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Shafted: Isaac Hayes III Baffled After ‘Shaft’ Creative Team Dismissed Dad’s Signature Sound in Film’s Soundtrack

The newest version of the classic 1971 film “Shaft” is heading to theaters this week, and while the son of the late composer Issac Hayes applauded the movie, which he caught an advance screening of, he’s not doing the same for the soundtrack.

In a guest op-ed for Billboard magazine last week, Issac Hayes III wrote that the accompanying compilation for the 2019 release — which does not feature new music but licenses previously existing tunes — “is nothing short of a disaster.”

Issac Hayes III
Isaac Hayes III attends 2018 LudaDay Weekend Game Night at the Gathering Spot on August 31, 2018, in Atlanta. (Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

Speaking about his feelings on the matter to Atlanta Black Star Thursday, June 13, Hayes said he believed it was a no-brainer for the studio to use his father’s samples. After the creative team with New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, and WaterTower Music got in touch with him in summer 2017, he presented the opportunity to use the samples, and that’s when he said he was “met with resistance.”

“I don’t know if it was because of money or their own arrogance as to thinking they could pull off a soundtrack, but they didn’t,” he said, stating he mentioned the host of songs that already use samples from his dad, including Beyoncé’s “6 Inch” and Kodak Black’s “Transportin’.” Plus, as manager of his late father’s estate, he has all the masters of the icon’s work — including samples.

“People are already using the content, they’re using samples,” he explained to ABS. “So I just have unreleased samples that even make it easier to create these new records because we own the masters and the publishing, so there isn’t a label to go through and upcharge the price. It’s a very streamlined process.”

Hayes said the movie’s team “put themselves in a bit of a conundrum” with the soundtrack and used licensed songs that had been featured in the movie for the compilation instead of original music. He admitted the composer did use elements of his father’s theme song. However, but the actual theme — the 1971 version or the Issac Hayes-created remake for the 2000 film — was nowhere to be found.

“With a movie like ‘Shaft,’ you completely drop the ball when you don’t take the time to create original music,” he said.

Hayes went on to mention the film and TV tax incentive in the state of Georgia, of which he said he “reminded the studio that they could use for the soundtrack and get 15 percent of that income back.” However, he claims he was dismissed.

“I was told by the senior VP of music and New Line working with WaterTower that I did not know what I was talking about,” Hayes said. “But that would be impossible because our attorney for Issac Hayes Enterprises is the attorney that wrote the film and tax incentive. His name is Steve Weizenecker.”

Hayes said at one point, Weizenecker wrote a letter to the execs explaining how the tax credit could be used with the score and soundtrack.

“But again, I was told that I did not know what I was talking about, I was kind of being treated very dismissive,” he said. “It was something I felt like WaterTower wanted to control and they just did a complete disaster. They were very tone deaf in execution and understanding how important soundtracks like ‘Shaft’ go hand-in-hand with really good Black movies.”

Meanwhile, the record producer said he would like people to know the historical and cultural impact of Black creators in the industry.

“Hollywood needs to take better care in respecting Black icons,” he said. “I don’t think they’d be making this third ‘Shaft’ movie if the film didn’t win an Oscar and win two Grammys and really set off the Blaxploitation era with soundtracks. So, it’s really like, be respectful and take care of Black culture. You’re profiting and making money off of these films because the Black community does care, we care about stuff like that.”

Atlanta Black Star has reached out to Warner Bros., which owns New Line and WaterTower Records, for comment on Hayes’ remarks. At the time of this writing, they did not respond to a request for comment.

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