In Lifted, Javon Anderson examines the long-standing relationship between jazz and hip hop.

The 1970s were a pivotal decade in music, especially for jazz. Many of the sounds of this decade were characterized by the emergence and embrace of electric instruments. In jazz, there was the birth of fusion and the increased prevalence of Latin and African rhythms. This decade saw some of the most creative and iconic works in recorded music.

One jazz keyboardist in particular would end up having a significant impact on hip hop as one of the most sampled artists in the world. His name is Bob James.

James distinguished himself as a keyboardist, composer and arranger after being signed by Quincy Jones to Mercury Records. Throughout the ’70s, he found himself working on various solo albums, collaborations and soundtracks for film and TV, building his catalogue with his stylized take on smooth jazz. However, he would not anticipate his music catching the ears of so many hip-hop artists at a time where that culture was steadily maturing and rising into mainstream popularity.

“It’s one thing to write, but until the right magical player performs it, that’s where people’s ears gravitate toward it,” James said in an interview with Tracklib.

In 1974, Bob James released the studio album One. The album’s closing track, Nautilus, featured atmospheric layers of Rhodes piano played by James, along with tight bass and drum grooves from Gary King and Idris Muhammad, respectively. The very simple and effective grooves on Nautilus would find the ears of many hip-hop artists, who went on to create hundreds of reinterpretations of this sample throughout several eras. This includes big names such as Ghostface Killah, Nas, Missy Elliott, Slick Rick and Freddie Gibbs, along with hundreds of others.