James Mtume talks to Red Bull Music Academy about the way he created the song “Juicy Fruit” with the Linn drum machine. He also explains how he learned the connection between a boxer’s jabs and rhythm while working for Miles Davis. DJ Evil Dee shares his experiences of hearing and playing “Juicy Fruit” at parties and he demonstrates the making of his own version of the song. They both acknowledge how Biggie’s “Juicy” gave the song a renewed life.
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James Mtume, Reggie Lucas, Tawatha Agee, Basil Fearington, Hubert Eaves and Howard King were the members of Mtume. Bandleader James Mtume is the son of jazz saxophonist James Heath and he started playing percussion professionally in the ’70s with his father, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson. In the early ’70s he formed the group of his namesake and they recorded 8 albums. The general public know the band because of the famously sampled “Juicy Fruit” from their 1983 album of the same name. However, fans of the group have an appreciation for all of their releases because of Mtume’s uncompromising artistry that never catered to corporate politics and their star musicians. James Mtume met guitar player Reggie Lucas when they both played for Davis and together they would write notable songs for Mtume and other artists including Stephanie Mills, Roberta Flack and Phyllis Hyman. “Love Lock” comes from the 1978 project Kiss This World Goodbye. This album also contains the original version of “The Closer I Get To You” done with the mighty vocals of Tawatha Agee but made famous when covered by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway later that year.“Prime Time,” “C.O.D. (I’ll Deliver,)” “Tie Me Up,” “You, Me & He,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “So You Wanna Be A Star” and “Breathless” are a sample of the pith they brought to R&B. Mtume has also worked as a producer and writer for Lou Rawls, Roy Ayers, The Spinners, Gladys Knight, D’Angelo, LeVert, Chante Moore, Tawatha, Mavis Staples, The Last Poets, Joe, Nu Romance Crew, Tyrone Brunson and Marc Sadane. Other career highlights of his post-Mtume days include scoring the films ‘Sarafina’ and ‘Native Son.’ In addition to his film he was the musical director of the popular ’90’s TV show New York Undercover. In recent times James Mtume has worked as an on-air personality for New York radio. He can be heard every Sunday on WKRS from 10-12 co-hosting the OPEN LINE show with Bob Slade and Bob Pickett.
Stephanie Mills has been performing since she was 11 years old and won the Apollo Amateur night six times. In the ’70’s she toured as an opening act for The Isley Brothers and with the help of Jermaine Jackson got a deal with Motown Records. While waiting for Motown to make her a big star she took on the role of Dorothy in the broadway version of The Wiz where she became known for the song “Home.” When things didn’t work out at Motown she left and got another deal with 20th Century Fox in ’79. James Mtume and Reggie Lucas met while working in Miles Davis’s electric band in the ’70s and formed a writing and producing partnership. Their collaboration produced “Put Your Body In It” which was the flip side of “Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'” the title song of her first gold album. Mills has recorded many soul classics like “Sweet Sensation,” “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” “If I Were Your Woman,” “I Feel Good All Over,”“Comfort Of A Man,” “You Puttin A Rush On Me,” “Something In The Way You Make Me Feel” and “I’ve Learned To Respect The Power Of Love.” She also recorded somenice duets with Teddy Pendergrass “Feel The Fire,” “Two Hearts” and “Take Me In Your Arms” She released her last album Born For This in 2004.