Here are the pros and cons of "Otis," the second offering from Kanye West/Jay-Z's collaborative album, Watch the Throne, which drops Aug. 1 digitally. If you like buying CDs (bless you), you can purchase it Aug. 5. The suits are taking down all of the YouTube videos, so head over to the Life + Times website to stream it.
•••• Kanye sends a subtle diss to Drake ("N----s talking real reckless / stuntmen" plays on Drake's famous line "I made enough for two n----s, boy / stunt-double"), a likely response to Drake's "I'm On One" verse.
•••• "I made Jesus Walks, I’m never going to hell."
•••• As he did on "HAM," Jay shows up here. His ability to add multiple meanings to his bars is unparalleled in rap, and it's why his new verses can still reaffirm his inclusion in the "Greatest of All Time" talks. "Arm out the window, through the city I maneuver slow / cock back, snap back, see my cut through the holes."
•••• Kanye, despite playing second fiddle to Big Brother, gets off the best line: "Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive." It's a slick line, despite the fact that "sophisticated ignorance" is another excuse for Kanye to rap about elephant tusk briefcases and gold-plated espresso machines.
•••• It's short, so I likely won't skip it while listening to Watch the Throne.
•••• Maybe I'll like this more when my Mega Millions ticket finally hits jackpot. And that still might not be enough…
•••• The biggest con — and the reason why I'll never come around to it — is how empty and soulless "Otis" sounds (ah, the irony). Kanye's love affair with high-end luxury brands is somehow reaching new levels of obnoxiousness. If a rapper name-drops a scarf brand (again, a scarf brand), he’d be better off framing it in his own rags-to-riches narrative. (Rick Ross used this as a blueprint to become one of the game's best rappers.) But to compare your rap verses to Hermés? There's nothing tangible, nothing to grab. It's an empty boat-ride to an island no listeners can touch (unless they are multi-millionaires with an affinity for haute couture).
•••• "I invented swag," says Jay-Z, 41.
•••• The beat never fully takes off. As expected, the sample is a precise chop, but the whole thing just mildly ebbs and flows. As the song starts, there's an expectation being built for a Bruckheimer climax, but because there's no hook, it never comes. (Think of "Takeover," another Jay-Z/Kanye collaboration that simmers at first, but boils over from steady momentum.) We're left with a twinkling piano, Redding's classic voice and some yacht rap, just no takeoff.
•••• Don’t be fooled: despite the exuberant sample, "Otis" just isn't much fun. Jay utters, "new watch alert" (quick, call the president!) before talking Hublots and Rolexes. Kanye makes non-world travelers feel bad for never "going through Customs." Is this supposed to trigger my aspirations for wealth? It only makes me yearn for the days of "All Falls Down."