The Brand New Heavies began in 1985 as an instrumental acid jazz group called Brother International.
The group came up with the Heavies name after signing their first record contract, borrowing from a liner note on a James Brown single declaring the artist "Minister of New Super Heavy Funk". As The Brand New Heavies they gained a cult following in the London club scene and soon signed to Cooltempo as acid jazz replaced rare groove in clubs. The band issued a debut recording for Eddie Piller's Acid Jazz label in 1990 with Jay Ella Ruth as lead singer.
A single, "Got to Give", came out on Cooltempo before the Brand New Heavies signed to Acid Jazz Records and released Brand New Heavies to critical acclaim. The band signed to a division of Chrysalis Records in the UK, and American distribution was picked up by influential label Delicious Vinyl, and N'Dea Davenport (who had signed an artist development deal with Delicious Vinyl) joined the group. A revamped version of the first album with vocals by N'Dea Davenport was then released, and the singles "Dream Come True", "Never Stop" and "Stay This Way", all with Davenport on lead vocals, became hits on both sides of the Atlantic, with the latter becoming a music video directed by Douglas Gayeton that saw heavy rotation on MTV.
The group's appearance with MC Serch (formerly of 3rd Bass) and Q-Tip (of A Tribe Called Quest) at a performance in New York City, inspired the group to incorporate elements of hip hop music. Their next album was the critically acclaimed Heavy Rhyme Experience, Vol. 1, which included collaborations with Guru of Gang Starr and The Pharcyde, among others, but lacked any female vocals.
While under management by Colin Lester's and Ian McAndrew's Wildlife Entertainment, The Brand New Heavies released Brother Sister (1994) which was the last album for a while with N'Dea Davenport, who had left to complete her solo album (which she had put on hold to join the Heavies). The album spawned more singles, though one of them, a cover of Maria Muldaur's "Midnight at the Oasis", was popular only in the UK because it was not included in the US version of the album.
Siedah Garrett joined the group for their next album, Shelter (1997). It contained the minor hit, the Carole King-penned song "You've Got a Friend" that was originally made famous by James Taylor. Again, though, this song did not appear on the US version of the album. The album also contained the hit "Sometimes". The remix of "Sometimes" included the rap vocals of Q-Tip from Tribe.
The Brand New Heavies then released their greatest hits album, Trunk Funk - The Best of The Brand New Heavies (2000) with Carleen Anderson on vocals for some newly recorded songs, followed by the Japan only album We Won't Stop (2003) featuring a variety of vocalists and Allaboutthefunk (2004) featuring British singer Nicole Russo on vocals.
In April 2006, the Brand New Heavies reunited with N'Dea Davenport and former label Delicious Vinyl. A new album, Get Used to It was released on June 27 2006 via Starbucks and more traditional music retail outlets. The album was recorded in New York and London; and the lead single "I Don't Know Why (I Love You)" was issued in early May. The single was notable for being one of very few late releases to feature the trademarked "A Tom Moulton Mix", as the legendary disco pioneer had been asked to contribute mixes. Later that year, their song "Jump 'N' Move" was featured on the soundtrack for the 2006 computer animated feature film, Happy Feet, and the in-game soundtrack for 2004's NBA Live 2005. The band toured at the end of 2006.
After the release of a live CD Live at the Indigo2 in late 2008, the Brand New Heavies announced they would be releasing a new album in 2009 with N'Dea Davenport on vocals.