Thundercat meets host Sama’an Ashrawi at the campfire to tell the story of how hearing Flying Lotus’ “Massage Situation” in a laundromat as a teen changed his life forever. Only on The Nostalgia Mixtape.
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Thundercat: This is Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner and… I’m not an alcoholic any more.
Sama’an: That’s some good news.
Sama’an: That’s some really good news.
Thundercat: Fuck, Sama’an, I mean, I get it, you’re from Palestine, you can count, god damnit!
Sama’an: Oooo I am so excited about this episode.
Sama’an: Season 2! Been a long time comin!
Sama’an: By the way, can I just flex for one second? Just like a tiny little flex? It’s not weird, I promise. Y’all know I co-produced the chopped and screwed version of Thundercat’s album Drunk, right? It’s called Drank. Shoutout to DJ Candlestick and OG Ron C. Lemme just play you a little cut off of that really quick. It’s called “Tokyo.” It’s my favorite song from the chopped and screwed version, it’s like the one you can really dance to. You know what I mean?
Sama’an: By the way, we need money to keep the lights on. You know, we gave you the first season, so many illustrious guests, all for free. Technically, this season is gonna be free, too, but if you wanna help us pay the bills, head on over to thenostalgiamixtape.com, look for the donate button, and you’ll get a link to PayPal, Venmo… Anything you can give would be much appreciated, and, if you’re interested in sponsoring an episode of this season, hit us up at [email protected] — we can talk that out with you too.
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My name is Sama’an Ashrawi, you’re listening to The Nostalgia Mixtape, and today we’ve got one of the sweetest, most loving people: Thundercat. If you don’t know, you actually probably do — he’s a Grammy-Winning bass player, singer, and songwriter who you’ve probably heard playing on songs by Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu, Childish Gambino, Janelle Monae, Jhene Aiko, Schoolboy Q, Mac Miller, and N*E*R*D* among many many more.
Just a heads up that from the 46:00 mark to the 60:00 mark, our conversation dips into topics of depression and suicide, so, if that’s something that’s a bit triggering for you, no hard feelings at all, feel free to skip ahead.
Also, heads up, if you hear the Wayne’s World flashback sound [mouth noises] … that means we’re doing a flashback. Just so you know. Just so you have the heads up.
Onto Thundercat… We met through Hannibal Buress in the Spring of 2014, and, after that, we’d see each other at things around Los Angeles, but, I think it was after we did our first interview, at the end of that year, that we really kind of clicked. This time around, we were sitting down again — only at his new apartment. Tron was there too. Thundercat wasn’t wearing any pants, and I think you can hear that if you listen close enough. Actually, what I learned is that: no pants makes for a better interview. That’s what that taught me. Also I had an asthma attack in the middle of the interview, but Thunder nursed me back to health with some tea. Thank you, Thunder. I cut out the asthma attack, but, if you really wanna hear it, hit me up on Twitter or Instagram, and maybe I’ll share it if you ask nicely.
Anyway, I’m really excited about today’s episode. We go high, we go low — emotionally, I mean — but, to get there, we gotta go way back to high school, and we gotta meet that version of Thundercat.
So, let’s give him the keys to the time machine, and let him take us away.
Thundercat: Hey this is Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner and you’re listening to The Nostalgia Mixtape.
Sama’an: And what song do you wanna talk about today?
Thundercat: What song I w— the song I wanna talk about today is: Flying Lotus “Massage Situation.”
Sama’an: Beautiful, let’s get into it.
Thundercat: Yeah yeah.
Thundercat: Tron’s in the background cleaning her ass.
Sama’an: Good. [laughs] As she should.
Chapter 1: The Ghost of Marvin Gaye
Sama’an: Before we get into this actual story, can you tell me like what year this is? About how old you are…?
Thundercat: Okay, let me try to remember…
Sama’an: One of those details…
Thundercat: If it was me folding clothes in the house, I had to be…. in high school. Still living with my dad and mom. So, I wanna, say… folding clothes… somewhere between the age of 17 to 19.
Sama’an: Is that like… early, mid-2000s? Somewhere in there?
Thundercat: Well, I could try to count right now but…
Thundercat: I failed algebra like the first year of high school — no, umm… let’s see… good god.
Thundercat: Fuck, Sama’an, I mean, I get it, you’re from Palestine, you can count — god damnit.
Thundercat: Fuck! Lemme see… I don’t know how to do this. I graduated high school 2001, but I graduated early.
Thundercat: So I graduated when I was like 17 or something. I’m thinking… this had to be when Lotus was an intern at Stones Throw. Somewhere in there, maybe a couple years off.
Sama’an: And who is this version of you? I never got to meet that version of you… Who are you? Talk to me about where you’re at mentally.
Thundercat: A young me. I’m kinda touring with all these different artists at the time. Kinda making not a lot of money but a bit of money. I’m playing at Piano Bar every Wednesday and Friday with Kamasi and Ronald and Cameron and Ryan and Tibbs.
Sama’an: Mhm. You did that for a long time.
Thundercat: For years… Yeah. For quite some time. It was a place that kept us playing. Bar in the middle of Hollywood, M.I. [Musicians Institute] is down the street, kids would get out of class and come watch us play and then come sit in and shit like that, you know. Yeah. Hmm. I was kind of a… I wasn’t a mama’s boy, but I was a good kid to some degree, other than the massive, copious amounts of alcohol I would consume. I was very much similar. Still into cartoons, still only wanted to watch cartoons, and very much into jazz fusion like I am now. I think I had gotten my first car at this point.
Sama’an: Were you still working at the comic book shop?
Sama’an: This is post…
Thundercat: This is wayyyy after that.
[00:08:59] [2016 interview clip]
Sama’an: How old were you when you worked at the comic book shop?
Thundercat: Good god. That was my sixth seventh, and eighth grade years.
Sama’an: What? In middle school?
Thundercat: Yeah. People be thinking I’m joking like I’m a bandwagon comic book guy. Like, “Yeah, Marvel!” Like, no, I’m one of those guys that gets pissed. “They’re doin’ it WRONG!” Like full on Walter from Big Lebowski…
Sama’an: Over the line!
Thundercat: Over the line!
Sama’an: This is not, ’Nam… there are rules…
Thundercat: Right. There are rules, Smokey.
Thundercat: I worked at a comic store for a few years, and I remember they used to pay me forty dollars cash and forty dollars store credit, and I would spend my money, very stupidly, just like I do now… They’d be like, “Why don’t you save up and get one of the bigger things in the store?” Because back then the bigger things in the store were like the Dragonzord, the Megazord and the Dragonzord from Power Rangers, when they changed over to the… when they went from the regular Zords to the different ones that were the ninja…
Sama’an: The next generation…
Thundercat: Yeah. I didn’t want any of those, those were stupid.
Sama’an: I dropped off after the first, the original, was like the one…
Thundercat: I remember the epic episode with the Green Ranger, and I remember the episode when he turned into the White Ranger.
Sama’an: There was a certain game you said that you had to like…
Thundercat: Oh, cut the back side out!
Sama’an: Yeah! Cut the back side out!
Thundercat: Oh dude, that was when Super Nintendo— God, Jeeesus! You don’t feel old until you talk about systems that… I got another moment that’s just gonna make you feel old as fuck… But umm… Okay so back then, you had Super Nintendo, but the Japanese version was FamCom. They would always do little slight things to make it difficult to use the disc from another country, so there was this thing that nobody really knew you could do… There were these grooves in the back of the cartridge on Super Nintendo… There weren’t grooves in the back of the cartridges of the FamComs games…
Sama’an: So did you make your own grooves?
Thundercat: No. What you could do. Well, you could try to go about it that way, but what you could do is take a hot coat hanger, and you would sear off the things in the back. You open the tray for Super Nintendo and then just sear off the little things in the back, and then just put the FamCom and it would work like normal…
Thundercat: … but it would be in Japanese.
Sama’an: Was this something that people knew about?!
Thundercat: You’d struggle like a muthafucka.
Sama’an: You and your friends had that as like a secret thing?
Thundercat: Well, no… I think every other game system other than the new game systems always had a hack. So Xbox… you remember you could pay someone $500 and they would download all the games into Xbox.
Thundercat: You don’t remember that?!
Sama’an: Like the original Xbox?
Thundercat: Yeah, the first Xbox, the green and black one.
Thundercat: [to Flying Lotus] You remember when you had Super Nintendo and you’d have to cut the things out to make the Japanese games work?
Flying Lotus: What?
Thundercat: [repeats himself]
Flying Lotus: Nah I didn’t do that.
Thundercat: But you remember the Xbox…
Flying Lotus: [laughs] Yeah.
Sama’an: How did people find out about that?
Thundercat: You just had that one homeboy that was ratchet as fuck!
Flying Lotus: Soldering irons and shit. [laughs]
Thundercat: Remember — was it DreamCast or PlayStation? It was PlayStation where you had to put the spring in, let the Playstation load up, and then take it out, then put the Japanese game in…
Sama’an: Nope.. I was doin’ it all wrong.
Thundercat: Dude we were bootlegging the FUCK outta shit when we were kids.
Thundercat: We were ratchet as fuck. Early internet technology and shit? We were like, “What is this? Computer chips? We can break these motherfuckers!” And… they did. That’s what you would do, though. You know, you’d do that little thing like that, you’d be the one kid, and everybody would wanna play… “Oh he’s got DragonBallZ on Super Nintendo!” Nobody could read [the Japanese].
You’d try to navigate… “I figured out that if you press this and press it again, you get to the fighting screen. So we can fight, but I don’t know what comes after fighting.”
There was no “Continue,” so you didn’t know what the hell to do.
[END OF FLASHBACK]
Thundercat: I don’t know… it was like I was living with my parents. I moved out around that time, that was riiiight around the time I moved out. Early 20s. Actually, late… like 19, 20, 21 was when I moved outta the house.
Sama’an: So if you can think about…
Thundercat: What I was on back then?
Sama’an: Goin’ back to the laundromat… Please tell me what you were on back then.
Thundercat: Shooooot. Let’s see.. Let’s go to the year. What year did we say that was? Two thousand…
Sama’an: Four? 2003-2005 time frame.
Thundercat: Gino Vannelli Gist of the Gemini, for sure. ’02-’05. These are so specific. I remember when I got my car, I remember when I was rollin’ around…
Sama’an: What kinda car was it?
Thundercat: It was a Ford Explorer. The first car I bought was a Ford Focus, but I smashed it the first day…
Thundercat: I bought it from my parents, the first day I get my permit, I wrap it around a telephone pole… So we got another car for them, but, then my first car was a Ford Explorer, black Ford Explorer. I remember that Ford Explorer was awesoooome. I would go to Amazon and just stock up on stuff. I was listening to Gino Vannelli, Gist of the Gemini, Brother to Brother. I was also listening to Storm at Sun Up (Gino Vannelli). Powerful People. I was listening to Prince… There was specific Prince tunes I was listening to… I was listening to… what is it on Purple Rain? Let me see… “The Beautiful Ones…”
Thundercat: [to Tron] Get offa my jacket, crusty.
Thundercat: “The Beautiful Ones…” Listening to [Prince’s] “My Love Is Forever.” Ya know? Listening to the self-titled album, listening to… this is when I was digging for specific albums and different stuff. I was listening to Parliament. Junie Morrison. Mutiny, Jerome Bailey. I was one of those guys that was digging in record stacks and stuff like that.
Sama’an: If you were gonna go cruisin’ in the Explorer…
Thundercat: Gino Vannelli. Gino Vannelli for sure. Through and through.
Thundercat: Yeah, man. Billy Cobham, George Duke.
Sama’an: I’ve been wanting to ask you about George Duke because he has this song called “Love” ….
Thundercat: Yeah! [sings it]
Sama’an: I’ve always heard so much of you in that song!
Thundercat: Yeah, man! That’s what I grew up with!
Sama’an: Oh, man…
Thundercat: That was… That’s what I come from. My dad would listen to that in the house. Faces in Reflection was the album, man. “Love” is from Feel, but Faces in Reflection was like… golden in the house.
Sama’an: And what part of town were they living in?
Thundercat: We lived in Western Heights. We lived behind the house where Marvin Gaye’s dad shot him and killed him.
Sama’an: Holy shit…
Thundercat: Yeah. We lived on the adjacent corner. Gramercy and and 20th.
Thundercat: Yeah. And we lived on the side of a person’s house. It was pretty trippy.
Sama’an: Holy shit, man. [laughs]
Thundercat: Real historical landmark. Anybody that moved in there always talked about it was haunted. Pretty wild… We would watch people move in and out of there. It was a big, massive house too. Right on the freeway overpass, pretty trippy. I remember my dad would wash clothes late because he would get off work in the afternoon, and then he’d get home and my mom would have a shit ton of stuff to do [laughs] like he didn’t get off work.
Sama’an: [laughs] Right.
Thundercat: So one of ‘em would be washing clothes.
Thundercat: Literally I remember when we had to go wash clothes it was a pet peeve. It’s just too, too much. Especially you have four, five artistic people in the house. It’s just… clothes everywhere. Nonetheless… My dad makes this giant laundry bag of… I don’t remember if we were washing whites or colors… I think we were washing a gang of stuff, but it was terrible nonetheless.
Thundercat: It was like, I loved going with my dad places to do stuff because we’d argue about Batman versus the X-Men.
Sama’an: You probably loved that. Oh my gosh.
Thundercat: Yeah, it was great.
Sama’an: Where did your dad stand in the debate? Where were you?
Thundercat: Oh, my dad’s a Batman guy through and through.
Thundercat: But I didn’t see it when I was a kid. I was like, “Batman’s annoying. He doesn’t have any super powers!”
Thundercat: “Wolverine would kill him with one arm. One swipe!” My dad would be like, “That’s not the point, Stephen!” you get older and become a man and you’re like, “Batman is the guy.”
Chapter 2: The Laundromat Situation
Thundercat: Like, “Oh, okay, I get Batman. He’s a man. He’s a man’s man.” He does what he does and he has no help. But umm… I remember we went to the 24-hour laundromat. I used to be pissed, like, “Why does mom like this? Why do we have to go do laundry right now?” Clearly it’s like, you know, things that have to be done.
Thundercat: In there me and my dad would sit and talk about everything. We’d talk about life. I think my older brother was out the house at this point, too. We would talk about life, music, God, girls, all kinds of stuff. My dad was a huge Miles Davis fan, so he’d always be preaching the gospel of Miles. I’d be like, “Shut up, Dad!” He’d be like, “Miles Davis is Batman.” I was like “[makes displeased sound with mouth].”
Thundercat: I remember how much disdain I had for washing clothes, and I remember one moment… We used to go to the laundromat a whole lot, so the people at the laundromat were not like… They knew who… ya know…
Sama’an: You were regulars.
Thundercat: Yeah. So they let us change the channel when it would be late at night when nobody was there. Because it was like… nobody’s in here. They had like a Marvel vs. CapCom machine and a side machine on the outside. There was a Carl’s Jr. across the street, me and my dad would go get chicken sandwiches and a soda, and I remember they would let us watch Adult Swim on Cartoon Network.
Sama’an: Wow. Y’all kinda ran that place.
Thundercat: [laughs] Yeah, like, late nights: the Bruner Men took over the laundromat.
Thundercat: No joke, man. I’ll never forget. I used to have aaall kinds of weird feelings when I was younger, things that I wouldn’t necessarily want to share…
Thundercat: …but I would be all over the place, and I remember this is when the format had changed and [Adult Swim] started having bumpers. They had these bumpers. They had the one that was like, “No kids allowed in the pool, Adult Swim!” That went through the whole night til the end and then they had the little cartoon cartoon or whatever. But at this point, I didn’t know who Flying Lotus was or anything. I remember there was a bumper that came up that had like this black and white coat room and it just said “coat room” and it was just like a… it looks like one of those newsrooms from the 50s where it’s kind of like a shaded glass. Looks like somebody’s office or something and it just said “coat room.” It was black and white and the beat was playing like it was on a transistor radio or something, like on the record, and then it kicks in real hard. And I remember I was just stuck.
Thundercat: I was staring at the TV and I was like, “Whoever this is, they get it.” I’ll never forget it.
Sama’an: Instantly made sense to you.
Thundercat: Everything made sense. I was like, “Wow, there’s a guy that gets it.” I didn’t know him!
Thundercat: I was like, “What the hell is this song?” It was so random how they would show it. They would show it more back then… I remember just this feeling of like… everything was a little less terrible.
Thundercat: I was totally into like, you know, again, jazz fusion, progression — still am — and I remember hearing the coat rack song and it took me a while to realize… You know the beat scene out here is very… it goes in different… ages. You got your guys like House Shoes and all that, and then Coleman, these are friends and family. Then the younger guys are like Lotus and stuff like that, and I was coming into the knowledge of that, you know? Me and Lotus had been friends for ages before I realized… “You made the coat rack song!”
Thundercat: I was like, “Duuuude!” And he was like, “Oh yeah!” I was like “Aawww!”
Sama’an: Awww shit.
Thundercat: I was like, “We were supposed to be friends, mannn.”
Thundercat: And we are still to this day, closest of friends.
Sama’an: And that was “Massage Situation?”
Sama’an: Same thing.. Okay, with the coat rack. Gotchya.
Thundercat: That was the “Massage Situation” song.
Chapter 3: Stephen meets Steven
Sama’an: So what was the journey from there to getting to be friends with him?
Thundercat: Hmm. You know. I still to this day only watch cartoons. I only watch Cartoon Network. Even if I hate it, I’ll cut the PlayStation on, but I’ll never change it from Cartoon Network — because of that.
Thundercat: Yeah. It was just one of the most inspirational moments in my life. And, when we fast forward… At that age I was working with the likes of Sa-Ra Creative Partners and J*Davey, George Muldrow, Mos Def… that was a specific era in my life. That’s where I met Ty Dolla Sign.
Thundercat: Yeah! We all worked in the same house. And Erykah [Badu] of course.
Thundercat: I remember it was a specific moment — because I always talk about it every now and again — the moment I actually met him. I had known about him through… After I find out about the “Massage Situation” stuff, like, “Oh, okay, that’s this guy.” … “Tea Leaf Dancers,” this is amazing. They’re playing him on KCRW every night. Ya know? Like… Who is this guy? He’s dope.
Thundercat: I’m at SXSW. This is when I was involved in the group J*Davey. J*Davey at that point was Brook and Briana. I would just be there. I was like Batgirl: just come on and stage and play bass. I would just be at all the shows… “Aaaand Stephen on bass.” But we were at SXSW and Brook is one of my favorite artists. Brook… he protects something. He keeps it weird, man. I still don’t anybody like Brook D’Leau. We were walking in the middle of the street, it was like a hundred degrees, and they were talking shit because I was wearing like a full-on varsity jacket with a sweater.
Thundercat: Because I was just like, “Fashion is life, bitch.”
Thundercat: I was like, “You can’t tell me shit.” I’m puttin this hoodie on and these glasses; I got these snow boots on and some weird cat hat. It’s just like, “Faaa-shun!” I’m fightin passin out in the middle of SXSW and Brook’s vegan and he’s just like, “You could wear all that if you just change it—“ And I’m like, “Shut up, Brook!” And we’re walkin’ in the middle of the street in south by and Lotus comes walkin up, he’s like the sketchiest guy, he’s like Freddie Kruger, he’s got his Kangol hat to the side with a purple v-neck shirt and cargo shorts with some Supras. He’s got his Ray-Bans on and he’s just real sus.
Thundercat: So Brook knew who he was, I didn’t know who he was, and Brook goes, “Oh, you guys have to meet.” I was just like, [straight man voice] “Oh, okay. Hello!” He’s like, “This is Flying Lotus,” and I was just like, “Aaahhhh.” And [Brook] is like, “This is Thundercat.” And it was like, “Okay.”
Sama’an: Both of y’all were kind of familiar…?
Thundercat: Yeah we knew of each other’s work.
Thundercat: It was one of those moments that was kind of like, “Nice to meet you, man. Huge fan of your work.” And [Lotus] was like, “I know of your work! It’s cool.” And we exchanged numbers, and we didn’t talk at first. Just kind of exchanged numbers and were like, “Whatever.” This is when I lived in Encino at the time…
Sama’an: [deep voice] ENCINOOO
Thundercat: Encino Man, bruh.
Thundercat: Crusty-ass Encino. And one day I’m sittin’ around makin’ music and I’m like, “Man let me hit this guy up.” And he answers the phone and, you know, it’s rare now!
Sama’an: Very rare.
Thundercat: But uh, he answers his phone, and I’m like, “Send me some stuff to work on.” Walkin’ around the house lookin’ like an idiot in the middle of the day because that’s what musicians do. You think we’re busy, we’re not busy. We’re just sitting at the house jackin’ off, tryna act like you’re lookin’ for something, like Benjamin Franklin standing outside with a key tryna get hit by an electric shock. We’re all fuckin’ sittin’ here really, really self-loathing and masturbating and just literally repenting. Just like, “I’m a piece of shit!”
Like, “Why didn’t you answer your phone yesterday?”
“I… uh… I was working…”
“No, you were masturbating.”
Sama’an: Some days it’s a fuckin’ struggle, man.
Thundercat: [laughs] Still got your hoodie on, get some on your shoe, and then you gotta clean your shoe.
Um! No, but, we… I’m like, “Yo, send some stuff over.” He sends the first thing that we ever worked on together which is “Zodiac Shit.”
Sama’an: Oh Wow.
Thundercat: He sent over the song and then the second half of it was kinda like… He was like, “I don’t know what to add here.” And immediately I was like, “I know exactly what to add.” I was like, “Thank you for sending me something to even…” No joke, nothing about it changed or anything, that’s exactly what everybody hears on the album. The first time we met [musically] was that song and he just left it as is.
Sama’an: Oh wow.
Thundercat: I sent it back the same day he sent it and he was like, “Dude, where are you at?” And I was like “Yeah let’s hang out, let’s get to work, man.”
He gives me his address and he lives right down the fuckin’ street from me.
Sama’an: In Encinco…
Thundercat: The stupidest moment. It’s like some Dude Where’s My Car shit. It’s like, “I’m on my way!” Put it in the GPS and it’s like, “Make a right here. You have arrived.”
Thundercat: We both were like, “We’re idiots.” The crazy thing was, my manager reminds me that he was there. I don’t remember him being there, but he says he was there. This alcohol plays tricks on you. But I remember walking in to meet him and I think it was one of the greatest days of my life, man.
Thundercat: He’s got his desk facing the wall with no mirror, no TV. Blunt guts on everything. Computer chock-full of blunt guts, fuckin’ insane. On top of his refrigerator he had a bottle of, was it Belvedere? I think it was Grey Goose. I guess he had a party the night before or something, or had some residual party juice, so I asked him, “Can I make myself a drink?” He’s like, “Sure.” And I go make a drink and I pour a whole entire red cup of Grey Goose. He’s got a blunt in his mouth and he’s looking at me like, “For real, man?” And I was like, “Hey, man… You see how many bongs you have laying around the table?”
Sama’an: Same shit.
Thundercat: I always had this theory about the smoker and the drinker.
Thundercat: I feel like they tend to find each other. There’s all these guys who are like, “You gotta do both!” And I’m like, “Nah, you know when there’s a drinker and you know when there’s a smoker.”
Thundercat: We just tend to find each other. Ya know? Sure enough, that was the moment. He pulled up “Pickled,” I think. It was either “Clock [Catcher]” or “Pickled.” And we just went to hell. Immediately. Just complete oblivion.
Thundercat: It’s been the same ever since. Ups and downs, it’s been about a decade, and here we are, still arguing about little shit.
Thundercat: We still are like that, ya know? It’s a little different, but, nonetheless, the same.
Sama’an: Do you feel like — that moment in the laundromat or the first couple times y’all collaborated — do you feel like the way that you play changed in any of those moments? Or have you always played the same?
Thundercat: I’ve always tried to put my best foot forward when it comes to playing. I never try to downplay anything. Molding to the stuff is always the thing, but there’s so many options and so many possibilities, it’s like, you try to explore them. I wouldn’t just settle for something that would be a comfort zone. I’m always kind of thinking in a different way I guess, trying to push it into a different existence. Yeah.
Chapter 4: The Aristocats go to Compton
Sama’an: I got three questions for you; two kinda silly, one kinda series. What do you want first?
Thundercat: Oh man, I’m always with the silly stuff.
Sama’an: We’ll sandwich it, we’ll do silly-serious-silly.
Sama’an: First silly question is: if someone gave you the power to rewrite The Aristocats…
Sama’an: [laughs] Who ya casting? What’s the plot gonna be like? We can come up with right now.
Thundercat: Oh my gosh… I can’t even remember all their names, but, if you had to ask me a cast? Let’s see… let’s go with some cat-like guys. I got Smino here, Smino is definitely one of the Aristocats. Eric Andre, for sure. Who’s another weird, cat-like jackass I know? Who keeps doing sneaky, weird stuff? [laughs] That’s a good question.
Thundercat: Lakeith Stanfield.
Sama’an: Hell yeah! Lakeith is in that shit for SURE!
Thundercat: [laughs] He’s the man, dude. Lakeith is our guy. He’s cool. For sure Donald [Glover].
Sama’an: Yeah yeah yeah. He’s a cat.
Thundercat: One of those weird, temperamental motherfuckers. In the most beautiful way, man. Who’s another one? SZA. Because she acts like a cat in real life. Makes you wanna throw a boot at her.
Thundercat: [laughs] [thinks long and hard] Crusty Cat Crew. That’s all I can think of right now.
Sama’an: What kinda shit are y’all gettin’ into in this movie?
Thundercat: I feel like it would be like The Aristocats in 1992 in Compton or something.
Sama’an: Okay [laughs]
Thundercat: It would just be like a bunch of fucking in-fighting. The music in the background would be like [laughs] it would be great. Like the soundtrack is great, but it would just be a bunch of violence. Like, literally just cats fighting for an hour and a half and then the credits. A lot of police sirens, almost getting hit by a car. Every fight is like both of y’all almost getting hit by cars. And then the credits just start rolling.
Thundercat: [singing] Ev-ry-body wants to [horn noises] [laughs]
Thundercat: Lakeith smoking cigarettes as a cat, standing on two feet, none of it makes sense.
Thundercat: Like, why is this cat on two feet and the other ones are just… violent and cussing each other out?
Thundercat: I don’t think Zack Fox is a cat person. Zack Fox would be one of the dogs.
Sama’an: He can still be IN the movie…
Thundercat: Yeah, he’d be in the movie but he’d be one of the dogs.
Sama’an: Right, right, right.
Thundercat: One of them dogs that can’t tell the difference between a cat and a dog, and keeps trying to fuck one of the cats.
Thundercat: That would be Zack in The Aristocats.
Thundercat: Like, [whispers] “Yo… That’s not… This is wrong…” [laughs]
Thundercat: This is wrong! He keeps flirting with cats in the movie. It’s like, what are you doing?! He’s like a pitbull with like three teeth. [laughs]
Sama’an: Like “Why does Zack keep tryna fuck these cats?”
Thundercat: Right. “Why does this pitbull keep tryna fuck these stray cats?” [laughs] That’d be Zack Fox in the movie.
Thundercat: Oh! And Quinta Brunson!
Thundercat: That’s who would be in that too. Quinta Brunson. Probably saying her last name wrong.
Sama’an: I could see her as a cat.
Thundercat: She’d be a cat-person.
Thundercat: As Tron slowly lurches over, looking for her role in the movie.
Sama’an: [to Tron] Tron, you wanna be in The Aristocats?
Thundercat: No, she just wants to be in the conversation.
Thundercat: [to Tron] It’s cool, you are in the conversation.
Chapter 5: How to be Depressed
Sama’an: So I got an email like maybe a week or two ago from like a really close friend of mine. Obviously not going to say their name, but, I got an email from a really close friend of mine, basically saying, “I’m super depressed right now, this is like the lowest I’ve ever been. It’s not an emergency, but…” He had all of our friends CC’d on an email.
Sama’an: He was just like, “I want y’all to know where I’m at. You don’t need to call anyone, but…”
Thundercat: Oh man…
Sama’an: “…it’s worse than it’s ever been.”
Thundercat: It’s deep. Yeah, it’s deep.
Sama’an: I know he’s been dealing with it for a long time, but it’s never been this bad before, and I’m kind of wondering, from you, what the fuck do you do, man?
Thundercat: What do you do?
Sama’an: What do you as someone who may have been very sad before? And what do you want your friends to do?
Thundercat: Well, there’s a couple different answers to that. Ya know… I grew up Christian, man, and there’s a part of it where you know to call on God for help. You always have to realize that there’s something more there. Always. That’s one. Two: Step back for a second. Like, really do it. Remove yourself for a second and give it a moment and realize that it is what it is. Take it in. Take the terrible in. There’s no way around it a lot of the time. But you can’t let it eat you up. Not totally.
Umm… reaching out to friends is important.
Sama’an: I’m glad he did that, for sure.
Thundercat: You gotta say something. You have to say something. Even if you can’t tell what it is, it’s better out than in. It’s so important. Personally, you gotta start trying to do things that make you happy. Doesn’t matter. It’s like damage repair. Time heals stuff sometimes, but you gotta take that moment. You gotta take a moment to breathe. Because it’s not like it gets easier sometimes, you just have to knuckle up, and when you don’t feel like you can, which why you get to these places, you have to try to lean on the things that you know that actually will help you. That’s what I’ve had to do at times. I find myself, a good example would be: I always loved comic books ever since I was a kid. So I buy comic books. Music has always been something that I’ll lean into because it can be therapeutic. That’s just part of it. I’m not a person that fully understands stuff like that and grief and being in that place, but we’re all here with that same pain in different droves in different waves and different levels and stuff like that. So, even if you feel like you’re alone, you really aren’t. That’s why it’s important to say something. Nobody will understand what you’re going through like you understand it, but that’s why you have to take a moment to step back.
Sama’an: Yeah. And what helps from your friends? What’s helpful for you?
Thundercat: What’s helpful for me? Is when my friends leave me the fuck alo— no I’m just kidding [laughs.]
Thundercat: Just like, “Leave me the fuck alone!”
Sama’an: “I’m spiraling!”
Thundercat: Right, “I’m having a hard time. Don’t talk to me!” No. [laughs] Well I guess what helps me with my friends is just… empathy. Or trying to understand. That’s all I could ever ask because that’s all we have other than love that we can give each other. Other than that, it’s like weird, in my opinion I guess. Because we go through it and sometimes as a friend you’re not always the best friend, or whatever the case is, but you gotta get it out. And it takes its time.
Sama’an: Yeah. With this friend of mine. The best thing that we can do — because this friend has episodes and swings…
Thundercat: Yeah yeah yeah.
Sama’an: The best thing we can do is just go do something together.
Thundercat: Yeah, man! You gotta get out of it. You know? I’ve watched a few of my friends pass away over the last few years and I’ll never forget… This is a pretty trippy story, but, I had one specific friend… One of the most amazing saxophonists… One of the most amazing saxophonists ever. In my opinion. Especially from LA. Zane Musa. You have your friends you talk to a lot and your friends you don’t talk to a lot of the time but you’ve known each other so long you already are always on… and before he passed away… he committed suicide… and before he passed away he reached out that he needed help. Ya know? I remember we were in the session for Kendrick Lamar’s “Mortal Man.” They were doing the strings for it and everything, tryna finish up these certain areas of the album, and in the session a couple of us got text messages from Zane. He had reached out for help, but, by the time he had reached out for help, he was already one and a half feet out the door, and he killed himself within a short period of time of reaching out. It was devastating. We had to stop, take a break, and try to in your mind… what you do? What are you supposed to say? All I could take from that moment was that it doesn’t get any easier, but you gotta say something, and you gotta get to it quick. Whatever you gotta do to get to it.
Thundercat: It still haunts… it still sticks with me. But it’s like: Do something else. Try something else. Think different.
Thundercat: That’s all you can do sometimes. But it was one of those moments where it was like his last…. He was like, “I just need somebody to talk to.” It was one of those moments where the weight hit so much harder because I didn’t even realize he was there. If I would’ve, I would’ve… you know. So… Yeah. Say something and then get out of there. It’s too hot. Whatever it is, whatever you think it is, take it out of your mind. There was a saying we used to have in the Sa-Ra house: “Get out of your mind. Get. Out. Of. Your. Mind.” Like… get outta here [points to head] and come out here. That’s where a lot of the problems sometimes stem from, I think. Get to tickin in here.
Sama’an: You get too inside your own head.
Thundercat: Yeah. That’s when you feel like you’re by yourself sometimes. Then you come out here and you realize: no. It’s not just me. And you need that.
Thundercat: And umm… Yeah, man. I’m sorry to hear that.
Sama’an: I appreciate you talkin’ about it with me, man, because it actually helps. It really helps. So, thank you.
Thundercat: Yeah, it’s like. Hmm. Yeah.
Sama’an: Soon as I get back to Texas, first thing I’m gonna do is hit him up and be like… Let’s go do something.
Thundercat: Yeah, man. Go do something different.
[Tron jumps onto a chair]
Thundercat: What the hell are you doin’ Tron? Enjoying the leather jacket? Is that what this is, Craig?
Sama’an: [laughs] Aww.
Thundercat: What is this, huh? You gonna open one of the packages?
Sama’an: Tron is… standing on Pride Rock right now.
Thundercat: Yeah. My pile of clothes.
Sama’an: … which is your pile of clothes.
Thundercat: Gotta make sure she doesn’t pee on anything.
Chapter 6: Fashion is Life, Bitch!
Sama’an: But to bring it back to the funny… Hopefully to end on a funny note… One of my lasting memories of you, that I’ll carry with me for all my life, is running into you at LAX, and literally we ended up in the security line behind each other. Don’t know if you have any recollection of this. I didn’t realize ’til we got to the conveyor belts but you literally had brought with you just an entire knight’s armor.
Thundercat: I just was carrying knight’s armor.
Sama’an: I remember lookin’ at you, and lookin’ at the belt, and lookin’ at the TSA agents. [laughs]
Thundercat: [laughs] Oh my god.
Thundercat: Amazing. That’s like the old die-hard, “From my cold, dead hands.” Just like… I’m carrying medieval armor with me through the airport.
Sama’an: And you just looked at me like it was totally normal, like, “Aahh, day-in-the-life.”
Thundercat: Yeah, it’s just what it is, bruh. It’s just how it works.
Sama’an: Do you still have the knight suit?
Thundercat: Oh yes. Yesss.
Sama’an: Okay, where did you get that from? I gotta know.
Thundercat: Hey, man, it’s even worse now. There’s all kinda lil’ weird stuff laying around here.
Thundercat: Where did I get that from?
Sama’an: Yeah. [laughs]
Thundercat: That was a custom-made piece off of, which is one of the best websites in the world, Etsy. You meet some real artists on Etsy, man. Some good cats. It was literally made to fit. I was just like, “There’s nowhere else to carry this.” I was like, “You know what? I don’t care. I’ll just carry it through the airport.” It just doesn’t matter. I’m gonna put it once I get through security. It just doesn’t matter.
Sama’an: It would’ve been funnier if you were wearing it and you were like, “So, do I take the belt off or…?”
Thundercat: Like, “Are you gonna really make me do this right now?”
Thundercat: But I will always… Thats, again… fashion.
Sama’an: Fashion. Since day one.
Sama’an: I felt like in that moment you had invented fashion.
Sama’an: Literally medievally. Invented fashion.
Thundercat: Hey! Bleed the worlds, man. Bleed ‘em together.
Chapter 7: Them Changes
Sama’an: Oh, this is a good way to tie it up in the end. Can you maybe talk a little about… We met the Thundercat in the laundromat, but, can you maybe talk a little about what’s different between that Thundercat and this one that’s talking to us right now…?
Sama’an: What’s changed?
Thundercat: Man…. A lot of life changes, man.
Thundercat: Back then… Thundercat at the laundromat… Ya know. Kinda right outta eye-shot, so I was kinda like Dennis the Menace. I would do all kiiiind of crazy stuff that nobody would see. I would be drunk like 70% of the time. Whole different processing, man. I was a little bit heavier. Had two black eyes all the time, so…
Thundercat: I would always joke about it, you know. I’m still silly, but from that guy to this guy, just… life moving really quickly, and hanging onto the edge of my seat, basically. I don’t drink any more. It’s been almost a full year, other than maybe one day that I actually got drunk.
Sama’an: That’s beautiful.
Thundercat: I stopped eating so much meat, or meat in general at all. Meat products.
Thundercat: From that to… I don’t know. Just not being so frazzled by everything, not so surprised. Very open. I was very open back then, but, I think I feel a bit more open now, and accepting. Still excitable. Still excited about music. There’s a lot of similarities; the differences are… everything from learning life lessons like death to loss to having to be okay. Watching what I say over myself. Giving life instead of… Trying to add to instead of take away.
Sama’an: Yeah. A lot of change.
Sama’an: That’s good! It’s good to grow up and change.
Sama’an: Oh man…
Sama’an: Okay… I think we got what we need, man.
Sama’an: I appreciate you.
Thundercat: Love you, man.
Sama’an: I love you too, dawg…. cat.
Sama’an: Appreciate that.
Thundercat: This is a great moment too because it’s like… I’ll show a picture of last time we sat like this…
Sama’an: Also on a couch.
Thundercat: Yep! No dreads.
Sama’an: No dreads…
Sama’an: A bit chunkier…
Sama’an: Which is fine!
Thundercat: Same amount of lights… There was more lights in the other apartment.
Sama’an: There was definitely more lights. Uh huh. [laughs]
Thundercat: Just, alcohol and ramen sittin’ out everywhere. Pffft.
Sama’an: Cool, man, well, I appreciate you endlessly. Always rootin’ for ya, man, like… it’s always nice. Thank you.
Thundercat: Hey… Yeah, man. Good times.
Sama’an: Wow. So much happened. We really painted the spectrum of human emotion with that one. And I just wanna say… The asthma attack was in fact triggered by Thundercat’s cat, Tron, and a little bit of incense. And I also wanna say, for the record, Tron, if you’re listening, I’m not upset. Still love ya. Just gonna play it a little smarter next time. Maybe take some medicine before I come in, I don’t know. Anyway. Thundercat, thank you for saving my life. Personally, I would love to know more about the ghost of Marvin Gaye that might be haunting the house behind his old family home. That honestly might be the most intriguing part of the whole thing to me. We need to dive back into that one. If you made it this far, appreciate you listening, make sure you check us out @nostalgiatapes on all social media. My name is Sama’an Ashrawi, this has been another episode of THEE Nostalgia Mixtape. I wanna give a shoutout to Sarah Montgomery for running audio on that flashback interview with me n Thunder that you heard in the beginning. And a shoutout to Jasmine Chen for helping me learn how to edit in Audacity. And we’ll catch ya next time…
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