“Controllah” by Gorillaz (ft. MC Bin Laden)

This collaboration (“Controllah”), which was indirectly brought about by Slowthai, had been in the works for approximately, from the time Damon Albarn first expressed a desire to work with MC Bin Laden, until the track was eventually released on 27 February 2023.  

“Controllah” was released as part of the deluxe edition of Gorillaz’ album titled “Cracker Island”, meaning that song is backed by Warner Records and Parlophone. The actual recording of this piece took place in May of 2022 in Rio de Janeiro, the capital of Brazil, which is MC Bin Laden’s homeland.


MC Bin Laden is a vocalist from Brazil who specializes in a genre which in that part of the world is known as funk ostentação. That latter designation, ostentação, is actually the Portuguese word of ostentation, which is a synonym for, most simply put, flossin’.  Therefore, funk ostentação is basically Brazilian rap modeled after its mainstream American counterpart.


No matter how many times we’ve written about Gorillaz, it always feels difficult to describe this act. But basically, from a musical standpoint it only consists of only one member, that being the aforementioned Englishman named Damon Albarn. His partner in crime is Jamie Hewlett, a visual artist who also, by the way, is a notable comic book creator.

So all four of the following Gorillaz’s characters are extensions or representations of Albarn:

  • 2-D
  • Murdoc Niccals
  • Noodle
  • Russell Hobbs

But throughout the years while on the road and performing live, he has been backed by a number of touring musicians.


So what we’re dealing with here is a bilingual song whereas the verses, which are held down by Bin Laden, are rendered in his native tongue of Portuguese. It is Albarn or more specifically “2-D”, the lead singer of Gorillaz, who handles the intro – which consists only of him repeating the word “controllah” – and refrain. 

It should be noted that this collaboration, even if it was two years in the making as pointed out earlier, from a lyrical standpoint appears to have been by and large an impromptu affair. So it may not be particularly clear what 2-D means, in the refrain, by phrases such as “the truths we carry” or who he is referring to in terms of “those we leave behind”.

But as far as the word “controllah”, it is obviously a satirical misspelling or however you want to put it (which is sort of the “Gorillaz” thing), of the word “controller”. 

“The waves of Rio
Crash through my mind
The truths we carry
And those we leave behind

The second verse is highlighted by Bin Laden reasserting that he’s “everywhere” and “can’t control it”.  And again, it is not abundantly clear what he is trying to relay via that expression. However, all lyrics of the second verse considered, it reads like another way of the vocalist putting forth that he’s out to have a pretty wild night. Going back to how that same phrase is used in the first verse, it also reads like an allusion to his all-around success and efficacy.

As for the first verse, what we are able to ascertain from it is that yes, the emcee does come off a lot like an American rapper. For instance, Bin Laden implies, apparently, that his dogged career ambitions are inspired by a desire to properly care for his children. This is a sentiment we come across pretty regularly via rappers from the United States and the males especially.


So by the time all is said and done, “Controllah”, at least from a lyrical perspective, isn’t really complicated beside for the listener being tasked with ascertaining what a “controllah” actually is. But this song is along the lines of braggadocious rap, so the vocalist putting forth that he’s in “control” can be interpreted in such a manner.

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