There was nothing like Hot Buttered Soul, the luxuriant, expansive, exploratory soul album by Isaac Hayes, when it was released in 1969. Given complete creative control, the Stax producer and songwriter stretched out figuratively and literally, two of its four tracks stretching past the 10-minute mark, exploding with strings and horns. It turned Hayes from songwriter to sensation to icon. His style—soulful, cinematic, assured, lush, deeply arranged—would win him an Academy Award for his theme song to 1971’s Shaft and earn him a headlining spot soon after at the historic Wattstax concert.
In the ’80s and ’90s, Hayes found most of his success as a film and TV star, but hip-hop musicians were keeping his music alive. Some of rap’s most defining songs between 1988 and 1992—Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” The Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” DJ Quik’s “Born and Raised in Compton”—were built off the baroque samples of Hayes tunes. New York producers like RZA, Pete Rock, MF Doom, and Evil Dee used his palettes to make boom bap. And drawn to the cinematic, ’90s British trip-hop artists like Portishead and Massive Attack used Hayes to cull their nocturnal moods. To celebrate 50 years of Hot Buttered Soul, here’s Hayes refracted through hip-hop’s prism.