Thundercat's "Drunk" gets Chopped, Reimagined as "Drank"
Houston DJ collective The Chopstars take on 2017’s Drunk
By James Cook
If you haven’t heard Thundercat yet, well, you probably have. The electric bass Master has been a funky pillar of a modern soul/jazz/hip-hop movement, supporting on records with Bilal, Erykah Badu, Kamasi Washington, and Childish Gambino, to name a few. Thundercat (Stephen Bruner, by birth) is most known for his work with the Brainfeed label’s founder, Flying Lotus, and with Kendrick Lamar, specifically on To Pimp A Butterfly, where Bruner won a Grammy for his work on “These Walls”.
Beyond his supporting work, Thundercat has carved himself a unique space in the soul scene with his solo albums. The latest release, 2017’s Drunk was rated by many as one of the must-hear albums of the year, with features from Pharrell, Kendrick Lamar, Kenny Loggins, and Michael McDonald. Later in 2017, a remixed version of Drunk showed up online by Houston DJ group, The Chopstars. Comprised of OG Ron C and DJ Candlestick, The Chopstars gave Drunk their “chopped-not-slopped” treatment and released it for free, as an ode to Thundercat’s successful album. Cat got a hold of it and insisted that his label, Brainfeeder, release the DJ mix of Drunk. The remix album, now entitled Drank, is out now online, and a double LP Vinyl pressing will release on March 16th, via Brainfeeder.
Drank starts with a grimed, down-tempo cut called “Rabbot Hoe”, where you first hear the DJs voice accompanying the chopped version. The Chopstars will add a few rap verses on this album, on songs like “Weakstyle” and “Inferno”. Those verses fit well and add a Texas Hip Hop feel that’s great over Bruner’s arranging. Drank has a few moments where The Chopstars repeat a particularly smooth section and morph Thundercat’s tracks into legit Hip Hop instrumentals. Here’s to hoping that we hear Drank sampled on some verses in the future. While on the subject, Drunk’s “Drink Dat”, featuring Wiz Khalifa, remains mostly intact on Drank. The Chopstars stone-y atmosphere still can’t save Wiz’s verse on the track which is, for me, the lowest point of either album. Khalifa’s addition, reminding us all of how much he enjoys marijuana, molly, and partying, shouldn’t deter anyone from Drank, but, c’mon? It had to stay?
Thundercat has built his career, not only on his other worldy bass skills, but on the community of artists he associates himself with. The show of appreciation towards The Chopstars, having Drank come out as a physical LP release, is another example of his affinity for collaboration. Similar to some of this other releases, Drank was made accessible to fans early and often. If nothing else, it shows that Bruner is more concerned with his fans than squeezing every dollar out of them.
Overall, Drank is a rare and mellow addition to the funky modern universe Thundercat is creating for us. The Chopstars don’t create any singles, but instead pair down Drunk to its chillest self. Tracks are slow and tuned down, existing in a stoned sub-verse of Hip Hop reserved mostly for its Southern variations. DJ Candlestick and OG Ron C have taken their chopped style outside of straight Hip Hop before, and that creative approach transcends again here. Drank’s atmosphere is consistently clean and smooth. While some songs remain similar in structure, the whole album is mixed with recognizable moments of Drunk. I found myself entertained by Drank itself, as well as ready to go back and explore Drunk. Fans of Thundercat, as well as trippy, laid-back DJs like Flying Lotus will feel right at home with this sound. You can find the album at thundercat.ink.to/drank, and out on Vinyl on March 16th, via Brainfeeder. Thundercat will also be back on tour this Spring/Summer, starting May 25th at Sasquatch Festival, in George, WA.