Bob James May Love Hip-Hop, But He Calls Foul On Madlib’s Sampling
Who can deny that sampling has become a fundamental element that has put numerous Hip-Hop classics on the map? Since the very earliest days of Hip-Hop music, sampling has been integral. With it have often come lawsuits, allegations of copyright infringement, and a series of settlements.
Recently (April 10, 2015) Stones Throw producer Madlib along with his longtime label, found themselves in a case with Jazz legend Bob James over a sample from his track “Nautilus” in “Sparkdala,” which actually appears on the 2013 Quasimoto (Madlib’s animated alter ego) Yessir Whatever album. With that, due to the sample not being cleared, Apple and Amazon have also found themselves in a lawsuit due to the sale of the music and not receiving proper profit from it.
Bob James seems to be a highly favored artist and has been sampled by an array of Hip-Hop artists. In the previously mentioned “Nautilus,” the song sample also appears on Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story,” highly recognized in Ghostface Killah’s “Daytona 500,” and Run-DMC’s “Beats To The Rhyme.” Other songs sampled by James also appear in Souls Of Mischief’s “Cab Fare,” Nas’ “Watch Dem Niggas” and Group Home’s “The Realness.”
In a statement by James that appears on GothamCityESQ.com, he states that “One of the problems that confront many ‘Hip Hop’ or ‘Rap’ artists is that they are unable to achieve an instrumental background musical sound quality for their works. As a result, they borrow or ‘sample,’ therefore infringe the performance and composition of others in this case, the copy written works of James.” DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince have also fallen into James’ legal lens for their sampling of “Westchester Lady” on “Touch of Jazz.”
Although James may appear displeased with sampling and holds copyright infringement to a high standard, he also seems to take a liking to his music being sampled by Hip-Hop artists. In a full -ength interview on NahRight, Bob James also shares his fascination with his sampled music in his song “Nautilus” to be exact which was in fact a “filler” song on his 1974 One album.
“There was one time when a friend of mine in New York was trying to put together a compilation project, asking Hip-Hop producers to just take ‘Nautilus’ as a jumping off place, and each Hip-Hop artist would do ‘Nautilus’ in their own way. I don’t think he ever finished it. But he sent me three or four of these from different Hip-Hop artists, and it was fascinating, because all of them were completely different. Some of them used the song from beginning to end. Some of them re-recorded it, and used my bass line vamp, and they would re-record the drums, with a similar groove. There have been so many variations of it, that it always puts a big smile on my face just to even think about it. How could I have possibly predicted this outcome could happen?”
Previously, Bob James even worked with Hip-Hop artists, including Gang Starr’s Guru and DJ Rob Swift, who ironically released Soulful Fruit on the accused, Stones Throw.
As it appears, James has a love/hate with Hip-Hop sampling and the outcome of this lawsuit with Madlib and Stones Throw is still underway. What are your thoughts on sample clearance?