The one thing that always grabs my attention about “Otis,” beyond the audacity of the sample – which, let’s be honest, is just great, isn’t it? To use so much of “Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding at the start, and then so little when the track actually gets going? I love that, it’s so ridiculously, hilariously bold – is Kanye West’s upstaging of Jay-Z when they swap verses. “Got five passports/So I’m never going to jail,” Jay-Z says at one point, and Kayne immediately follows with “I made ‘Jesus Walks’/So I’m never going to Hell.” Later, after Jay has gone on about Benzes and “can’t you see we gettin’ money up under you,” Kanye counters with “Can’t you see the private jets flyin’ over you?” Because, of course, private jets and over is more impressive than Mercedes Benzes and being under you.
It’s a weird, hilarious thing inside a song that’s already so over-the-top with the dick-measuring and one-upmanship that it makes me convinced that everything in the song is as parodic and self-aware. It’s the only way the track makes sense to me; otherwise, I think too much about the bravado and boasting and wonder what it says to me about my life and can’t find an answer.