There are but an unfortunate few of today’s producers that are unaware of the immense influence of Bob James’ vast catalog of recordings, having seemingly been the most sampled in recorded music history. Those producers might not know James’ recordings, but they are inevitably familiar with his sound and patented Fender Rhodes wizardry as they are intrenched in those sampling collages of hip-hop’s golden age. Our fam over at NahRight had the immense privilege of sitting down with the master for their very first installment of the Sample Stories series to discuss everything from the making of his seminal sampling pieces “Nautilus” and “Take Me To The Mardi Gras” to his feelings on what aspects of the tracks producers were so compelled by. For it’s distinctively haunting rhodes work and emblematic breaks, James’ “Nautilus” is a pillar within our community garnering the honor of being sampled by every hit-maker in the game including Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Eric B., J Dilla, RZA and is just as synonymous with the golden age as Clyde Stubblefield’s “Funky Drummer” solo (And shame on the man/woman who can’t readily identify the opening break from “Take Me To The Mardi Gras”.)
Being that his recordings are so incredibly indoctrinated into our proud tradition, James has had an immensely complicated relationship with sample-based hip-hop producers, working in accord with those who willingly went through the licensing process, but battling tooth and nail with others like DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince who never engaged in that process and went on to great commercial success. The experience transformed James’ musical landscape, like that of many musicians of his era, into a police state, constantly patrolling the radio for tracks that resembled his own recordings. Bob goes onto describe how despite his grueling experience in licensing battles with the aforementioned Philly duo, that he actually struck up a relationship with former X-Ecutioners collective DJ Rob Swift, during which he was taught the nuances of digital production and gained a staunch appreciation for the “chop.” The intimate, yet candid interview with jazz, funk and hip-hop pioneer Bob James is available in its entirety over at NahRight and peep below for some classics featuring samples of the man himself.