Ten Best Otis Redding Samples, Including Kanye West & Jay-Z's "Otis"
Watch the Throne is still a little over a week away from its official release, but the media circus began last night when Jay-Z posted the track "Otis" on his Life + Times website. This collaborative album between Hova and Kanye West is exciting, but just imagine if hip-hop had existed back in Otis Redding's day. Regrettably, the smoky-voiced "King of Soul" died in a plane crash in 1967 at age 26 even before "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" hit the airwaves, and decades before he could experience his pipes getting regularly mined for beats.
While "Otis" is certainly a bold use of "Try a Little Tenderness," it's far from the first time Redding's emotive wail has intertwined with hip-hop. And because 'Ye and Jay picked something that's clearly all about the vox, we stuck with samples that did the same. (This excludes many great uses of the stunning horns Redding had as backing throughout his career -- we're looking at you, EPMD.)
Here are ten amazing samplings of Otis Redding's trademark singing style re-purposed in hip-hop.
10. Masta Killa ft. Ghostface and Raekwon - "D.T.D."
From Masta Killa's 2004 solo debut, No Said Date, this tight-locked beat also rocks the "Try a Little Tenderness" sample, but isn't even remotely tender courtesy of delivery from the Wu-Tang associates. Although producer Mathematics plays up the saxophones much higher than Redding's scratchy voice, he's in there stoking the fire.
9. Joell Ortiz ft. Immortal Technique - "Modern Day Slavery"
So maybe Sam Cooke's rendition is better known, but Otis could rip into "A Change is Gonna Come" too. From 2007's The Brick Bodega Chronicles, Puerto Rican rapper Ortiz comes out firing against the current racial politics at play with a fast-slow rendering of the classic vocal in the background.
8. Kanye West featuring Cam'ron and Consequence - "Gone"
"Otis" isn't even the first time Kanye's used Redding's voice -- and hopefully it won't be the last. ("Respect" would be a killer choice.) This track from Late Registration is funny and reverent at the same time with tone-challenged Cam'ron singing along with the sample of "It's Too Late." Cam also enlisted the well-worn Redding staple "Hard to Handle" for "Dipset Symphony."
7. De La Soul - "Eye Know"
Aside from being an amazing singer, Otis Redding could whistle with the best of them. Here's the bit from the end of "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay" where he was probably just goofing around inserted as a recontextualized background piece from De La's near-perfect debut, 3 Feet High and Rising.
6. Das EFX - "Dum Dums"
Proving that Otis Redding was writing hooks from day one, Skoob and Krazy Drayz grab onto the bit from "The Happy Song (Dum Dum)" that you might expect for 1992's Dead Serious.
5. Fiva MC - "Goldfisch"
Just two years ago, this female German rapper breaks out a nice "You Made a Man Out of Me" beat that probably would've killed if it were released 20 years earlier out of Bed-Stuy. Still enjoyable, though.
4. Slick Rick - "A Love That's True, Pt. 1"
Carla Thomas: "Tramp!" Otis Redding: "What'd you call me?" That's the collaborative exchange picked up by the Storyteller for his 1994 album, Behind Bars. Salt-N-Pepa used it for their 1986 hit, "Tramp," but only use Thomas' part of the exchange. The original was sort of a precursor for Positive K's "I Got a Man."
3. Kings of Swing - "Stop Jockin' James"
A song encouraging artists to get off of James Brown's nuts from 1988 snatches an oft-used song intro ("we gonna do a song that you never heard before") from Redding's Live at the Whisky a Go Go set.
2. La Fine Equipe feat. OOgO - "Petit Pain"
Francophile beat-juggling for "Ole Man Trouble" might have been source material for what ended up on on "Otis." This whole realm seems like a Madlib adventure, but the man born Otis Jackson Jr. was not involved.
1. Jay-Z & Kanye West - "Otis"
Classic and current simultaneously. If this doesn't get a lot of folks picking up Redding hits collections, I'll eat my hat.
Stream "Otis" here.
Special thanks to Who Sampled for the inspiration.
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