Despite being one of the most heavily sampled records in hip hop, the track "Nautilus" by BOB JAMES is a monster of a tune which I never tire of hearing, even today. The track was originally released in 1974 on his "ONE" LP on Creed Taylor Inc Records, but hey I guess you already have a copy of it in your racks, as do most of the crate-diggers I know. By no means is this a rare or hard to find record - but you would be hard pushed to buy a break quite as influential in hip hop and as beautiful to listen to.
BOB JAMES was born in 1939 in Marshall, Missouri - a small farm town with little or no musical activity. His mother, though not musically inclined herself, insisted on her son receiving musical tuition claiming she could see an early talent in him. He started playing piano at 4 years old, and once said he knew early on that he would become a musician, although he did not develop his love for Jazz until the end of High School. He attended University of Michigan where he received a Masters Degree in Musical Composition. During these years he also formed a trio whose first appearance at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival in 1962 caught the eye of a certain Quincy Jones.
In 1974 on creating "NAUTILUS", JAMES said "Titles usually come to me after the piece is written. We were working on a theme, using again the layer process whereby several tracks are superimposed on the basic rhythm track. I started using a particular stop on the Yamaha organ which sounded very good., like some underwater effect. Creed (Taylor) thought it might suggest a cavern, with stalactites etc., but I felt it was more like a submarine journey." Hence the title "NAUTILUS".
NAUTILUS, at a shade over 5 minutes long, definitely takes you (the listener) on a trip through JAMES' musical imagination. Beginning with some mystical vibes, then building the mood with melodic and even melancholic keys blending with the subtle yet shuffling drums (courtesy of Idris Muhammed). Occasionally driving strings punctuate the groove and make way for hints of alto flute - oh it's so beautiful! And we haven't even got to the break part yet!
Here is a soundclip of NAUTILUS by BOB JAMES (CTI 1974)
...and below are just a few of the Hip Hop records that used a NAUTILUS sample to great effect. There's plenty more out there, these are just the a few of the dope ones...
My Mic Is on Fire by Lord Shafiq (1987)
Beats to the Rhyme by Run-D.M.C. (1988)
Snitches by Geto Boys (1988)
Follow the Leader by Eric B. & Rakim (1988)
Ced-Gee (Delta Force one) (Remix) by Ultramagnetic MC's (1988)
Children's Story by Slick Rick (1988)
Jazzy's Groove by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (1989)
Doper Than Dope by Salt 'n' Pepa (1989)
Everybody Knows Me by K-Solo (1990)
Voyage Through the Multiverse by Dream Warriors (1990)
Brothers on My Jock by EPMD (1990)
You Can't Swing This by Lyrical Prophecy (1990)
Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em by Eric B. & Rakim (1990)
Anti-Nigger Machine by Public Enemy (1990)
Groove to the Sound by Run-D.M.C. (1990)
Show Me A Hero by Leaders of the New School (1991)
Live at the Barbecue by Main Source (1991)
Low Down Nigga by Tim Dog (1991)
I'll Wax Anybody by Tim Dog (1991)
Bronx Nigga by Tim Dog (1991)
Moe Love on the One & Two by Ultramagnetic MC's (1992)
Raise It Up by Ultramagnetic MC's (1993)
Black Vagina Finda by Onyx (1993)
Throw ya Gunz by Onyx (1993)
Bust One Fa Me by Threat (1993)
Book of Rhyme Pages by Jungle Brothers (1993)
What's Next on the Menu? by Pete Rock & CL Smooth (1993)
Clap Your Hands by A Tribe Called Quest (1993)
The Rhyme by Keith Murray (1994)
No Delayin' by Nice & Smooth (1994)
My Mind Spray by Jeru the Damaja (1994)
Stray Bullet by Organized Konfusion (1994)
Sun Won't Come Out by Pete Rock & CL Smooth (1994)
Take You There by Pete Rock & CL Smooth (1994)
Inna Citi Life by Group Home (1995)
Paper Chase by Poison Clan (1995)
Daaam! by Tha Alkaholiks (1995)
The Rap World by Large Professor (1996)
Black Nostaljack by Camp Lo (1997)
$cene by Mike Zoot (1998)
Correct Technique by Basement Khemist (1998)
Double Trouble by The Roots (1999)
Torture Chamber by Tame One (1999)
Daytona 500 by Ghostface Killah
phew! and then some. Let's look in-depth at some of the less obvious records also using Nautilus....
FOUNDATION*7 - "Compredator" (Ruff Kutt 1992)
"WARNING!" In this instance, the name of the label says it all - this track IS a rough cut! It took me ages to get hold of a nice condition copy for a sensible price, but this I think is the one of the best uses of Nautilus samples to date. Here F*7 flip up a different loop to that normally used by Hip Hop artists, and later in the track it changes to a different portion of Bob James's classic. Many people compare the MC's mic style here with the legendary GOD Rakim...and I'm sure you will see why. And if you love Rakim, then I reckon you will dig this track too as it uses a few RAKIM hooks here and there. DOPE SHEEEET from 1992!
KING SUN - "Big Shots" (Profile 1991)
KING SUN was one of the most constantly under-rated MC's if you ask me, and has dropped some quality releases on various labels over the years. From "Sippin' Brandy" to "Hum Deez Nuts" he has laced us with some classics.
Here is a KING SHAMEEK produced track using NAUTILUS, but in this instance I prefer the BIG SHOTS REMIX on the flipside which uses another BOB JAMES sample, namely "Take Me to The Mardi Gras" from his "TWO" LP on CTI. But the album version neatly incorporates Nautilus whilst SUN preaches about an ex-con released after a 10-year stretch, and his efforts to make it back into a big shot living the high life. This track is featured on his "Righteous but Ruthless" LP.
POOR RIGHTEOUS TEACHERS - "Word is Bond" (Profile 1990)
Another dope record on the PROFILE label, this time produced by Tony D and North Side Productions. PRT are Wise Intelligence, Culture Freedom, and Father Shahee and are highly rated by Hip Hop fans as a crew to check. All of there albums have some dope material and let's face it they had a style of their very own! So it wouldn't be right if the trio didn't rock this funky Nautilus joint! And what a cracker it is, featuring on the b-side of "Time to Say Peace" remix 12" but sadly with no instrumental version. Could this be one of the best Hip Hop tracks to use Bob James' classic break??
JUSS BAD - "Freestyle" (Tuff Groove 1987)
This UK released stormer of a twelve ranks highly amongst collectors, and for very good reasons. Firstly it's our first chance to hear sister Monie Love and Mc Mellow (before he dropped the w) on the mic, and is produced by DJ Pogo and Sparkie. It also has the dopest cover art by JUMP2. An early release as far as UK Hip Hop vinyl is concerned, and rightly so coming from some of the UK's pioneers. This record is rarely found and highly sought-after...as is the label's other 12" release FRESH-SKI & MO-ROCK "Talkin' Pays" (does anyone have a spare copy pleeease??).
"Freestyle" exhibits superb use of a NAUTILUS sample which sounds great when coupled with the WILSON PICKETT "Engine Number 9" stab and beat. Hunt one down if you don't own it already!
ULTRA MAGNETIC MCs - "Bait" (Let's Go 1987)
Does this record really need any introduction? A hard-to-find early track by the legendary ULTRA MAGNETIC MCs originally only available on the RED ALERT GOES BERSERK LP, and recorded as an exclusive track for the original propmaster RED's radio show on KISS. Later the track was picked up on in Japan and released as a very limited seven inch single with additional verse for the hardcore collectors.
I remember first hearing ULTRAS on radio (John Peel or maybe Janice Long on RADIO 1) back in the day and thinking to myself "what IS this futuristic shit?" - so unique and advanced was their sound. I couldn't fathom or figure out how they got that sound! Their first release on DNA records entitled "To Give You Love" b/w "Make You Shake" was no classic by anyone's standards...but by the time they recorded "Bait" and "Funky" in 1987, their vocal and production skills were above par and they were ready for world domination (well almost!). Ask any hip hopper from back then who was the dopest crew in the late 80's, and nine times out of ten their answer will be Kool Keith, Ced Gee, Moe Love and TR Love namely ULTRAS!
Here are the crew "controlled by Gamma light" using NAUTILUS samples and some bugged out drum action (CED GEE) with some classic RED ALERT "yeeeeeeaaahhh" soundbites. Introduced by the REDHEAD ONE himself.
...more Nautilus-using joints coming soon.....
Post inspired by a conversation with my buddy KWOTE ONE down unda in OZ! What's up to you K!