Bob James Sues Madlib

If you know anything about hip-hop and sampling, you’ve probably heard of Jazz artist Bob James. James is known for his extensive catalog on famed labels CTI and Tappen Zee, as well as creating 2 of the most sampled songs in history – “Nautilus” and “Take me to the Mardi Gras“. Unfortunately, like make many older artists he has a bone to pick with sampling and actively pursues lawsuits against artists that infringe upon his work.

Most recently, James is going at Stones Throw artist Madlib for his use of “Nautilus” on the Quasimoto cut “Sparkdala“. The song was originally released in 2001, but appeared on a Quas compilation in 2013, which most likely led to the lawsuit.

On one hand, producers know there are certain songs that should never be sampled due to sample trolls – “Impeach the President“, anything by James Brown, Michael Jackson, etc. But back 2001, I doubt Madlib thought his limited release (think it was on cassette?) of “Sparkdala” would ever gain enough attention to be heard by Bob James. I’m wondering if Stones Throw thought it was safe to release in 2013 since they hadn’t been threatened with a lawsuit 10+ years after the song was originally released?

On the other hand, Bob James is kind of being a jerk about it. Aside from suing an indy which probably barely profited from the song, he went on to basically say that hip-hop artists can’t make their own melodies so they have to borrow other people’s work. I’m pretty sure James has made a few bucks from licensing his catalog to hip-hop artists and stayed in the public’s ear because of it. I know there was recently a Bob James special edition 45 of “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” released. Who bought it? Jazz fans or hip-hop fans?

I get Bob James wants (and deserves) to be paid. Stones Throw should have been a little more careful with the re-release and omitted that part of the beat. However, Bob James should tone it down a bit with anti-hip-hop sentiments and scale the lawsuit appropriately to the profit Stones Throw made.