Fans of Alessia Cara’s breakout single “Here,” which has reached No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, may recognize the deep voice that flits through the background of the track. The song, produced by Pop & Oak and co-written with Sebastian Kole, samples Isaac Hayes’ 1971 cut “Ike’s Rap 2,” one of countless reimaginings of the late soul icon’s body of work.
Hayes’ catalog stretches back to the mid-1960s and includes not just solo recordings like “Theme From Shaft” (which topped the Hot 100 in 1971) but also songs he co-wrote for acts like Sam & Dave (“Soul Man” hit No. 2 in 1967) and Carla Thomas. And soon, many more will be available as Isaac Hayes Enterprises readies more than 200 unreleased recordings uncovered since Hayes’ death from a stroke in 2008.
The organization was founded by Hayes’ family last spring and is spearheaded by the singer’s son, Isaac Hayes III, 40, himself a musician who has produced songs for Ying Yang Twins, Lil Scrappy and Keke Palmer. Hayes III, who took over management of his father’s estate in 2014, uncovered an archive of instrumentals and fully produced songs largely recorded during the elder Hayes’ creative peak in the ’60s and ’70s. Soon after, he began digitizing the analog tapes, which are in varying degrees of disrepair — an extensive process he hopes to complete by early 2016. “These are from the sweet spot, when he was in his prime,” says Hayes III. “They’ll have a lot of life in the licensing world.”
Part of that assurance comes from the sheer volume and enduring impact of Hayes’ canon. While he had success as both a songwriter and lead artist, his catalog was re-energized in the ’90s and ’00s when such acts as Jay Z, Snoop Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan sampled his work. “Isaac was a visionary,” says Warren “Oak” Felder of Pop & Oak, who has crafted beats for Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Ariana Grande. “He could see where music would be going far ahead of his time.”
For now, Hayes III plans to release one full Hayes album along with instrumental and collaborative compilations in the next year while he explores synch and soundtrack opportunities. And with rumors of a new Shaft film in development, the Memphis legend’s music shows no sign of waning. “I don’t know of any other legacy artist on the level of my dad who has this amount of unreleased material,” says Hayes III. “The possibilities are endless.”