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.

Thundercat in 2018
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
DiscographyThundercat discography
Years active2000–present
Member ofWest Coast Get Down
Formerly ofSuicidal Tendencies

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

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

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

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




Year Title Role Notes
2022 The Book of Boba Fett Mod Artist Episodes 4, 7

Awards and nominations


Grammy Awards

Year Award Work Result Ref.
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

Year Award Work Result Ref.
2016 Heritage 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 Album Nominated
Creative Packaging Won
2021 Record of the Year It Is What It Is Nominated [44]
Best R&B Record Won


  1. ^ a b 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. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  3. ^ a b 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.
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  5. ^ "Rising: Thundercat | Features". Pitchfork. September 1, 2011. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
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  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.
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  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.
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  33. ^ Hutchinson, Kate (April 11, 2020). "Thundercat: 'I was always that guy missing a shoe, covered in blood'". The Guardian.
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  37. ^ "TCB1006 | TCB | ELECTRIC BASSES | PRODUCTS". Ibanez guitars. Retrieved February 25, 2022.
  38. ^ "Stephen 'Thundercat' Bruner | ARTISTS".
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