An acid jazz project with surprisingly deep roots in the 1970s jazz/funk/fusion world, Incognito were originally formed by Jean-Paul Maunick (aka Bluey) and Paul "Tubbs" Williams. Both were leaders of the late-'70s disco-funk group Light of the World, who scored several moderate British hits, including a cover of "I Shot the Sheriff." Just after the release of Light of the World's third LP (Check Us Out), Maunick and Williams shifted the lineup slightly and renamed the conglomeration Incognito.
Incognito debuted with the single "Parisienne Girl" and released the 1981 LP Jazz Funk, but were inactive during the rest of the 1980s. Maunick continued to write material for his group, even while working with Maxi Priest and others. (Williams later moved to Finland.) By the beginning of the 1990s, DJ legend and early Incognito fan Gilles Peterson had founded the Talkin' Loud label and he made Incognito one of his first signings. The 1991 single "Always There" (with vocals by Jocelyn Brown) became a Top Ten hit as part of Britain's booming acid jazz scene, prompting the release of Incognito's second album overall, Inside Life. It was largely a studio affair, with Maunick and engineer Simon Cotsworth directing a large cast with many of the best musicians in Britain's fertile groove community.
With 1992's Tribes Vibes + Scribes, Maunick added a more established vocalist, the American Maysa Leak. A cover of Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" became another Incognito hit, and the album ascended Britain's pop charts even as it rose on America's contemporary jazz charts. The third album, Positivity, became the group's biggest album success, with much attention across Europe as well as Britain. Leak unsuccessfully attempted a solo career with Blue Note, leading to temporary vocal replacement Pamela Anderson (not the Baywatch pinup) on 1995's 100° and Rising. Leak returned, though, appearing on the following year's Beneath the Surface.