Tracklib has acquired the rights to 20 Bob James songs in a new agreement.
Jazz keyboardist Bob James is known for quite a few things. The founder of the band Fourplay and writer of the hit TV series Taxi‘s theme song is one of the most well-renowned musicians in hip-hop by its producers. Sampled on tracks like Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” and Ghostface Killah‘s “Daytona 500,” James initially pushed back against (uncleared) sampling of his music. Now, James has teamed up with the subscription production software Tracklib, giving producers the rights to sample 20 songs from his catalog.
James’ songs have been sampled over 1,500 times in tracks from A Tribe Called Quest, Warren G, the Beastie Boys, and more. When DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince sampled “Westchester Lady” for the 1987 single “A Touch of Jazz,” James sued them for copyright infringement.
James’ 1975 track “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” was sampled on Run-DMC’s “Peter Piper,” but by the time he was alerted to the sample, he was unable to receive any royalties for his work until sales died down. Understandably, he has mixed feelings about the whole deal.
Last week, James spoke with Tracklib about his relationship with sampling, decades after the fact.
“I’m happy for their success,” he explained regarding “Peter Piper,” “and I’m happy for the indirect notoriety from all of the hip-hop fans that do associate me with Run-DMC. But it wasn’t a real collaboration. I’m not carrying any negative baggage about it, but I also want to be honest about it.”
On his personal website, James acknowledged record labels’ role in sampling mixups.
“Even the record companies were just playing a ‘wait and see’ kind of game,” he wrote. “So it became necessary for me to become a policeman, to in many cases just find out who was using my music.”