You've definitely heard parts of Bob James' "Nautilus" chopped up, slowed down, and sampled in tons of hip-hop records, whether it was Ghostface's "Daytona 500", Danny Brown's "Pac Blood", or a whole litany of rap songs in between.
In a new interview with Noisey, the Fender Rhodes master discussed how he started making music, his favorite instruments, his current take on rap music, and much more. If you know your hip-hop history or if you're trying to learn up because his is a must-read interview.
Noisey: How’d you get into music initially?
Bob James: That’s an interesting question to ask an old man. To be honest, I don’t think I ever thought about anything else to be involved in. I came to that point earlier than most people do. But I guess it really started with piano lessons when I was four. My teacher saw I had a strong leaning toward music.
So did you go to college for music?
Yes, I majored in music. Around that time I started playing gigs and started realizing that jazz was going to be my thing. So I came to NYC to prove whether or not I can hang. I ended up staying here so I guess I could hang a bit.
Why’d you decide to make New York your headquarters?
It’s very intense here and very competitive. You have to be at your best to get attention. That drives you to be better than you originally thought, at least for some people. I’m sure is has the opposite effect on people as well.
How do you feel about the “Father of smooth/fusion jazz” title you get labeled with? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Or do you just tolerate it?
No and yes to all of those. It’s complimentary unless it’s people who are upset that jazz took a turn in that direction. I don’t like getting blamed for that. Thing is I’ve seen jazz go through many trends and influences and it’s still jazz. What seems to me to be the most reasonable way of thinking about it is the listeners and DJs need a term to categorize it or label it and that’s coming from them not the artists who created the music. That’s why I get these titles like the “Father of…” and the older I got I became the “Grandfather of…” and soon I guess I’ll be “Great-grand father…”
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