As promised, Kanye West and Jay-Z released a new single off their joint LP Watch the Throne last night, but it wasn't the Beyoncé-featuring "Lift Off" as expected. Instead, the duo unveiled "Otis," where the two MCs trade lines around Otis Redding's soul classic "Try a Little Tenderness," hence the title. Whereas discarded first single "H.A.M." found Jigga elevating his game while Kanye did a Lil Wayne impression, both rappers sound near the top of their talents on "Otis," which hopefully sets the stage for the remainder of the collaboration. Listen to the track below (via Jay's Life + Times):
Redding's "Tenderness" opens the track alone for a full 30 seconds before Kanye and Jay hop on the mic, which is probably why Otis is listed as a featured artist on "Otis" and not just as a sample acknowledged in the production credits. As Kanye says in one of his lines, this is "luxury rap": The two icons rhyme about expensive cars, buying posh things, and smoking Cubanos in Havana with Castro in a cabana. "Political refugee, asylum can be purchased. Everything's for sale, I've got five passports, I've never gone to jail," Jay says.
If we have one quibble with "Otis," it's that "Try a Little Tenderness" is a little too overpowering on the track. A sample is supposed to complement the beat and dance around the verses; here, Redding's voice is right up in the mix with Kanye and Jay's, creating a sonic clutter that can be a distracting at times. However, "Otis" has the feel of two hip-hop superstars working collaboratively in the studio, which they did, as opposed to throwing together cut-and-paste verses recorded while the two rappers were on opposite ends of the globe. Watch the Throne is out August 1st.
"Otis" is solid, but it will always be the second-best song to sample "Try a Little Tenderness," behind Masta Killa's "D.T.D," featuring Ghostface Killah and Raekwon: