On July 20, the first song from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s much-hyped forthcoming collaborative album, “Watch the Throne,” due digitally Aug. 1 and physically Aug. 5, was debuted on by Funkmaster Flex on WQHT (Hot 97) New York. The song, “Otis,” is built on the back of a sample of legendary soul singer Otis Redding’s 1966 version of “Try a Little Tenderness” and was produced by West.
Listen: “Otis,” Kanye West & Jay-Z
According to a track listing posted on Jay-Z’s lifestyle website Life + Times, “Otis” is credited as featuring Redding, who was tragically killed in 1967 in a plane crash that also killed four members of the Bar-Kays, when he was just 26 years old. Billboard spoke with Redding’s daughter, Karla Redding-Andrews, who serves as project director of the Big “O” Youth Educational Dream Foundation and is currently making plans for the group’s annual event set to tie in with the 70th Birthday Celebration of Otis Redding in Macon, Ga., this September. She had much to say about “Otis” and how the sample was cleared.
When did you first hear about “Otis”?
We first heard about the song in early July, end of June. Concord Music Group has the masters and Bill Belmont and Michele Smith from Concord brought it to us. There was a back and forth about whether the name of the song would be “Otis” or “Otis Redding.” And we just wanted to make sure lyrics and references in the song worked with the legacy of my father. To have two current, legendary artists use the legendary music of Otis Redding-we were quite honored.
Late June to now — that’s a pretty quick turnaround, isn’t it?
It was pretty fast and all came together really quick. With these talented musicians they have so many songs. It’s not until it comes time to pull together a project and they know what songs are going to be on the album that they look to get all the clearances before the song leaks. They brought it to us first and we really appreciate that respect.
This wasn’t the first time an Otis Redding song has been sampled. Do you often get requests to use your father’s material?
Surprisingly, requests come very often. We have a strong partnership with Concord Music and Universal Music Publishing Group and they screen every request before they come to us. This was not the first time that Kanye has used a sample. He also used one for “Gone” from Late Registration. He must be a fan.
What factors influence your decision to allow one of your father’s songs to be used?
It always amounts to respect to Otis. That’s what my mother has always put on the table, first and foremost. It always depends on how it’s used and what the artist has going on at the time. All of that goes into play.
Did you ever meet with Jay-Z or West during the process?
No, we never met with them. It all went through the record companies. That’s the nature of the business and it’s probably better that way. [If we met with them], we would probably bring more personal considerations into it. But this is a wonderful opportunity. We really like the song and the swagger elements that are in the song. It speaks to the star that Otis was in his day.
According to early track listings of the album, “Otis” is listed as “featuring Otis Redding.” How did that come about?
The estate was offered the option to have Otis receive a “featuring Otis Redding” credit, and agreed.