Red-hot soul singer/songwriter Ginuwine doesn't shy away from turning up the sexual heat in his music.
The 24-year-old budding star (born Elgin Lumpkin) is also genuinely ambitious. He's juggling a busy recording and performing career with his aspirations to become a screenwriter. In return for his efforts, a growing number of fans are embracing his smooth soul-funk sound, which is as erotically explicit as some rap music.
"[My music] is futuristic blues mixed with R&B," Ginuwine said while waiting to tape a segment for NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" in Burbank, Calif. "[Rap's] not what I do. Rappers don't want to sing, and [I believe] in staying on your side of the fence. I'm not gonna go over there."
He's currently riding high with his sophomore album, 100% Ginuwine, which debuted in March at #5 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It's still in the top 10 on the R&B chart and has gone gold. To promote the album, Ginuwine recently completed a tour of House of Blues clubs in the United States with up-and-coming singers Cha-Cha and Dave Hollister.
Playing off the artist's sexy, sophisticated image, 100% Ginuwine features cuts such as the single "So Anxious" (RealAudio excerpt) laced with suggestive, sometimes amusing, overlapping dialogue. That's where the movie connection comes in.
Ginuwine likens his mix of spoken word and music to a sort of screenplay, and the tireless performer is actually writing a screenplay. He said he has nearly completed a script about an inner-city youth trying to make it out of the ghetto; the character has to make a choice between dealing drugs and signing with a record label.
Ginuwine admitted the film will reflect his own life growing up in Washington, D.C., though he didn't say whether he actually participated in illegal activities. He did confirm that the project has its share of fantasy. After all, this is an artist whose albums, including the multiplatinum 1996 debut Ginuwine ... the Bachelor, tell tales of an idealized ladies' man who would make Casanova seem unlucky.
On songs such as the first album's hit, "Pony," Ginuwine sings about certain pleasures he can offer: "My saddle's waiting come and jump on it ... ride it, my pony."
To anyone who would castigate him for the sexual content of his lyrics, he offered this defense: "Relationships are something I know about," he said. "In relationships, you do have sex and also all the things leading up to it. Girl, boy, dog everybody can relate."
But Ginuwine also deals with more cerebral issues. On "Same Ol' G" from his latest album, he grapples with maintaining his identity while confronting the temptations of his success.
Despite these various lyrical concerns, the industrious studio techniques of the producer known as Timbaland serve as a unifying factor on Ginuwine's two albums. Timbaland chooses all the musicians on the records, Ginuwine said, and he helps to lay down all the sound effects the singer imagines.
For example, it's not uncommon on a Ginuwine track to hear the sounds of car engines revving or movie dialogue such as lines from the 1995 film "The Usual Suspects," which he says is a favorite to accentuate the composition.
Timbaland was partly responsible for bringing Ginuwine to the public's attention. The singer began his career competing in talent shows and impersonating his musical hero Michael Jackson. Ginuwine said he then fell in with the right crowd, establishing friendships with rappers Biz Markie and Heavy D, and Jodeci singer Donald "DeVante Swing."
Through those connections, Ginuwine eventually hooked up with Timbaland and the producer's circle known as Da Bassment, which also includes R&B singer Aaliyah (who contributes vocals on 100% Ginuwine) and rapper Missy Elliott (who sang with Ginuwine on the non-LP B-side "Friendly Skies"). Soon thereafter, the Sony 550 label came calling with a record contract.
"He's dope," Elliott said of Ginuwine. "I love him. That's my brother. He's the best entertainer I know since K-Ci. He's Michael Jackson 2000."
And Ginuwine does retain some of Jackson's influence. 100% Ginuwine features a few Jackson-like ballads and a practically identical-to-the-original cover of the gloved one's "She's out of My Life." The Artist is another big inspiration, and Ginuwine covered "When Doves Cry" on his debut album.
"If it weren't for [Jackson and the Artist], I don't know where I'd be right now," Ginuwine said. "I admire them because of what they've achieved."
As far as what Ginuwine himself still would like to achieve, he said that after releasing a few more singles from 100% Ginuwine, he's planning on beginning his third album with Timbaland.
"He's the best producer in the world, and I wouldn't have it any other way," Ginuwine said. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."