Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner spent the last part of the new millennium’s first decade becoming the go-to bassist for practically every artist in black vanguard music. His nimble, syncopated, groove-heavy basslines were heard on albums by Erykah Badu, Sa-Ra, Flying Lotus, and others. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Bruner had the fortune of being part of a music family. His father, Ronald Bruner Sr., was an accomplished drummer, working with artists like Diana Ross, the Temptations, and Gladys Knight.Bruner‘s older brother, Ronald Jr., a Grammy-winning drummer, has worked with esteemed artists such as Kenny Garrett and Stanley Clarke.Bruner‘s first major work came as a teenager, still in high school, when he joined Ronald as part of the L.A.-based punk band Suicidal Tendencies, replacing Robert Trujillo, who moved on to play with Metallica. At live shows, the young Bruner displayed flair and dexterity, playing some ofTrujillo‘s three-finger riffs with just his thumb. Possessing a kinship and interest in the L.A.-led movement of genre-mixing black music, Bruner began collaborating with some of its foremost creators. His basswork on “The Cell” was, perhaps, the standout musicianship on Badu‘s New Amerykah, Pt. 1. He’s also appeared on J*Davey‘s version of Frank Zappa‘s “Dirty Love,” Sa-Ra‘s “Love Czars,” Shafiq Husayn‘s “Cheeba,” and Bilal‘s “Levels,” and even collaborated with bass legend Bootsy Collins on Snoop Dogg‘s “We Rest n Cali,” among dozens of other cuts. During that time, he performed live with conductor Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, who leads the Suite for Ma Dukes orchestra, a contemporary ensemble revisiting J Dilla‘s Donuts. His most prolific and fruit-bearing music relation has been with DJ/producer/instrumentalist Flying Lotus, for whom he provided both bass and vocals for 2010’s Cosmogramma. Lotus then served as executive producer for Bruner‘s 2011 debut, The Golden Age of Apocalypse, which he released under his Thundercat moniker on Brainfeeder. Golden Age received considerable acclaim, notably for Bruner‘s acrobatic bass and his repurposed take on ’70s-inspired fusion from George Dukeand Jaco Pastorius, the bassist to whom he’s most compared.
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