The pianist never imagined “Nautilus” would be sampled on hundreds of songs in the nearly 50 years since it was released.
Repping distant ends of the sampling spectrum, 9th Wonder and Bob James aren’t a likely pairing of producers. But there’s arguably no one more qualified, past or present, to discuss the evolution of sampling in hip-hop production.
And in a recent Zoomed-in chat, that’s just what they did. Tracklib, a sampling platform that licenses classic catalogs to producers, brought 9th and the legendary composer together to dig into the development and trajectory of chopping. James, as one of hip-hop’s most frequented sources — his 1974 song, “Nautilus,” has been used in literally hundreds of beats in the nearly 50 years since it appeared on his album, One — rifled through the range of sentiments he’s had towards sampling over the decades.
“When I first began to discover [sampling] it was not exactly a positive thing because the times I found out my music had been sampled it was not licensed,” James says, referring specifically to DJ Jazzy Jeff‘s use of his song, “Westchester Lady,” on “Here We Go Again.” James doesn’t seem to be carrying any saltiness, though. He goes on to describe his legal tiffs with musicians as moments to educate himself on licensing and copyright, which he believes are the greatest tools available to producers today. For 9th’s part, the producer props James up as the creator of an indispensable collection of work for producers of any era. “I asked the president of my label, ‘Who would we put on the Mt. Rushmore of people that we sample?’ The first name that came up was James Brown. But then it’s a very hard and serious argument that you’re probably right behind him,” 9th admits to James.
Their chat concludes with the promise of a proper collaboration between the producers, hoping to (legally) sample each other on a future project.
Watch the conversation between 9th Wonder and Bob James below.