Guy Lochhead, 29/12/10
James Mtume was a jazz percussionist who formed a successful funk group with vocalist Tawatha Agee in 1978 and released three albums before hitting the big time with a new line-up and their 1982 album ‘Juicy Fruit’, the title track from which provided the sample foundation for a number of hip hop records (most memorably Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Juicy’). They released two more albums, ‘Breathless’, in 1984, and ‘Theater Of The Mind’, in 1986, and produced songs for many contemporary R&B artists, before splitting. Mtume made very sampleable post-disco liquid funk on a fluid rhythm section, with a focus on electronic keyboards. I think their accomplished instrumentals are let down by some vacuous lyrics (including the notorious “I’ll be your lollipop, you can lick me anywhere” from ‘Juicy Fruit’) and a dated sound that cuts short their legacy. Hip hop has extended that a bit with some incredibly infectious beats built around their fluid, funky keyboard and bass steps, but then I’d be more inclined to include those rappers or producers than this group who basically made then-fashionable silky dance music. “If you don’t know, now you know…”

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