At this point, most people would hear the first few bars of Juicy Fruit and think “oh! Biggie!!”. However, this funk groove by a couple of production vets had already been a classic for over a decade before a certain Brooklyn rapper (and his shiny-suited benefactor) flipped it into a hip-hop classic.
James Mtume & Reggie Lucas were already a hot production duo by the time they decided to start recording as a band. They’d produced records by a slew of female artists, including Roberta Flack (The Closer I Get To You), Stephanie Mills (Never Knew Love Like This Before), Phyllis Hyman (You Know How To Love Me), and this chick singer from Detroit named Madonna (Lucky Star). Recruiting fiery singer Tawatha Agee, Juicy Fruit became their first and biggest hit, narrowly missing the pop Top 40 but spending damn near an entire summer atop the R&B listings.
There are a lot of things that make this song the classic it is: the funky yet sensual arrangement, the cool drum machine beat, the delightfully nasty lyrics (this song rivals Grace Jones’ Pull Up to the Bumper as basically one lengthy double-entendre). It’s classy and sleazy at the same time.
It was Mtume’s finest moment as a group, as the band was defunct a half-decade later. Mtume has gone on to be a popular radio host in the New York City area, while Agee has become an in-demand background vocalist, working extensively with Luther Vandross and touring with Dave Matthews as one of his “Lovely Ladies”. They’ll always be remembered fondly for this 1983 gem. which promises a sticky and sweet bedroom experience.