TRU Brain Trust Reviews Jay-Z & Kanye West’s “Otis”

Written by The Rap Up. Posted in Reviews, TRU Brain Trust


Published on July 22, 2011 with 2 Comments

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Sometimes you just know a classic track when you hear one.Kanye and Jay’s first official cut off Watch the Throne has been released, no HAM. Fortunately, they ditched that disappointment and crafted the masterpiece that is “Otis,” which features a sample of-you guessed it- Otis Redding. From the moment Otis wails “You make it easier!” it’s magic. The production, which is at once epic and downhome (is that even possible?) is vintage Kanye. The lyrics, well, oh, those lyrics. Jay and Kanye don’t need a spiritual awakening (Never Let Me Down) or a social message (Diamonds From Sierra Leone Remix) to throw up all over the track, vomiting quip after quip. Here’s one from each:

“Sophisticated ignorance, I write my curses in cursive”
– Kanye

“Photo shoot fresh, lookin’ like wealth/might call the paparazzi on myself”
– Jay

Oh yeah, and they don’t need no hook for this sh*t. Rather than go for a conventional song structure, the two rap giants trade bars back and forth with an electric feel. Jay hasn’t sounded this lively since he retired, and Kanye is a blast a la Graduation. By the time Otis finishes his final wails at the end of the song, you’ll already be hitting the replay button.

(Go ahead, call me a Stan. Let the nit-picking begin. But my advice is that you take Curren$y’s motto into consideration and just enjoy this sh*t.)


Pardon me for jumping the Brain Trust gun, but I had a feeling about this track. And I know there are peers of mine who went into this track with mad expectations, be it some idea of “doing Otis justice” or Kanye matching his previous output. Fuck all of that. This is rich man rap, from the price tag on that Otis Redding sample to the billionaire bars. Hov and ‘Ye make moments, and this is another Hip-Hop moment. Do note, the underground Hip-Hop scene stays chopping samples, but you can’t overlook the fact that this Otis chop, in this mainstream playing field, sets it apart from the dull chords and synths that clutter radio playlists. And to put this in perspective – you know this isn’t a radio single, right? It might get into rotation off G.P., but I’d assume the Beyonce and Frank Ocean tracks will make you hate this album more than “Otis” ever could. End of the day, let niggas like me have our days – I love the way this one thumps, love the “sophisticated ignorance” that Ye threw in here. See ya mana-naaaaaaaah!


Jay-Z and Kanye West are the rap Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay while the rest of the pack are a bunch of Betty Whites. Thus, it’s no surprise that the internets have exploded in declaring “Otis” the best thing since bread got sliced. After a few listens, I think the joint is cool. I appreciate its raw, dusty feel while Ye and Jay rap effortless circles around their rap competitors. Swagger on a hundred thousand trillion and all that. But their bar is so much higher than everyone else that there’s got to be better stuff to look out for. Plus Kanye has flipped an Otis Redding sample nicer than this before (see “Gone”).


When I first saw “Otis” mentioned on the tracklist for “Watch The Throne” my hopes got up for something close to Nas his “Unauthorized Biography of Rakim” with the life of Otis Redding, one of the greatest soul singers of all time (“OF ALL TIME!” ©Yeezy) as the subject matter. That is not what we got on our hands here. What we do have is a well-known but very dopely chopped-up sample of “Try A Little Tenderness” that acts as a high-caliber headnodder, proving Kanye still knows his way around a solid soul sample. If only the lyrics boiled down to something more substantial than “Hey, I’m rich, hear me rap!” it could’ve been epic. I can’t wait ’till an emcee that actually has something to say gets a hold of this instrumental.


That song is awful. Not as bad as HAM. But it’s bad. But it’s definitely beyond “meh”. The Otis Redding sample does save the it from being a total loss. And really that’s all anybody can say about it. Deeper analysis into the lyrics are overkill. Bow Wow can say “Fresh Asimiz” is better than this. But today’s listener is tonedeaf and conditioned to mediocrity. Kanye could poot the alphabet into a mic and stans would clamor.


Andrew Schweizer
Otis is what you get when you have a talented producer honing in on sample-based production. A really cool cut/loop and Otis Redding is such a great choice because he’s one of those guys that everyone always talks about…..when they’re referencing “(Sitting On) The Dock of The Bay.” To use, God forbid, ANOTHER Redding track is fantastic and such an “under the nose” kind of pick. That’s music nerd speak for “great song choice.” Also, Jay-Z was unimpressive and Kanye was really entertaining with his flow – Otis just wasn’t enough to make the track float. But goddamn that sample is neat.


The verdict:




There are currently 2 Comments on TRU Brain Trust Reviews Jay-Z & Kanye West’s “Otis”. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. I like how the reviewer that gave 1 hat had the shortest analysis.

  2. sometimes you do not need a lot of words to analyze something.

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