I don’t even have enough words to relate how I feel about the passing of the icon, James Mtume. He was a musical genius, sharing his gifts with the world as a songwriter, musician, producer, and activist, as well as a mentor to so many younger artists that used his advice to further their careers. Mtume, who was born James Forman in Philadelphia, started out as a jazz musician, coming to prominence working with the legend Miles Davis in the 70s before turning his attention to R&B.
His skills were legendary, composing the hits “The Closer I Get to You” for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway and producing the Stephanie Mills track “Never Knew Love Like This Before” along with his partner Reggie Lucas. He also famously fronted his own band, Mtume, giving us the classic tracks “You Me and He” and “Juicy Fruit,” before producing tracks for Mary J. Blige and K-Ci & JoJo and taking on a second career in the late 90s as a radio personality, going live with the late, great Bob Slade Sunday mornings on New York’s 98.7 Kiss FM.
Of everything he did over a career that spanned decades, “Juicy Fruit” could be considered his crown jewel. It made him a legend, living on in other artists’ discographies from the hundreds of samples of the track they procured. Below I give you ten of those tracks, used to varying success while paying homage to the man that loved music and the artists who created it. Check the tracks and let me know which artist did Mtume’s classic the most justice.