If like me you've been listening to nothing but Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly this week, then like me you've probably been blown away by the beauty of the album's sonics. What people are lazily describing as 'jazzy' or 'funky' is a real collage of sounds and influences from some of music's contemporary masters - and it's certainly not something I'm about to attempt now after only a few days to digest.
Flying Lotus Tweeted about Kendrick's role as a producer in the album, and I think it's really a credit to K. Dot to see the line-up of names like Thundercat and Terrace Martin reoccurring throughout the album credits. Given a similar situation the majority of artists would likely just reach out to all of the "hottest producers" and make a gang of radio bangers.
"He gets no credit for being a producer but he had a vision for this album. Dude gets involved w the whole process."
Thundercat in particular plays a big part in this record. The sonics that I struggle to describe here are also prevalent throughout his own Apocalypse. I vividly recall the day that I found out that the bassist had been working with Kendrick, I just didn't quite realise the extent of his involvement until I hit play on Monday. In fact those using the 'F' word to describe the record probably do so because of those infectious basslines laid throughout the record.
"This fool Thundercat is pretty much on the entire album. 🌟🌟🌟🌟✌️😭✌️"
It had been a terrible day weather-wise but I could see the sun beginning to show through as I sat, dry for the first time that day, in a portacabin as Thundercat shared with me the frustration of artists that he'd done session work for trying to use his name and credibility by crediting him as a feature. I posed the question, 'What's the difference?' And in his response he began to talk about Kendrick Lamar. From that moment, not necessarily his words, but through his enthusiasm, I knew that we were in for something very different this time around...
What is the line to you between a feature and just playing on the track?
There's definitive things like having a bass solo, but for me a feature would actually be me singing. I appreciate that people can recognise my sound. I actually had a very funny moment with Kendrick Lamar one time, it was quite recent, he's working on his new album right now and I'm doing a lot of new work with him on that. People would be sending him music, and it just happens, everybody starts sending music around and it gets travelling. And I remember he was rapping to this one song, going off about it, and he stopped for a second and I was totally silent about it because it's one of those things, you never know where I've been for the most part. So he goes, "Wait a minute, that's you playing isn't it!?" And I was like (nods). But it was from a whole different perspective, and he just sat there for a minute and was like, "Holy crap!" And it made the bond in the workspace a little more cohesive, because he was like, "You really are that person to some people. I see that now." And it allowed for him open up more to me and say what he wants to hear happen or the way he feels. A lot of the time people like to abuse that part of what I do. I've gotten better at saying no, for the sake of self-preservation almost.
How is the Kendrick album sounding then?
Ahh man. That dude is a powerhouse man. He's amazing, he's amazing, that's the best way to describe the guy. I've been working a bit with the TDE camp, I've been working with ScHoolboy - I actually played on 'Hoover Street' on his album, see what I mean, but it doesn't say 'featuring Thundercat' that for me feels a little better. It's nice if somebody knows that about the song, or I might say socially "Oh, I played on this song." But it didn't need to have my name attached to it, for it to be special or anything like that. I've been doing a little bit of work with SZA and Ab-Soul, and I actually went to High School with Jay Rock, so it's all in the family, it's still travelling. Within all of that I'm just happy to see that the music is still travelling and I'm happy that I can be a part of it.