Jazz great Bob James has been popping up in the media the last few weeks as he is slapping Stones Throw producer Madlib with a lawsuit over the latter’s song “Sparkdala,” which samples James’ classic 1974 tune “Nautilus” without clearance. The whole sampling debate has been done to death at this point, so we won’t be delving into the argument here, but it is excellent fodder for this week’s Top 5, in which we will examine some of the best hip-hop songs to sample Bob James.

1) Run-DMC – “Peter Piper”

If you don’t already know the James song that the hip-hop pioneers sampled for this classic track, all you need to do is hear those bells. “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” has been sampled literally hundreds of times, but Run-DMC’s use of the song is the definitive version. It’s raw, stripped-down, no frills. As the first song off seminal hip-hop album Raising Hell, the bare-bones approach (a calling card for producer Rick Rubin) still maintains its influence today, acting as the grandaddy for future minimalistic tunes such as The Clipse’s “Grindin’” and Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli.”

Sample: “Take Me to the Mardi Gras”

2) Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon and Cappadonna – “Daytona 500”

“Nautilus” is another Bob James composition that has been flipped and recreated on dozens and dozens of hip-hop songs, both high-profile and underground, but it was Ghostface Killah who arguably executed it the best. Produced by Wu-Tang Clan mastermind RZA, “Daytona 500” was the second single off Ghostface’s 1996 solo debut, Ironman. Although not quite as bare bones as the song in the previous slot on this list, it still has a pretty raw feel that relies largely on the simplicity of the loop. And what a funky loop it is. Even though the single never charted, it definitely stands as a fan favorite and consequently earned a spot on Ghostface’s greatest hits album, Shaolin’s Finest.

Sample: “Nautilus”

3) Warren G and Nate Dogg – “Regulate”

This G-funk West Coast classic is largely based around a sample by a different composer (Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’” is the main loop), but the opening riff to “Regulate” comes straight off Bob James’ “Sign of the Times,” popping up throughout on the song’s hook. While on its own, the “Sign of the Times” riff is pretty upbeat (and maybe even silly-sounding), it takes on a darker and more ominous character when juxtaposed with the dramatic opening chords of “Regulate”/“I Keep Forgettin’.” Produced by Warren G, the song was a huge single on the soundtrack to the 1994 film Above the Rim, and it was later featured on Warren G’s album Regulate…G Funk Era. It’s quite possibly the ultimate performance from the late great gangsta-rap crooner Nate Dogg.

Sample: “Sign of the Times”

4) Onyx – “Last Dayz”

’90s hip-hop crew Onyx is best known for more raucous, energetic material, such as singles “Slam” and “Shut ‘Em Down,” but their single “Last Dayz” (off their second album, All We Got Iz Us) is definitely a gem in their catalog. A large part of the tune’s appeal is due to the moody sample of “Love Lips” from Bob James and jazz guitarist Earl Klugh’s 1979 collaborative project One on One. The song received a second breath of life in 2002 when its instrumental was prominently featured in one of the battles in the Eminem’s kinda-biopic 8 Mile.

Sample: “Love Lips”

5) Souls of Mischief – “Cab Fare”

Madlib isn’t the first hip-hop artist to feel the wrath of a Bob James-related sample snafu. In the early-90s, Bay Area quartet Souls of Mischief (of the Hieroglyphics crew) was on the cusp of releasing its debut album, 93 ’til Infinity, and one of the most promising songs in their batch of demos was “Cab Fare,” a storytelling track that found the four emcees rhyming over a sample from the television show Taxi that was composed by — you guessed it — Bob James. Upon hearing the Souls’ sped-up version of the track, James balked and refused to clear the sample. The song wound up leaking on various bootleg tapes and is regarded as a fan favorite, even though it never received an official, widespread release. Oh, Bob.

Sample: “Angela (Theme From Taxi)”

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