When Flea refers to you as “the greatest fucking electric bass player,” you know you’ve done something right. Just ask MonoNeon, who appeared in a video on the Red Hot Chili Peppers member’s Instagram this summer. The artist, born Dywane Thomas Jr., likely realized he was headed in a fruitful direction back in 2014, when Prince caught wind of his talents and reached out to jam. But both milestones came before MonoNeon released “Invisible,” his favorite song to date.
A funky pop song with unwavering soul, “Invisible” pulls stylistic elements from the the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties, and melds them all together with the kind of crisp production one can only get with the help of modern technology. It impresses with a catchy shuffle that’s right in the pocket and intrigues with some refreshingly unexpected chord changes in the choruses. Thomas, who tells Rolling Stone that the song is about “personal existentialism,” wrote it in early October. He recorded the music in Los Angeles with Davy Nathan, who served as a composer and drummer, as well as the song’s mixer and producer. Although they divvied up the keyboard work, Thomas handled vocals, guitar, and bass himself.
By November, Fender dubbed him a spotlight artist in promotion of the company’s new American Professional II Jazz Bass, and longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich took to Twitter to declare that “the genius of MonoNeon is staggering.”
Following a few Paisley Park performances in 2015, MonoNeon collaborated with Prince on a song called “RUFF ENUFF,” which dropped three months before the icon’s death the next year. Thomas’ bass-playing can also be heard on 2020 releases from the late Mac Miller (“Complicated”) and Nas (“All Bad,” featuring Anderson .Paak). Since Covid-19 resulted in worldwide lockdowns, Thomas has been primarily focused on his solo material, but he also plays bass on acclaimed hip-hop producer Pete Rock’s upcoming album, PeteStrumentals 3. Thomas’ own album, Banana Peel On Capitol Hill — which he calls a “25-minute package of some comedy, allegory, and funk” — is due out in January.