Oh Sugar, Honey, Ice, Tea…guess who is back? Its 2011 hip-hop cash king Jay-Z and his once protégé producer turned Michael Jackson wannabe and superstar in his own right, Kanye West. I am sure all you FAMERS have seen the video for “Otis”, which has been on rotation on MTV and plastered all over the internet. “Otis” is the first video to be released from their collaboration Watch the Throne, and features a vocal and instrumental sample from Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness”, a flame-shooting overhauled Maybach and a mountainous American flag draped over a hanger (oh did I also mention there are models too).
The video is directed by Spike Jonze, known for cranking out a great video or two, has been well received by critics and the public and looks more like the outtakes of a video shoot rather than a video itself. It is not contrived, the concept not overly artistic, it is just Jigga and Kanye kicking it, whipping around in a super Maybach with models in the backseat and “Parks and Recreation” star Aziz Ansari making a brief cameo. As simplistic as it gets, “Otis” gets high marks for showing two hip-hop moguls having fun. But for me the best part of the song or video is the Redding sample. Although I did cringe at the blasphemy of using the legendary soul singer’s most famous hit in an almost haphazardly fashion (hey, I am an old head), I must admit the track did grow on me. The best samples take great beats and hooks and transform them into new music. And that is exactly what Kanye West did with “Otis”.
The production of the song harkens back to tracks like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”, which featured a sample of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” or “Hard Knock Life” which used a sample from the musical Annie. Although the shrieks at the end of the video can be unnerving, the sample introduces the music of Otis Redding to Millennials, a generation who has probably never heard of him and gives old heads like me the opportunity to relive the joy of Redding’s music in another form. And besides the track being a headbanger, the Maybach shown in the video is being auctioned to aid the East African drought relief efforts.
And in case you have not seen it…Here’s Otis!