On latest Watch the Throne track, duo trade bars over soul classic ‘Try a Little Tenderness.’
By Rob Markman
Otis is back, Otis is back! The King of Soul may have passed 40-plus years ago, but Jay-Z and Kanye West have resurrected Redding’s spirit on a new track off their highly anticipated Watch the Throne LP.
On Wednesday (July 20), Hov and ‘Ye’s “Otis” premiered on New York City DJ Funkmaster Flex’s Hot 97 radio show, and then spread throughout the Internet.
“Otis” opens with a slowed-down refrain lifted from Redding’s 1966 version of “Try a Little Tenderness.” The musical icon wails, “It makes it easier, easier to bare,” shortly before the piano sample is chopped and reworked. As the bass line is ushered in and the drums drop, Jay shouts out, “Sounds so soulful, wouldn’t you agree?” before tearing into his boastful bars.
“I invented swag, poppin’ bottles, puttin’ supermodels in a cab,” Hov rhymes before going on about his super-exclusive watch collection. Only eight bars pass before Jay tosses the mic to West, who picks up where his Big Brother left off.
“Damn, Yeezy and Hov, where the hell you been/ N—as talkin’ real reckless, stuntmen/ I adopted these n—as, Phillip Drummond ‘em,” ‘Ye raps, turning the fictional father from the 1980s sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” into an actual verb.
Another eight bars pass and Jay once again takes over, looking like “wealth” and contemplating calling the paparazzi on himself — he’s that rich. But despite the pair’s status in rap and their platinum success, this is no pop affair. There is no deep introspection, no intricate instrumentation, just a dusty hip-hop loop and street-bred rhymes. At one point, Jigga even threatens to murder anyone who takes issue with Kanye.
Perhaps West describes it best when he spits about his “sophisticated ignorance,” and that’s just what Hov exemplifies on his last verse as he seeks political asylum for his murderous rhymes in Cuba. “Welcome to Havana, smoking Cubanos with Castro in cabanas,” he raps before volleying back to the Louis Vuitton Don, who channels Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s 1998 hip-hop classic “Top Billin’ ” when he delivers, “Jay is chillin’, ‘Ye is chillin’/ What more can I say? We killin’ ‘em.”
The Watch the Throne rollout has kept fans confused. With an unconfirmed August 1 release date and no certifiable radio hit in sight, fans can only use “Otis” and the previously released “H.A.M.” to judge what they might expect from the LP. The latter wasn’t very well-received, but if the latest leak is any indication, Jay-Z and Kanye West won’t be relinquishing the rap throne any time soon.
What do you think of Jay and Kanye’s “Otis”? Sound off in the comments below!