Ginuwine was one of R&B's pre-eminent love men during that '90s heyday of hip-hop soul. Initially teamed with Timbaland, the most innovative producer of the late '90s, Ginuwine's sultry, seductive crooning earned him a substantial female following and made him a regular presence on the R&B charts, even after the futuristic production he favored was eclipsed by the more organic, retro-leaning neo-soul movement.
Ginuwine was born in Washington, D.C., on October 15, 1970, with the unlikely name of Elgin Baylor Lumpkin (after D.C.-born Basketball Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor). As a youngster, Lumpkin's interest in music was ignited by Prince and Michael Jackson, especially the latter's legendary moonwalking performance on the Motown 25th-anniversary special. At the mere age of 12, he began performing at parties and bars with the local hip-hop group the Finesse Five. He later worked as a Michael Jackson impressionist and sang with another local outfit, Physical Wonder; in the meantime, he earned a paralegal degree from a local community college, in case music didn't work out. In 1996, he adopted the name Ginuwine and was discovered by Jodeci. In New York, he met up with young producer Timbaland and cut the track "Pony," whose slow, halting groove and impassioned vocals helped Ginuwine land a deal with Sony's 550 Music imprint.
With the strikingly inventive Timbaland behind the boards, Ginuwine cut his debut album, Ginuwine...The Bachelor, and released it later in 1996. "Pony" became a number one R&B smash, also reaching number six on the pop charts, and the album became an eventual double-platinum hit. It spun off several more R&B hits over the next year, including "Tell Me Do U Wanna," "I'll Do Anything/I'm Sorry," "Holler," and "Only When Ur Lonely"; it also featured a homage to one of Ginuwine's main influences in the cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry." In the wake of the album's success, demand for Timbaland's production services exploded, and Ginuwine became a bona fide sex symbol. He toured heavily in support of The Bachelor, and kept his name in the public eye in 1998 with his hit "Same Ol' G," which was featured on the soundtrack to Eddie Murphy's Dr. Doolittle. Late that year, he also made his acting debut on an episode of the CBS series Martial Law.
Ginuwine returned with his second album, 100% Ginuwine, in early 1999. Again produced by Timbaland, it entered the pop charts at number five and gave rise to another significant crossover hit in "So Anxious." "What's So Different?" and "None of Ur Friends Business" were also successful on R&B radio, and there was another cover of a Ginuwine hero, this time Michael Jackson's "She's Out of My Life." 100% Ginuwine became the singer's second straight platinum album. He followed it in the spring of 2001 with The Life, his first album to be helmed by producers not named Timbaland. Nonetheless, it was another success, debuting at number three on the charts and once again going platinum.