It Is What It Is follows Thundercat's game-changing third album Drunk (2017), a record that completed his transition from virtuoso bassist to bonafide star and cemented his reputation as a unique voice that transcends genre. Co-produced with Flying Lotus, it features musical contributions from Ty Dolla $ign, Childish Gambino, Lil B, Kamasi Washington, Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole and Zack Fox. "This album is about love, loss, life and the ups and downs that come with that," Stephen Lee Bruner says. "It's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but at different points in life you come across places that you don't necessarily understand... some things just aren't meant to be understood."
The unruly bounce of new single "Black Qualls" is classic Thundercat, teaming up with Steve Lacy (The Internet) and funk icon Steve Arrington (Slave). It's another example of Bruner's desire to highlight the lineage of his music and pay his respects to the musicians who inspired him. Discovering Arrington's output in his late teens, Bruner says he fell in love with his music immediately: "The tone of the bass, the way his stuff feels and moves, it resonated through my whole body."
"Black Qualls" emerged from writing sessions with Lacy, whom Thundercat describes as "the physical incarnate of the Ohio Players in one person - he genuinely is a funky ass dude." It references what it means to be a black American with a young mindset: "What it feels like to be in this position right now... the weird ins and outs, we're talking about those feelings... Part of me knew this [track] was where Steve [Arrington] left us."