Sunday, April 7, 2013

Jay-Z and Kanye West -- "Otis" (2011)

They ain't see me 'cause
I pulled up in my other Benz
Last week I was in my other other Benz

Think about that, boys and girls.  You've got one Mercedes-Benz that people are used to seeing you in, but you're not driving it.  Instead, you pull up in your other Benz.  

Which confuses everyone, because last week you were in your other other Benz!

Imagine what it would be like to be Kanye West . . . even for just a single day!

You might think it would be better not to live the life of Yeezy for just a day because you would never be satisfied with your own sad, dull life after that 24 hours of bliss had ended.  But I figure that 24 hours of Kim Kardashian would be plenty for any man -- after that, you'd be happy to have your own life back.

You see a picture like this one, and trading places with Kanye seems very, very tempting.  But pretty soon she'll going to start talking -- and once she does, she may never stop!

Kim from the front (for a change)
Jay-Z is a phenomenal rapper, but I think he has to take a back seat to Kanye as an artist.  And Kanye is younger and better-looking.  But Jay-Z has an edge on Yeezy in one area: he's married to Beyoncé.  Kim Kardashian certainly has her charms, but she's no Beyoncé when it comes to talent and wealth.

"Otis" was the second single from the 2011 Watch the Throne album.  It borrows heavily from Otis Redding's classic, "Try a Little Tenderness," which was one of the songs featured in this year's edition of the wildly popular "29 Songs in 28 Days."  Click here if you missed that post.  

The Watch the Throne album cover
After the song opens with a 30-second snippet from "Tenderness," Jay-Z kicks off the first verse of "Otis" by announcing "I got my swagger back."  (Who knew Jay-Z lost his swagger in the first place?)  He gives a shoutout to his new favorite Swiss watchmaker, Hublot.  

Jay-Z used to be an Audemars Piguet guy, but recently allied himself with Hublot -- likely in exchange for an equity stake in the company.  Click here to read what Forbes staff writer Zack O'Malley Greenburg, the author of Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office, has to say about the Hublot deal.

Here's the Hublot "Big Bang" watch that Beyoncé bought for her hubby recently.  It has 1282 diamonds and cost an estimated $5 million:

Jay-Z's Hublot "Big Bang"

The highlight of Kanye's first verse are the Mercedes-Benz lines quoted above, plus an out-of-left-field reference to Phillip Drummond -- that was the name of the rich white guy (played by Conrad Bain) who adopted two black orphans named Arnold and Willis (played by the late Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges) on the Diff'rent Strokes TV show.

The Diff'rent Strokes crew
Jay-Z cranks up the narcissism in his second verse:

Photo shoot fresh, looking like wealth
I'm 'bout to call the paparazzi on myself

You might think that the reference to a "G450" in this verse is a reference to a Mercedes-Benz G450, but you would be wrong.  (You obviously don't own one Mercedes, much less an other other Mercedes.)

There is a Mercedes-Benz GL450, but there's no G450 model Benz.  Jay-Z is talking about the Gulfstream G450, a twin-engine long-range business jet with a list price of about $38 million.  Jay-Z owns a G450, although I'm guessing Beyoncé is helping pay for it.

Gulfstream G450
The good thing about being rich enough to have a Gulfstream G450 is that you can get the hell out of Dodge and bribe everyone you need to bribe if the sh*t really hits the fan some day -- Jay-Z says he's got five passports, so he's never going to jail in the good ol' US of A.

Kanye follows up with some luxury-goods-related lines of his own.  His brags that his verses are "couture-level" in quality, "the Hermès of verses" -- like high-end fashions, his rap "is never going on sale."

Kanye with his Hermès "Birkin" bag.
The next lines display the sophisticated wordplay that is West's hallmark:

I get it custom, you a customer
You ain't accustomed to going through customs 

Kanye has always mixed the sacred and the profane in his lyrics -- he "writes his curses in cursive."  He closes the verse by observing that (unlike most men) he doesn't have to impress women -- the women show off in hopes of impressing him.  After he's "done" with one of the many women who throw themselves at him -- this song was recorded before he found true love with Kim K, of course -- he starts to make the obligatory promise to call her tomorrow, but then changes his mind . . . and shows that he's a master of wordplay in more than one language: "I'll hit you up maña . . . NAH!"

In his second verse, Jay-Z picks up where he left off in verse one, which ended with him using his Gulfstream, his passports, and his cash money to get out of the country and obtain political asylum elsewhere -- perhaps in Havana, when he can indulge in his love of cigars with Fidel Castro.  

But Jay-Z says that he and all the other "illegals" that he consorted with when he was a drug dealer (Mexicans, Dominicans, etc.) will find their way into the United States regardless of the measures our government takes to keep them out:

Build your fences
We digging tunnels

Kanye's final verse is a tour de force.  Of course, so many of Kanye's verses are tours de force that the term has little meaning when applied to him.  He begins by taunting all his rap rivals, who have to take tour buses to get from concert to concert, while Kanye and Jay-Z travel on the G450:  "Can't you see the private jets flying over you?"

Jay-Z and Kanye in the "Otis" video
Kanye's closes out "Otis" with a reference to Reinhold Niebuhr's "Serenity Prayer" -- since other rappers can never match him, he hopes they don't drive themselves crazy trying:

Lord, please let them accept 
The things they can't change
And pray that all of 
Their pain be champagne

The champagne/"sham pain" pun in the last line is quite old.  There's an 1860 book titled The Toast-Master's Companion that contains this drinking toast:  "Champagne for our real friends, and real pain for our sham friends."  Click here to listen to Fall Out Boy's 2005 song of the same name.

Kanye and Jay-Z had such a good time doing this song -- that's obvious when you listen to "Otis," and it's even more obvious when you watch the music video (which is embedded below).  

Apparently they really did chop up a Maybach for the video.  (A new Maybach runs about $350,000, and it's estimated that another $150,000 was spent modifying it for the "Otis" video, which was directed by our old friend Spike Jonze.)

The "Otis" Maybach
Which reminds me of one final line from "Otis": "Maybach bumper sticker reads: 'What would Hova do?'"  (Hova, of course, is one of Jay-Z's many nicknames.)  A sacrilegious play on "What would Jesus do?" bumper stickers?  Yes, of course -- but isn't putting a bumper sticker on a Maybach even more of a sacrilege?

Here's "Otis":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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