brainfeeder X in 2018, and "Black Qualls," "Dragonball Durag," "Fair Chance," and "Innerstellar Love," the latter four being released in 2020. The track "Unrequited Love" had previously been used in an episode of the anime Carole & Tuesday in 2019. The album was executive produced by Thundercat and Flying Lotus, and features guest appearances from Louis Cole, Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, Childish Gambino, Ty Dolla Sign, Lil B, Kamasi Washington, BadBadNotGood, and Zack Fox.

The Libera Award for Record of the Year is an award presented by the American Association of Independent Music at the annual Libera Award which recognizes "best album released commercially in the United States by an independent label" since 2012.

The Libera Awards are an annual awards ceremony organized by the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM). First hosted in 2012, the awards celebrate the independent music community. The capstone of A2IM's Indie Week, an annual music business conference, the ceremony has been able to be viewed by the public since 2020.

"Oh Sheit It's X" is a song by American singer-songwriter Thundercat. He co-wrote it with record producers Flying Lotus, Mono/Poly, and Durand Furbee for his second studio album Apocalypse. Brainfeeder released it as a single on May 7, 2013. Musically, "Oh Sheit It's X" is a funk and disco song, whose lyrics describe the protagonist in an altered state of consciousness after consuming methylenedioxymethamphetamine—otherwise known as "ecstasy" or "X"—at a party.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Louis Cole</span> American musician and songwriter

Louis Maxwell Cole is an American multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, best known as the co-founder of the electronic/avant-pop/jazz-funk duo Knower, along with Genevieve Artadi. He is also a solo artist and has released seven solo albums: Louis Cole (2010), Album 2 (2011), Time (2018), Live Sesh (2019), LIVE 2019 (2020), Quality Over Opinion (2022), and Some Unused Songs (2023). It is speculated that he is a member of the avant-garde musical duo Clown Core.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">West Coast Get Down</span> American jazz collective

The West Coast Get Down is an American jazz collective formed in Los Angeles in 2006. Its members include saxophonist Kamasi Washington, bassists Miles Mosley and Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner, drummers Ronald Bruner Jr. and Tony Austin, pianists Cameron Graves and Brandon Coleman, trombonist Ryan Porter, and multi-instrumentalist Terrace Martin. Most of the members of the group gained prominence for their contributions to Kendrick Lamar's critically acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly (2015).


  1. 1 2 Willman, Chris (November 24, 2020). "Grammy Awards Nominations 2021: The Complete List". Variety . Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  2. Newman, Jason (August 22, 2011). "Thundercat's Acid-Jazz Apocalypse". MTV News. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  3. 1 2 Pitchfork Staff (October 7, 2019). "The 200 Best Songs of the 2010s". Pitchfork . Retrieved October 22, 2022. For a virtuoso whose music explores the outer reaches of funk, yacht rock, and astral jazz, Thundercat has always shown a sensitive undercurrent.
  4. "The Birth of Stephen Bruner". California Birth Index, 1905 - 1995. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  5. "Rising: Thundercat | Features". Pitchfork. September 1, 2011. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
  6. Gensler, Andy (February 15, 2016). "My Three Grammy-Nominated Sons: Ronald Bruner, Father of Thundercat, The Internet & Ron Jr., Talks About the Family Dynasty". Billboard. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
  7. 1 2 Pappademas, Alex. "He’d Always Been Thundercat, Whether He Knew It or Not." The New York Times, 25 Mar. 2020,
  8. Kelley, Frannie (February 11, 2015). "Terrace Martin: 'Everything Got A Little Bit Of Funk In It'". Retrieved January 9, 2023.
  9. "Thundercat On Making Music Outside The Lines". Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  10. "The Proclamation: Kamasi Washington". Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  11. "Thundercat is a testament to the power of great genes". The Georgia Straight. February 15, 2017. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
  12. "Thundercat". Rolling Stone Australia. July 2, 2020. Retrieved November 6, 2023.
  13. Bradman, E. E. (November 11, 2020). "Nine Lives of Thundercat". Bass Magazine - The Future of Bass. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  14. Hobbs, Thomas (June 26, 2020). "The history of the West Coast Get Down, LA's jazz giants". Dazed. Retrieved January 9, 2023.
  15. Weiss, Jeff. "Meet Thundercat, the Jazz-Fusion Genius Behind Kendrick Lamar's 'Butterfly'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  16. Carter, Bobby (August 6, 2018). "Mac Miller: Tiny Desk Concert". NPR. Retrieved October 14, 2022.
  17. Adams, Olivia (June 23, 2022). "LISTEN: Gorillaz collaborate with Thundercat on groovy hit 'Cracker Island'". Happy Mag. Retrieved October 14, 2022.
  18. Kellman, Andy. "Apocalypse - Thundercat : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
  19. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (June 6, 2017), Thundercat ft. Michael McDonald & Kenny Loggins: Show You the Way , retrieved June 6, 2017
  20. "Thundercat - It Is What It Is. Vinyl LP, CD. Bleep". Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  21. "Thundercat (feat. BADBADNOTGOOD & Flying Lotus) - 'King of the Hill'". YouTube. October 30, 2018. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  22. "Thundercat - 'Black Qualls (feat. Steve Lacy & Steve Arrington) [Single Version]' (Official Audio)". YouTube. January 15, 2020. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  23. "Thundercat - 'Dragonball Durag' (Official Audio)". YouTube. February 17, 2020. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  24. "It Is What It Is by Thundercat Reviews and Tracks". Metacritic . Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  25. "Thundercat comes up for air". Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  26. "Thundercat". December 2, 2020. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  27. "A2IM Libera Awards 2021 winners". Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  28. O'Keefe, Paul. "Who is Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner, Book of Boba Fett's Mod Artist?". Decider. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  29. Hogan, Marc. "Tracks: "No More Lies"". Pitchfork. Condé Nast. Retrieved April 27, 2023.
  30. Folk, Antwane (May 2, 2023). "Thundercat Announces 'It's Yo Girl's City Tour' Dates". Rated R&B . Retrieved May 2, 2023.
  31. "Thundercat Talks 'It Is What It Is' and Raising His Teenage Daughter". W Magazine. March 26, 2020. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  32. "Thundercat On 'It Is What It Is,' Losing Mac Miller And Learning To Do Nothing". Retrieved October 14, 2022.
  33. Hutchinson, Kate (April 11, 2020). "Thundercat: 'I was always that guy missing a shoe, covered in blood'". The Guardian.
  34. "Thundercat's Roar Emotion". Red Bull. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
  35. ""You've Gotta Laugh to Keep from Crying": An Interview with Thundercat". April 24, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  36. "Gear Rundown: Thundercat". Mixdown Magazine. June 8, 2021. Retrieved February 25, 2022.
  37. "TCB1006 | TCB | ELECTRIC BASSES | PRODUCTS". Ibanez guitars. Retrieved February 25, 2022.
  38. "Stephen 'Thundercat' Bruner | ARTISTS".
  39. "2015 GRAMMY WINNERS". Grammys. November 28, 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  40. "SoundExchange Presents The 2016 A2IM Libera Awards". Shore Fire Media. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  41. "2016 Winners". Libera Awards. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  42. "Nominees A2IM's Indie Music Libera Awards Announced [FULL LIST]". Hypebot. April 27, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  43. "A2IM Showcases Excellence at 2017 Libera Awards –". June 9, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  44. "2021 Nominees". Libera Awards. Retrieved June 14, 2021.