Sample Legendary Keyboardist Bob James Songs Without Getting Sued

by Raheem Karim
Bob James

Bob James

Bob James Partners with Tracklib, Giving Producers The Rights To Sample 20 Songs

Legendary jazz keyboardist Bob James is one of the most sampled artist in hip hop. James’ songs have been sampled over 1,500 times in tracks from major artist such as “Follow the Leader” by Eric B. & Rakim, “Regulate” by Warren G and Nate Dogg, “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A. James is the founder of the band Fourplay and writer of the hit TV series Taxi‘s theme song. Sampled on tracks like Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” and Ghostface Killah‘s “Daytona 500”. James’ 1975 track “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” was sampled on Run-DMC’s “Peter Piper”.

James initially had mixed feelings sampling of his music. “I have made peace with hip-hop’s use of my music, but still, in many ways, it doesn’t represent what I think about when I’m presenting my music. I’m creating it, I’m in control over it, and I make the decision about how it sounds when it comes out. To some degree, I’ve had to live with the way it has evolved, and certainly I’ve made money on it, because I do own the copyrights”. Now, James has teamed up with the subscription production software Tracklib, giving producers the rights to sample 20 songs from his catalog.

Other popular artist to sample James hits are A Tribe Called Quest, the Beastie Boys. When DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince sampled “Westchester Lady” for the 1987 single “A Touch of Jazz,” James sued them for copyright infringement

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Bob James stated on his website, “I have a very strong memory of the first time my music was used in [hip-hop]. It’s when ‘Westchester Lady’ was sampled by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince [on their song ‘A Touch of Jazz’]. It was on their first album [Rock the House]. The blatant use of my song, ‘Westchester Lady,’ was a complete shock to me. It was a major, major problem, because they had not licensed it. They didn’t do anything. And it was very clearly my recording, almost from beginning to end, [using the] major parts of the melody. So I had to sue them, and go through a major legal battle in order to maintain my copyright. And that kind of got me off to a sour start with the genre. And I realized as time went on that it was a fairly common thing at that time, for rappers to take recordings and use them without going through the licensing process. Even the record companies were just playing a ‘wait and see’ kind of game, trying to get away with it. So it became necessary for me to become a policeman, to in many cases just find out who was using my music”.

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