98°'s Justin Jeffre

Bass vocalist Justin Jeffre is one-fourth of one of the hottest acts on Motown Records, the soul-pop boy band 98°.

He was born Justin Paul Jeffre, on Feb. 25, 1973, in Mount Clemens, Mich. Jeffre was raised in Cincinnati and attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts. With future 98° collaborator Nick Lachey, Jeffre sang in a few vocal groups during and after high school. These acts included a barbershop-quartetlike ensemble and an oldies cover band.

While studying history at the University of Cincinnati, Jeffre was contacted by Lachey, a tenor, about joining a Los Angeles vocal group begun by another tenor, Jeff Timmons. Lachey's brother Drew, who was working as an emergency medical technician in Brooklyn, N.Y., was tapped to join the group as its baritone.

Backstage at a Boyz II Men concert, the foursome was introduced to Paris D'Jon, co-manager of R&B artist Montell Jordan. He took the boys under his wing and started setting up gigs and touring with them. The group adopted the moniker 98° and began receiving raves for their energetic performances. Record labels came calling, and the band chose Motown.

In 1997, 98° issued their eponymous debut, featuring the single "Invisible Man," which went to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spurred gold sales of the LP in Canada and the Philippines. The group also toured the world.

The quadruple-platinum 98° and Rising (1998) — with production work by the Fugees' Pras and the Trackmasters, among others — mixed soul, pop, rap and dance. It featured a collaboration with Stevie Wonder, "True to Your Heart," which 98° performed with the legend on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."

The LP also included the party jam "Do You Wanna Dance" (with a sample of Kool and the Gang's "Get Down on It") and love ballads such as "Because of You" and "I Do (Cherish You)" (RealAudio excerpt), a cover of Mark Wills' country hit released the same year. 98° also harmonized on an a cappella version of Michael Jackson's "She's out of My Life."

Last year, 98° issued the holiday LP This Christmas. The group is currently featured on the #1-smash Mariah Carey single "Thank God I Found You."

"[My goal is] to be big enough that we can really have an impact on certain things," Jeffre said on 98°'s Web site (www.98degrees.com). "I always want to make a difference."

Other birthdays on Friday: George Harrison, 57; John Doe (X), 47; Stuart Wood (Bay City Rollers), 43; Mike Peters (the Alarm), 41; Dennis Diken (Smithereens), 43; and Chris Pitman (Tool), 24.