Thundercat doesn’t seem like the type of artist who has ever had a dull moment in the studio, but one particular session will always stand out in his mind.
When HipHopDX caught up with the multi-hyphenate musician at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, it took him a few moments to think about which of the many studio sessions he’s participated in he could single out as his favorite.
But he quickly landed on the session for Kendrick Lamar‘s “These Walls,” from the 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly. Thundercat joins Bilal and singer Anna Wise to deliver the hook on the song, which won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Performance.
“My favorite studio session that I was in, gotta be honest: it was probably singing ‘These Walls,'” Thundercat said. “And a lot of my friends at the time didn’t realize that I sang. And so, my friends were just staring in my face like, ‘What is he doing right now?’ And I was like, ‘Can you guys leave the room so I can… I don’t wanna be looking in my friends’ eyes singing about these walls.’
The song’s suggestive chorus includes lyrics like: “If these walls could talk/ I love it when I’m in it, I love it when I’m in it,” between Kendrick’s verses, which are laced with metaphors for sex.
“It’s just looking at Terrace [Martin] in the eyes, singing in my highest Michael McDonald voice,” Thundercat recounted. “Terrace is smiling like, ‘What about these walls, Steven?’ And I’m like, ‘Stop it!’ I couldn’t pause because the track is gonna keep going, so I gotta keep singing. There is no pause, it’s just continually me singing these walls and harmonies.”
He continued: “And my friends looking down my throat. Don’t look at me like that,” he added laughing. “I’m a grown man, I pay taxes; I’ve been to jail. Don’t do that!”
Last year, Kendrick Lamar also revisited the making of To Pimp A Butterfly and explained that much of the album came about through creative trial and error.
During an episode of The Big Hit Show podcast, Kendrick explained how he and his co-creators were able to erase the line between Hip Hop and jazz using a group of Los Angeles-based musicians who’d been playing together since high school. As Kendrick notes, there was really no method to the madness. They opted to experiment and essentially see what would stick.
“Yeah I’m just trying stuff, throwing the paint on the wall and writing as these incredible musicians rock out,” he said. “I like that for eight bars. I like that. I like that. So . . . prior to the album actually coming out the shit actually sounded way more complex.”
Ahead of the former TDE star’s latest album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, to which he contributed his skills as a bassist, Thundercat applauded Kendrick’s creativity and noted that many of his favorite moments recording music involved the “HUMBLE.” rapper.
“I feel like Kendrick is and will be a beacon of what it means to be one of the more creative artists of our generation through the way the albums have twisted and turned,” he told Japanese fashion brand Neet Tokyo. “It speaks beyond its years. Him as an artist, he inspired me a lot. A lot.”
Thundercat continued: “I wish I could spend more time around him creating just because he gives off such energy and he knows what he wants a lot of time. Some of my favorite moments of recording are with Kendrick.”