A former jazz percussionist, James Mtume moved into urban contemporary and funk in the late 70s and became one of the more successful producers and performers in both styles during the 80s. The son of the great jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath, Mtume was a conga player and percussionist who recorded and toured with Miles Davis and was featured on albums by the Heath Brothers, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, and Freddie Hubbard.
He even recorded as a bandleader for Strata-East before turning to funk in the late 70s. Mtume's band included the sassy, sultry vocalist Tawatha Agee, keyboardist Phil Fields, and bassist Ray Johnson. They had a number one R&B hit with "Juicy Fruit" for Epic in 1983 and a number two single in 1984 with "You, Me and He." They recorded for Epic until the late 80s. Agee went solo in 1987. Their final Top Ten hit was "Breathless" in 1986. Mtume also teamed with another ex-jazz musician, Reggie Lucas, who had also been in Davis' 70s band. They produced and/or wrote for such artists as Stephanie Mills, Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway, Phyllis Hyman, Gary Bartz, Sadane, Lou Rawls, Rena Scott, and Eddie Henderson in the late 70s. The duo worked on the LP In Search of the Rainbow Seekers for Epic in 1980. Mtume worked on his own as a producer with several artists, among them Levert, Tyrone Brunson, Roy Ayers, Henderson, Tease, and Sue Ann. Mtume was also a music producer for the hit TV series New York Undercover.