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Soul legend Otis Redding may have left us more than 40 years ago, but his musical spirit has once again been resurrected: Jay-Z and Kanye West (the latter nabbing seven VMA nominations) just dropped the aptly titled “Otis,” the lead single off their upcoming collaborative album Watch The Throne as a tribute to the duo’s musical hero.
Opening with a sample from the classic Redding cover, “Try A Little Tenderness,” the Kanye-produced track eschews a chorus in favor of back-and-forth verses between the two rappers. Both MCs balance conspicuous consumption (“Truth: new watch alert, Hublot’s/Or the big face Rollie I got two of those,” rhymes Jay-Z) with emcee braggadocio (Kanye: “I made ‘Jesus Walks’ so never going to hell/Couture level flow is never going on sale”) for a track that reasserts both rappers’ positions at the forefront of hip-hop.
Musically, it’s a curious lead single, especially for the man behind equally soul-drenched, if not catchier, tracks like “Through The Wire” or “Gold Digger” (not to mention countless singles for other artists). There’s no recognizable horn blasts à la the Curtis Mayfield-sampling “Touch the Sky” or fun, sing-along hook like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” that you can drunkenly yell at a bar. But the strength of “Otis” lies in its minimalist construction, allowing each rapper’s voice and lyrics to present themselves front and center on the track.
Watch The Throne has a tentative digital release date of Aug. 1 and physical release four days later. Last week, a full track listing was released, confirming guest appearances by Beyoncé, Frank Ocean and Mr. Hudson.
So what do you think of “Otis”? Take a listen and tell us in the comments below!
+ Listen to Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Otis.”