Birth name: Stephen Lee Bruner
Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA
October 19, 1984 – present
Years Active: 2000 – present
“Phenom,” “Prodigy,” “Virtuoso” – all common descriptions of the Grammy winning artist, Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner. Born in Los Angeles, California in 1984, Thundercat is renown for his masterful bass playing, resulting in numerous and high-profile recording sessions, touring work, and creative collaborations that began when he was still a teenager in the early 2000s. Since 2011, he has stepped to the front of the band stand, releasing four solo albums of music that encompass elements of R&B, Funk, Soul Jazz, Fusion, and Hip Hop.
Thundercat was raised in a musical family. His father, Ronald Bruner, Sr., is a noted drummer with a decades-long performing career, including stints playing with Diana Ross, the Temptations, award-winning Gospel artist, Helen Baylor, and many more. Thundercat’s brothers are also accomplished musicians. Ronald Jr. is a drummer and won a Grammy for his work with Jazz and Fusion legend, Stanley Clarke. Thundercat’s younger brother, Jameel, is a keyboardist and a member of the Grammy-nominated band, Internet.
Thundercat and his brother Ronald Jr. joined the Skate-Punk pioneers, Suicidal Tendencies in the early 2000s as the group’s new rhythm section. Around the same time, the two brothers toured in Stanley Clarke’s live band. Working with Clarke provided a connection with the West Coast Get Down, a vibrant collective of young jazz musicians in the Los Angeles music scene, including saxophonist Kamasi Washington. Branching out on his own, Thundercat began playing bass on releases and side projects for the experimental neo-Funk group Sa-Ra in the mid-2000s.
Through the association with Sa-Ra, Thundercat met Neo Soul titan Erykah Badu and the musician and record producer Steven “Flying Lotus” Ellison. Thundercat was recruited for Erykah Badu’s live band and subsequently played bass on several tracks for New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) album released in 2008. Thundercat and Flying Lotus established an immediate and deep professional and personal bond. Collaborating extensively with Flying Lotus over many years, Thundercat first appeared on Lotus’ Cosmogramma album in 2010.
With encouragement from Flying Lotus and having established a well-regarded reputation in the Los Angeles music scene and beyond, Thundercat began a solo career. Lotus signed Thundercat to the producer’s Brainfeeder label and the two artists worked together on the bassist’s first album. Released in 2011, The Golden Age of Apocalypse contained a diverse stylistic identity, with elements of R&B, Jazz, Fusion, and Soul blended together. That same year, Thundercat contributed bass to releases for Snoop Dogg and Ty Dolla $ign.
With an eclectic and captivating visual presentation borrowing heavily from the Afrofuturism aesthetic, Thundercat was soon being compared to Avant-garde Jazz master Sun Ra and Space Funk lord George Clinton. Thundercat’s second album, Apocalypse, also reflected a developing eclecticism in sound and was released in 2013. The next few years were filled with an abundance of recording session work, as Thundercat played on numerous releases by Mac Miller, Kendrick Lamar, and Terrace Martin. In particular, Thundercat’s performing and composing contributions on Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly earned him a Grammy in 2016 for Best Rap/Sung Performance on the track “These Walls.”
A third solo album, Drunk, was released in 2017 and featured vocal contributions from Soft Rock icon Kenny Loggins and R&B styled singer, Michael McDonald. In the years since, Thundercat has worked with underground rapper Danny Brown, multiinstrumentalist and producer Anderson .Paak, the unconventional Kali Uchis, Childish Gambino, supergroup N.E.R.D., and vocalist Janelle Monáe. A fourth album, It Is What It Is, was released in 2020 and features appearances from Childish Gambino and Ty Dolla $ign.