When the Sampled Overshadows the Samplers

by Suzie Conway (Communications), published July 26th 2011

Kanye West and Jay-Z’s highly anticipated collaboration Watch the Throne is set to drop on August 1st, but the duo has given listeners a taste in the form of ‘€œOtis.’€ This single, which samples heavily from namesake Otis Redding’s 1966 song ‘€œTry a Little Tenderness,’€ (itself a cover of a 1930s era song) is certainly a fascinating match-up.

At least for me, West and Jay-Z’s recent work together has been rather underwhelming. ‘€œH.A.M.’€ sounded partly like a cheesy opera that would be used to soundtrack big-budget action movies, coupled with the beeps of a Sega Genesis game. The construction of West’s ‘€œMonster’€ was certainly unique, but Jay-Z’s portion was rather unremarkable and largely forgettable compared to the noteworthy contributions of most everyone else on the track.

Redding is the whole package. His soothing vocals and fantastic build up make ‘€œTry a Little Tenderness’€ one of the best and most rewarding songs to listen to (and it also makes for the best scene in Pretty in Pink). Do West and Jay-Z have the chops to go toe-to-toe with Mr. Redding?

‘€œOtis’€ is risky and different. Though it’s incredibly ambitious, it doesn’t really stick the landing. Redding’s ‘€œTry a Little Tenderness’€ is the most dynamic part of this track despite being released over forty-five years ago. The juxtaposition of lyrics is rather comical. Redding talks about taking care of a fine young lady as the rappers talk about, well, themselves. While there is indeed some clever wordplay used, Redding is the one that stuck with me long after ‘€œOtis’€ ended.

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