One Of The Most Sampled Songs In Hip-Hop Now Has A Sequel (Audio)
Since the early 1970s, pioneering Hip-Hop DJs played records with specific instrumental breakdown sections that could make B-boys and B-girls dance. As the culture grew, one of the artists who created breaks that DJs—and later, producers, gravitated towards was Bob James. The keyboardist, arranger, and record producer has since become one of Hip-Hop’s most sampled artists. However, unlike some of his peers, the now-78-year-old James has embraced the culture. In recent years, he has worked with Rob Swift, Guru and CeeLo Green.
James’ work such as “Take Me To The Mardi Gras” is the sample basis of LL Cool J’s “Rock The Bells” and Run-D.M.C.’s “Peter Piper.” A collaboration with Earl Klugh, “Harlem Shuffle,” was re-purposed as the stunning opener to House Of Pain’s “Jump Around.” Early 1980s smooth composition “Sign Of The Times” can be heard in De La Soul’s “Keepin’ The Faith” and Warren G & Nate Dogg’s “Regulate.” However, a specific gem in James’ storied catalog is 1974’s “Nautilus”:
The song from James solo debut One was extensively sampled within its first 15 years, thanks to Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story,” Run-D.M.C.’s “Beats To The Rhyme,” and Eric B. & Rakim’s “Follow The Leader.” However, in the 1990s, the CTI Records continued to gain recognition (and revenue), courtesy of Ghostface Killah’s “Daytona 500,” A Tribe Called Quest’s “Clap Your Hands,” and Jeru The Damaja’s “My Mind Spray.” In many cases, different sections of the record were lifted by esteemed producers such as RZA, DJ Premier, and Q-Tip.
In 2013, James spoke to NahRight about the song. Named after its submarine-like sounds by CTI Records founder Creed Taylor, James admitted that the record found an afterlife since ’74. “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].”
Notably, 44 years after the original “Nautilus,” Bob James is making a sequel. Keeping his underwater vehicle theme, the 2018 song is called “Submarine.” Heads can hear strong echoes of the original in the 2018 homage, with the Marshall, Missouri native returning to his masterpiece. According to HipHopSite founder DJ Pizzo, the song belongs to James’ upcoming LP, Espresso (August 31). The release comes on James’ famed Tappan Zee Records imprint.
In addition to his solo catalog, James (who was mentored and produced by Quincy Jones in the 1960s) arranged and produced for Grover Washington, Jr., Milt Jackson, and Stanley Turrentine, among others. He also created the theme to Taxi “Angela”(), which was famously sampled by Souls Of Mischief (“Cab Fare”).
#BonusBeat: Some early 2000s footage of Bob James playing elements of “Nautilus” alongside DJ Rob Swift at New York City’s Knitting Factory: