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Sample Sunday: Thundercat - "Them Changes"

In a 2015 Billboard interview, Stephen Lee Bruner, better known as Thundercat, said that his 2015 EP release, The Beyond / Where Giants Roam, was conceived during his time collaborating with Kendrick Lamar on To Pimp a Butterfly, and Flying Lotus on You’re Dead! Both of these albums were critically acclaimed, considered some of the artists’ best work, and that enough of that musical mojo rubbed off on Thundercat for him to create his most-played track, “Them Changes”. As one of the industry’s leading bassists, Thundercat has drawn influences from Soul, Jazz, Funk, and R&B, and used that to sonically educate audiences, collaborating with other headlining artists such as Childish Gambino, Erykah Badu, and Mac Miller.

A simple rolling beat with a deep-pocketed kick-drum is the base of “Them Changes”. On top of this, Thundercat layers his thumping bass and dreamy vocals to create a modern groove reminiscent of 70’s Funk. This drum beat is a sample from The Isley Brothers’ 1977 classic, “Footsteps in the Dark,” which was also sampled in Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day.” With a floating guitar, and soulful vocals by Ron Isley, the original song is a laid-back ballad, and the beat is just extra flavoring. On “Them Changes” the beat is punched up, more prominent, and drives the song in a more direct manner. The adaptation of the beat from the smooth-sailing Isley Brothers to Thundercat’s repurposed rhythm shows the evolution of Funk from its origins to modern times, and stands as a testament that even though the word has fallen out of common terminology, Funk is far from dead.

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