Released on “Watch the Throne” – which is one of the best rap albums of all time, by the way – Kanye West and Jay Z’s “Otis” was a highlight of the studio album, arriving with killer visuals, Kanye’s trademark production finesse and both icons firing on all cylinders. The album came at a time when Eminem was hailed as the “King of Hip Hop”, Kanye was collaborating with Nike on the Air Yeezy and had just tied up his partnership with Louis Vuitton which saw him remix the Jasper, Don and Mr Hudson, and Jay Z was dominating the rap game.
Musically and visually, the song is incredible, especially when one considers the time frames involved in its creation. Kanye being the magician that he is, created the beat – sampling the amazing Otis Redding (below), who the song is named after – in only 15 minutes at an airport before a flight. As for the video, last-minute changes of plans meant that the final storyboarding for “Otis” was only conceived 48 hours before it was shot, Maybach and all.
This remains one of the best rap music videos ever, with Kanye and Jay Z rapping in front of a massive American flag in a carefree, “fuck you”, devil-may-care moment that I wish we could see again from the duo. Spike Jonze saw the pair drifting around the desert in a modified $350,000 Maybach (by modified, I mean completely butchered down to a Mad Max-esque, unrecognisable shell with flames spitting out the exhaust) while rapping about all things decadence and wealth. ‘Ye appears in a pair of Air Jordan 6 “Infrared”, paired up with a custom made Thom Browne shirt adorned with Balmain patches and cut sleeves and – once again – custom Balmain jeans. Jay Z comes correct in “Banned” Air Jordan 1’s, a Just DON! snapback and a Balmain V-neck. The opulence spoken of through the lyricism is illustrated by the complete destruction of a luxury car rappers today would flex with, with both legends donning killer timepieces as well: Kanye a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, and Jay a Hublot Classic Fusion, alongside several pieces of Cartier jewelry.
The antics involved in the video were a massive safety hazard, with stunt coordinator Jason Dumenigo saying about the Maybach “the doors were removed. For a stunt coordinator that is going to have ‘sensitive cargo’ that definitely was something that stood out. We were planning on doing a 360 with the car as well as sliding it. Finding a way to keep everyone in and safe was the ongoing challenge. We also had a fire element that was being used as an ‘after burner’ turbo effect. The lack of protection was an issue we had to address. We brought in the very qualified Samuel Hubinette to do the 360 with Jay and the girls. Everything else Kanye did himself. Due to insurance concerns we had to bring in the very best driver in the world to accomplish this. Samuel was that guy. Spike wanted to have a single camera in the car and wanted to see Jay during the spin. Those cars aren’t designed to break traction so it meant we had to disable the computers.”
Performing live at the MTV VMA’s in 2011 as a last-second stand-in (yes, the performance below wasn’t planned until hours before the event started) Kanye and Jay once again embody a whole era of rap with their energy, fashion choices and overall image. Surprisingly, this was the first time the duo had ever performed the song live – and supposedly they did it without any practice at all. Look closely, you can see LMFAO and so many other big names in the crowd!