Bob James, Talib Kweli

Bob James: "'Nautilus' Was Really Almost a Throw Away"

Bob James: "'Nautilus' Was Really Almost a Throw Away"

Published Tue, March 28, 2023 at 12:03 PM EDT

Legendary jazz pianist Bob James appeared on the latest episode of People's Party with Talib Kweli and discussed one of Hip-Hop's favorite songs, "Nautilus."

James, who is also responsible for "Take Me To The Mardis Gras," and other songs that are go-to Hip-Hop samples says that "Nautilus" almost didn't happen.

"Nautilus I can truthfully say was almost a throw away," he remembered. "I had a bunch of other songs that I had auditioned for Creed Taylor (record label CEO), and we had a concept of how we wanted the album to go but we didn't quite have enough material."

James then recalled driving across the Tapan Zee Bridge to the recording studio and not having a chart for his embryonic idea for the song. "I didn't have a chart or anything specific planned for that day, but I did have a bassline in my head that I wanted Gary King to play and I knew that he would hook me up by turning my little bassline into magic."

James then explained that he didn't think that the song would get any airplay and it was "tucked away on side b as the last song."

"We didn't have a title, we just called it track number ten," he said. "Because the Arp Odyssey keyboard sounds sounded like a submarine, Creed called it 'Nautilus'."

Because of Idris Muhammad's groove and the mysterious sound, I think that's what attracted Hip-Hop producers.

- Bob James

"Nautilus" is considered a foundational breakbeat, utilized by DJs years before rap records existed or Hip-Hop had a name. It has been sampled by Rock Master Scott and The Dynamic 3, Eric B & Rakim, Ghostface Killah, Nas, Slick Rick, Run-DMC, Onyx and many more. James' keyboard work on "Feel Like Making Love," "Sign of The Times," "Westchester Lady," and Grover Washington Jr's "Black Forest" are also popular records and sampler food for Hip-Hop producers.

Bob James recently played New York's Blue Note with DMC, Slick Rick, and Rakim. Over the years, James has embraced the sampling of his material. Many times he wasn't compensated for it due to statutes of limitation, since he was unaware of Hip-Hop's love affair with his music until his teenage nephew updated him about its regular use. He recently joined Tracklib to make his music legally accessible to potential producers.

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