PERCUSSIONIST James Mtume, a trailblazer in the jazz and R&B scenes, died at the age of 76.
Mtume was a staple in alternative jazz, R&B, hip hop and film scoring. He used his talents to connect culture and art with politics.
He died Sunday but the cause of his death is unknown at this time.
“A lot of folks didn’t know that Mtume was so political and savvy in so many different areas,” said Fatiyn Muhammad, the host executive producer of the WBLS radio show Open Line.
“I felt like the air got sucked out the room. Mtume was a special individual.”
Mtume was known for 1983’s Juicy Fruit which was sampled by The Notorious B.I.G. in his first official single Juicy in 1994.
Mtume celebrated the song’s 35th anniversary in 2018 by returning to his hometown of Philadelphia.
“I would say I had a very special childhood growing up,” said Mtume to The Philadelphia Tribune in 2018. The musician was born James Forman in 1946.
His father was James Heath, a world-famous saxophonist of the Heath Brothers.
However, Mtume was raised by James Forman, also a jazz musician. “He played with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and all those people,” said Mtume.
“So, when I’m growing up, maybe at dinner one night, there’s Dizzy Gillespie, another night, there’s John Coltrane [or] Thelonious Monk.
“I was only 10 years old, so I didn’t know how deep it was, but I did know it was extraordinary hearing these conversations with these great jazz musicians,”