Among the various hip-hop artists who sampled the work of the late, great Bobby Caldwell, perhaps none owes a greater debt to the R&B legend than Common. It was Common’s 2000 single “The Light” that gave him his first-ever appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 after eight years and three albums, and that song was made memorable by producer J Dilla’s sample of Caldwell’s 1980 song “Open Your Eyes.”
On Wednesday, Common acknowledged this debt of gratitude, sharing a clip of “Open Your Eyes” on Instagram and writing, “I can’t thank you enough! May God bless the soul of Bobby Caldwell!”
Meanwhile, another of the creative team behind the album from which “The Light” was taken, Like Water For Chocolate, also shared his thoughts about the sample. Questlove, who along with Dilla, D’Angelo, and James Poyser formed The Soulquarians production collective, shared in his own post that he was skeptical of “The Light,” but that Common forged ahead with it, turning out to be right in the end.
“I’ve told the story many a time that I told @Common that maybe we should lose the beat to ‘The Light’ cause it wasn’t ‘Dilla enough,'” he wrote. “But Rash saw something in it man——he was like ‘naw man imma write to this’ (later found he wrote it already).” Still, the greatest co-sign of the single came from Caldwell himself, according to Questlove. “I got word Brother Bobby loved it like in 2001 & so many ‘we’ll be in town let’s meet’ or later on w Fallon ‘let’s have you sit in!’ opportunities missed… Man such a missed opportunity to meet a legend. Thank you for your voice and gift.”
Other artists with notable Bobby Caldwell samples include Tupac, who sampled Caldwell’s signature hit “What You Won’t Do For Love” on his own posthumous single “Do For Love” (recorded originally in 1994), and The Notorious B.I.G., who borrowed from “My Flame” on his 1997 hit “Sky’s The Limit.” More recently, Lil Nas X’s “Carry On” sampled Caldwell’s 1982 song of the same name prior to his “Old Town Road” fame, but rights owners The Music Force sued him over the uncleared sample, hoping to catch on to some of his post “Old Town Road” profits. Even so, Nas couldn’t help but express his own enjoyment of Bobby Caldwell last November.