February 21, 2024


Art Is Experience

James Mtume, musician sampled by Notorious B.I.G., dies

James Mtume, a musician, songwriter and producer who played in Miles Davis’ electric band of the early and mid-1970s ahead of founding the eponymous R&B team whose 1983 strike “Juicy Fruit” turned a person of the most recognizable samples in hip-hop record, died Sunday. He was 76.

His death was declared by his loved ones in a assertion that didn’t specify a lead to or say where he died.

Explained in the artist’s phrases as “sophistifunk,” Mtume’s smooth however finely detailed audio layered lush, jazz-influenced chord arrangements above uncluttered post-disco grooves that could make sluggish jams truly feel like club tracks and make club tracks experience like sluggish jams. “Juicy Fruit,” with a stuttering drum-equipment beat and a risqué lyric suggesting the pleasures of oral sexual intercourse, expended 8 weeks atop Billboard’s R&B chart (and led, Mtume mentioned, to a authorized inquiry from the Wrigley gum organization).

In 1994, the Notorious B.I.G. prominently sampled the track for his very own “Juicy,” which received to No. 3 on Billboard’s rap tally and has been streamed more than 1 billion occasions on Spotify and YouTube.

With his longtime resourceful lover Reggie Lucas, with whom he’d played powering Davis, Mtume also wrote and generated elegant, passionate late-’70s soul hits for Phyllis Hyman (“You Know How to Enjoy Me”) and Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway (“The Closer I Get to You”), among many others. In 1981, the duo received a Grammy for R&B music for composing Stephanie Mills’ “Never Realized Really like Like This In advance of.”

On Instagram on Sunday, Mills referred to as Mtume “an wonderful tunes mind” and explained the chemistry she shared with him and Lucas (who died in 2018) “was next to none.” Hip-hop’s DJ Leading, who after sampled Mtume’s score for the 1986 film “Native Son,” claimed Mtume was an “icon” and thanked him on Twitter for his “incredible contributions to music.”

James Mtume.

James Mtume in 1973.

(Anthony Barboza / Getty Photos)

Mtume was born Jan. 3, 1946, in Philadelphia. His biological father was Jimmy Heath, the jazz saxophonist who died in 2020, though he was raised by James Forman, a pianist who performed in Charlie Parker’s band. When he was a kid, well-known musicians these types of as Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk would stop by the family’s residence for supper, as Mtume recalled in a 2014 job interview with Purple Bull Tunes Academy. “I hardly ever was hip enough to know just how excellent a situation that was, but what I did know about jazz musicians were being they have been an incredible group,” he reported.

Mtume attended Pasadena City University on a swimming scholarship whilst in California he obtained concerned with the US Group, a Black empowerment group led by activist Maulana Karenga, who developed Kwanzaa. (Mtume took his stage identify from the Swahili word for “messenger” or “apostle.”) After faculty, he returned to the East Coastline and began taking part in percussion skillfully, first with McCoy Tyner and Freddie Hubbard, then with Davis, who wrote in his autobiography that with Mtume, his band “settled down into a deep African detail.” Amid the Davis albums Mtume appeared on amongst 1971 and 1975 were being “On the Corner” and “Get Up With It,” densely funky outings that divided audiences at the time but are greatly admired right now.

Of Davis’ leadership design, Lucas instructed the Fader in 2005: “The band would create up to these large crescendos and then he’d throw up a hand signaling us to just cease — like an acid-rock James Brown. It was his variation of ‘Hit me!’”

Mtume created in the same way adventurous records of his individual when doing work for Davis, which include the trippy “Alekbu-Lan: Land of the Blacks” in 1972.

A band performing onstage.

Mtume performs in 1985.

(David Corio / Redferns)

Following their stint with Davis, Lucas and Mtume performed in Flack’s band prior to branching out to publish and deliver for other acts. The group Mtume, with Lucas on guitar and James Mtume and Tawatha Agee as direct singers, introduced its main-label debut, “Kiss This Environment Goodbye,” in 1978 a comply with-up, “In Look for of the Rainbow Seekers,” came out in 1980.

For “Juicy Fruit,” James Mtume stated he resisted an engineer’s tips to digitally streamline the defeat he’d programmed on a then-novel LinnDrum equipment. “When something’s exact, which is a drag to me, particularly as a drummer,” he explained to Questlove in a 2021 podcast interview. “I want it to lean a little little bit. So if you pay attention to that beat, it is somewhat off, on objective. It feels human.”

Biggie Smalls was just a person of a great number of rap and R&B acts to sample “Juicy Fruit” it is also been applied by Alicia Keys, Warren G, Keyshia Cole, Chris Brown, Jennifer Lopez, the Video game, Faith Evans and Nas, who’s reported he initially required to loop the defeat from “Juicy Fruit” for “Life’s a Bitch,” from 1994’s “Illmatic,” just before heading with a Hole Band sample alternatively. (Nas eventually utilized “Juicy Fruit” for a remix of his song “One Mic.”)

The team Mtume scored two a lot more major 10 hits on the R&B chart: 1984’s slinky “You, Me and He,” which alone was sampled by Aaliyah and Eve, and 1986’s “Breathless.” James Mtume went on to collaborate with Mary J. Blige, K-Ci & JoJo and R. Kelly and to perform as music supervisor on TV’s “New York Undercover” in 2003, Beyoncé and Luther Vandross recorded a rendition of “The Nearer I Get to You” that won a Grammy for R&B general performance.

Mtume’s survivors contain his spouse, Kamili his brother, Jeffrey Forman two sons, four daughters and six grandchildren.

In the Red Bull New music Academy interview, Mtume recalled that executives at his record label in the early ’80s were being skeptical about “Juicy Fruit’s” prospective buyers due to the fact they assumed the music was far too gradual.

“Much to their shock,” he claimed, “after the very first 7 days they were being acquiring phone calls from each individual radio station close to the place.”