Last night, "Otis," the ecstatic 'Ye and Jay track from the Watch the Throne record premiered. For those straddling the fence on WTT, the chopped growling and pleading and straining vocals from soul legend Otis Redding should knock your ass off so that you come down on the right side, the side of support. You've got ears, don't you?
Like any great sample-driven beat, "Otis" sends you back into history (clap if you're alternating between "Try a Little Tenderness" on YouTube and our stream of "Otis"). There's more to the tale though. Like grabbing at loose thread from a fraying rug, one pull only draws you in more, taking you to the source. This time the source is Vineville Baptist Church (2591 Vineville Ave.) in Macon, Ga. This is where Redding first began to sing.
Born on September 9, 194,1 and lost to us only 26 years later, Redding dwells among those artists who died too early. A plane crash killed him before he could see "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," his most successful and well-known song, reach #1. His Monterey Pop Festival performance a few months prior floored all the cool kids, converting rock fans into soul fanatics. One can only hope that Redding died knowing that his work meant a great deal to an ever-growning number of people.
When you need a break from "Otis," read about the man himself. Here's an essay from the great novelist and cultural critic Jonathan Lethem that serves as a fine point of entry. Read it.