Song 165: Ratatat (feat. Memphis Bleek), “Alright” (2007)

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This song is officially credited to Ratatat, but Memphis Bleek is the driving force, moving the track along with no plans to slow down. Can’t stop, won’t stop, never intend to.

I always think of Ratatat as a sibling to Daft Punk. Both duos don’t make rock music or dance music, but something in between. Daft Punk are a couple of robots, but their music sounds organic in a way that most club jams don’t. Ratatat, meanwhile, make guitar music that sounds like it’s from the future. And with both acts, you listen with a look of befuddlement on your face: how did they do that?

It’s fun to hear Bleek with this kind of backdrop, spitting verses while Ratatat does their own kind of synth-and-piano freestyle. The flow, as Bleek says, is stupid. And let’s talk about that flow. In Decoded (I do read other things, I swear), Jay-Z writes about working with Memphis Bleek for the first time. Jay gave Bleek a piece of paper on which he had written (in microscopic print, so it wouldn’t get stolen) a verse to learn. He asked Bleek to learn it and come back the next day. Bleek showed up on Jay-Z’s doorstep with his verse memorized, ate six burgers, and did a perfect take for “Coming of Age.” And on “Alright,” he certainly sounds like a guy who could rap furiously with a belly full of fast food. In fact, Bleek sounds absolutely indestructible, as if he’s only going to stop if the song stops first.

In closing, I’d like to take this moment to thank Memphis Bleek for doing something I would have considered impossible if I didn’t hear it with my own ears: he referenced Toonces, the Cat Who Could Drive a Car, in a hip-hop song. That must be what he’s referring to when he says “They said it can’t be done, no one can do it,” right?

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