James Mtume, a jazz musician who went on to form the R&B band Mtume, has reportedly died. Mtume was behind the massive “Juicy Fruit” hit, famously sampled by The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” smash.
As confirmed by Pitchfork, Mtume, who recently celebrated his birthday according to an Instagram post, passed over the weekend but the reason was not disclosed. Via Twitter, Lisa Lucas, the daughter of Mtume’s partner Reggie Lucas, took to social media to comment on the loss of the man she referred to as an uncle.
Mtume was born James Heath on January 3, 1946, in Philadelphia, Pa. He was the son of jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath and was raised by stepfather James Forman, a jazz pianist. In interviews, Mtume remarked on instances as a young boy meeting jazz greats through his stepdad such as Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, and Thelonious Monk among others. Forman was a member of Parker’s band.
While in college, Mtume joined the Black nationalist group US Organization and took on his last name, which is translated into “Freedom” from Swahili. In the late 1960s into the 1970s, Mtume worked alongside a number of jazz notables like Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, who Mtume worked with for four years. He also contributed his talents to the works of Lonnie Liston Smith, Ramsey Lewis, Pharoah Sanders, and more.
After years as a session player, Mtume released the debut album of his band Mtume titled Kiss This World Goodbye in 1978. The band’s biggest record, 1983’s Juicy Fruit exploded on the back of its title track. As previously noted, the song lives on by way of Bigge Smalls’ flip of the distinctive track. The band released two more albums in 1984 and 1986.
Mtume was also a songwriter, penning songs for Stephanie Mills, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Mary J. Blige, and others. Mtume was also a radio personality in New York.
Across Twitter, many are mourning the loss of James Mtume and offering beautiful tributes. We’ve got those listed down below.
James Mtume was 76.