According to a report on Gothamcityesq.com jazz great Bob James is suing respected producer and MC Madlib for copyright infringement. James alleges in court documents that The Madliberator sampled his classic “Nautilus” in the song “Sparkdala” without his permission.
The song in question is actually produced by DJ Design and originally appeared on a Stones Throw 12″ in 2001, but was re-released on Madlib’s 2013 compilation Yessir Whatever, his third under his Quasimoto alias.
James’ “Nautilus” is one of the most sampled songs in hip-hop, serving as the underbelly to classic tracks by Ghostface Killah, Pete Rock and CL Smooth and dozens more. However, he doesn’t play when it comes to his work and sued Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince for their uncleared use of “Westchester Lady” on their song “Touch Of Jazz.”
What seems to be sticking in the craw of many is the statement in the lawsuit that seems to throw shade at hip-hop producers.
“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,” James states. “As a result, they borrow or ‘sample,’ therefore infringe the performance and composition of others in this case, the copy written works of James.”
“From my standpoint, I had to take a stand about it, because the copyright, and the maintaining of the ownership of copyright, are the most valuable and important things that we have in this business. And the control over the usage of it. And to have someone attempt to take that out from under you is a very big deal. And it’s a bigger deal from the standpoint of the record companies than the artist.”
However, in a recent interview with Nahright.com, James spoke extensively about the song’s usage in hip-hop and how it fascinated him.
“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? [Laughs.]”
Getting sued over samples is nothing new in hip-hop, but many fans are pointing to the recent “Blurred Lines” verdict in favor of Marvin Gaye’s estate for bringing renewed attention to the practice. If this is a sign of things to come, expect law offices to be very busy over the next few years.
We’ll have more on this story as it develops. Listen to “Nautilus” below.