Bob James Discusses Nautilus Becoming A Hit By Way Of Hip-Hop

When Heads get into rare groove/sample sources, pianist, composer and arranger Bob James is an ideal starting point. To laymen, James may be best known for creating the smooth theme song to “Taxi,” however to those who read the labels, James has a massive catalog of hits that’s resurrected by way of the Hip-Hop genre.

From the opening of House Of Pain’s “Jump Around,” to LL Cool J’s “Rock The Bells” and Run-DMC’s “Peter Piper,” Bob has created a soundbed that could get The Latin Quarter, The Tunnel, and currently many of South Beach’s poshest hot-spots up out of their standstill and to the floor. What’s more, Bob has learned to embrace the culture—admiring the work producers have done to his, and even working with X-Ecutionerz’ Rob Swift on new material.

In a new interview with NahRight’s “Sample Stories” series, James reveals how his first album (One, which he never wanted to make), contained an album cut in “Nautilus” that was filler to him, but became the basis of four decades of gully Hip-Hop sound-scapes.

Check these potent excerpts:

“I had been noodling around with a sketch at home, and I brought in this very sketchy piece, which didn’t have a title. And at the last minute, we recorded it. Creed Taylor gave it the title ‘Nautilus’ because there was a sound that I used from the synthesizer in the intro that sounded sort of like a submerging submarine to him.”

“…My point about ‘Nautilus’ is that nobody paid any attention to it. We weren’t thinking of it as being one of the important tunes. And we had put in on the last cut of Side B, which traditionally at that time would be the least important place. In that era, obviously there was Side A and Side B. And usually, the sequence would be to put your strongest cuts at the start of Side A and Side B. They were the cuts that sounded best because they were at the outside of the LP where the grooves were wider, and you got more bass. And you would put what you perceived to be the weakest cuts on the inside. So ‘Nautilus’ was hidden, and almost not paid any attention to at all. So that to me, is the most amazing and incredible thing. That Hip-Hop producers grabbed on to it [even with its unpopularity and poor placement on the album].”

“I can’t really trace back and remember the first producer who looped ‘Nautilus’ and made it into a chunk, but it became a part of the lexicon, or the Bible, of favorite loops to grab on to. It found its way into that repertoire. And before I knew it, I started getting calls practically daily for licensing. I may be exaggerating a little bit, but not too much. It was pretty crazy. A lot of the most prominent ones became known nationally, but there were a lot of street musicians at that time that were doing projects on a shoestring [budget], and my sample was used in a lot of recordings that never really made it big.”

Bob James’ One, Two, Three—and pretty much anything CTI Records put out plays as-is dope to any Head whose never heard it.

Read the whole “Sample Stories: Bob James” at

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