The musician stopped by Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show on Apple Music to discuss his forthcoming album It Is What It Is and premiere his single “Black Qualls,” featuring Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, and Donald Glover. During the conversation, Thundercat revealed how “trying” and “traumatic” last year was for him because of Miller’s death, and shared a story he’s never told anyone before about the night the rapper passed.
“This last year was like trying. It was traumatic. ... It was a very difficult thing to process. I didn't share this with anybody, even to this degree, but it's just like I said goodnight to him on the phone. ... I could hear it as it was coming,” Thundercat said.
He continued, “[Miller] was excited, we were talking about tour. What it was going to be, making jokes, as we would, and saying good night to him, and not knowing what was coming next. It traumatized me, and it almost haunts me a bit, because I told him I loved him. That doesn't specifically haunt me, but it was literally like I never missed the chance to tell the guy I loved him, and I'm thankful I did. ... As he was going to bed, I said, ‘I love you,’ and he said it back the next day, to wake up to, and like, it scarred the hell out of me. And not to make this such a dark moment like that, but from that moment it's like I was changed forever, even if I didn't want to, it just changed me, and that's just one example of the thing of it is what it is.”
Miller’s posthumous album Circles arrived Friday (Jan. 17). The project was completed by Jon Brion who also worked on Swimming with Miller. While speaking with Lowe on the making of Circles, Brion said, “He comes in and he plays five or six things. There was more hip-hop-leaning stuff, and it was great and funny and personal—the tracks were already pointing someplace interesting. After a couple of those, he goes, ‘I’ve got these other things I'm not sure what to do with.’”
From there, Circles was born, which Miller saw as the counterpart to Swimming. With the support of Miller’s family, Brion finished Circles, basing the album on conversations they had before Miller’s death in September 2018.