Funkiest Jam: Bob James "Nautilus"
"Bob James," you say. "That's crazy! He's some smooth jazz guy. How is smooth jazz 'funky'?" Well, smooth jazz, despite its name, can be especially funky in the hands of Bob James. While often derided as music for borgeoise elites, smooth jazz has long had an overlap with the 'quiet storm' format that became so influential in black radio in the 1980s. And in this field, Bob James was a pioneer.
But don't take our word for it; look at all the hip-hop producers who have co-opted plenty of (very funky) breaks from James himself, who has been sampled hundreds of times. One of his most famous loops was "Take Me to the Mardi Gras," most famously swiped by Run-DMC for "Peter Piper." Another was "Nautilus," which has been sampled over and over, becoming the basis for tracks like "Children's Story," "Follow the Leader" and "Daytona 500." Hip-hop would be considerably less funky without Bob James.