Born Elgin Baylor Lumpkin, c. 1971, in Washington, D.C.; son of James and Sandra Lumpkin; children: Elgin Jr., Story. Addresses: Record company--Epic Records, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022. Website--Ginuwine Official Website: http://www.ginuwine.com.
He chose the stage name Ginuwine for its sincerity, and what the R&B singer was sincere about was success. His first two albums, Ginuwine...The Bachelor and 100% Ginuwine, both went multiplatinum as fans were drawn to his trademark smooth, seductive voice and sexy delivery, as well as his lady-killing stage presence. After the crushing loss of both of his parents, Ginuwine returned with a third, more personal release in 2001 entitled The Life.
Born Elgin Baylor Lumpkin to Sandra and James Lumpkin, Ginuwine was raised in Washington, D.C. He grew up listening to Michael Jackson and watching his mother's videotapes of Fred Astaire and Charlie Chaplin. "I studied showstoppers," he told the Washington Post. "Didn't matter who they were." Both his talent and his ambition were obvious from a young age. He began performing with a breakdancing group called Finesse Five at age 12. When his group took second place at a talent show at Suitland High School, he was less than pleased. "I was mad," he recalled in the Washington Post. "I was like, 'There's no room for second place, we've got to be number one. Second is second.'"
"Even before he recorded a single song," wrote David Segal in the Washington Post, "he considered fame something you hunt, day and night." And that is what the ambitious teen did. He first let his fingers do the walking--he found the New York offices of Sony and Atlantic in the Yellow Pages, then showed up for unsolicited auditions. Armed with a tape and a self-portrait, Ginuwine, who did not settle on his stage name until 1995, would walk in and start singing. The approach did not work. He continued performing, and in 1990, came up with the idea of meeting an influential performer in person and winning his way in. His target was the then-popular MC Hammer, who was on tour in Washington, D.C. with R&B group Jodeci. At their hotel after the show, Ginuwine found Devante Swing, Jodeci's lead singer, in the lobby playing the piano. Ginuwine was unable to introduce himself, but Swing noticed him and asked for an impromptu performance. The girls in the lobby began to scream, and Ginuwine was on his way.
Ginuwine signed a deal with Swing's label, Swing Mob, already home to then-unknowns Tim "Timbaland" Mosley and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot. For a time, the three shared a house in New Jersey. Ginuwine didn't get anywhere with Swing Mob, so he cut his losses and left the label. The bond with Timbaland and Elliot remained, though, as the three rose to stardom. They each appeared on the others' albums, Timbaland figuring most prominently in Ginuwine's career as the producer of his first two releases.
Ginuwine...The Bachelor was released in 1996 on Sony's 550 Music label. The debut sold more than one million copies, fueled by the sexy single, "Pony," which reached number four on Billboard's Hot R&B Airplay Chart. His cover of Prince's 1980s hit "When Doves Cry" and a national tour with labelmate Aaliyah garnered fans and media attention. 100% Ginuwine came out in 1999, achieving success comparable to the singer's debut by selling more than one million copies. Every track on the release, wrote critic Barry Walters in Rolling Stone, is an "often hilarious drama with libidinous lyrics, slow-burning hooks, cinematic sound effects and ... crafty, rhythmic maneuvers...."
After the release of his first two records, Ginuwine was a bona fide sex symbol. His handsome face and chiseled abdominal muscles--the product of 500 sit-ups and 500 push-ups before every stage performance--made women swoon. "His name is Ginuwine, but we like to call him Ginufine!" one female fan told Jet. The artist claimed that he did not see a sex symbol when he looked in the mirror: "I don't wake up in the morning, like 'Yeah, I'm a sex symbol.' I don't do that," he told Jet. Instead, he accepts the label as a necessary part of the job. "Whatever is positive that helps my career move forward, I'm willing to take that," he said. Another facet of the job, he admitted, was gifts from fans. Fans regularly pelt him with jewelry, cards, panties, and bras--all of which he keeps as mementos. "I take them home, wash them, and keep them," he said in Jet. The sex symbol also is a family man; he and fiancée Sole, a fellow soul singer, reside in Washington with their daughter Story. Ginuwine also has a son, Elgin Jr., from a previous relationship.
As diversity is integral to achieving success in the music business, Ginuwine does not simply cut records and give concerts anymore. He appeared on the Jenny Jones television show to unveil his own fragrance lines, G Spot for women and 100% Ginuwine for men. He made a cameo appearance in an episode of television's Martial Law, and co-starred in the film Juwanna Man with Miguel A. Nunez, Vivica A. Fox, Tommy Davidson, and rapper Lil' Kim.
Just as Ginuwine was riding high on the success he had dreamed of, his personal life was in turmoil. In 1999, his father committed suicide. The following year, cancer killed his mother. After their deaths, he was depressed, drank heavily, considered giving up performing, and even considered suicide. He abandoned work on his new record. Gradually, he recovered from his depression and resumed work on the new project. "I know that they'd want me to continue to work and that's what I always wanted to do," he told the Washington Post. "You can't go under too far, and I caught myself. It was about being a man and realizing that I've got people that depend on me. That made me get back in the studio." Ginuwine claimed that the record, his 2001 release The Life, was his most personal project to date. He dedicated it to his parents. He wrote the song "Two Reasons I Cry" for them and believed it helped him recover. "There's nothing in your life that you can't write about," he said in an interview with Jet. "I believed that it helped me, aided me to be able to talk to my mom and dad in song. I know they are looking down on me and smiling."
Compared to his first two multiplatinum albums, wrote critic Amy Linden in People, The Life was lacking. Despite glimpses of his trademark "sass and sexiness," on tracks like "There It Is" and "That's How I Get Down," something was missing. She suggested that something may have been producer Timbaland. The Life was Ginuwine's first release without production by Timbaland. The artist instead used the producers behind smash pop hits from Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez. On the previous two albums, Linden wrote, Ginuwine's "silky, seductive vocals purred beside Timbaland's jagged, hyperkinetic beats to create a uniquely edgy R&B sound." Without Timbaland, she concluded, The Life sounded like an empty attempt at commercial success. Billboard critic Rashaun Hall disagreed, declaring that "The Life is good," as the song "There It Is"--an anthem for hard-working men who are sick of unappreciative women--made its way up Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. Rolling Stone critic Arion Berger acknowledged Ginuwine's strength as a "ladykilling crooner" with the passionate "delivery of an old-school love man," but admitted The Life was loaded with"trendy touches." Despite Ginuwine's genuine talents as a performer and showman, Berger wrote, "The Life is all naughty, disposable high points." "That's How I Get Down," the one Timbaland-produced track on the release, became a party song at clubs across the United States. In its first week on the Billboard album chart, The Life jumped to number three.
by Brenna Sanchez
Began performing with breakdancing crew Finesse Five, age 12; signed with and eventually left Swing Mob label; signed with Sony 550 Music, 1991; released Ginuwine...The Bachelor, 1996; released 100% Ginuwine, 1999; released The Life, 2001.
- Selected discography
- Ginuwine...The Bachelor , 550 Music, 1996.
- 100% Ginuwine , 550 Music, 1999.
- (Contributor) Romeo Must Die (soundtrack), Virgin, 2000.
- The Life , Epic, 2001.
- Billboard, March 24, 2001, p. 25; April 14, 2001, p. 29.
- Entertainment Weekly, November 8, 1996, p. 68.
- Jet, May 7, 2001, p. 54.
- People, April 23, 2001, p. 44.
- Rolling Stone, April 1, 1999, p. 97; May 10, 2001, p. 88.
- Washington Post, April 14, 2001, p. C1.