With three Double-Platinum albums to his credit, smoldering singer Ginuwine has smoothly and defiantly sealed his reputation for consistently sexy, romantic, and danceable soul across the urban-pop landscape. Now, by the artist’s own estimation, it is time to “graduate” to the next level, thus, the title of his intentionally edgier new Epic Records release, The Senior.
“The Senior is about growth,” the Washington, D.C. native explains. “In school, you’re not the same person as a senior that you were as a freshman. This is my fourth album, so it’s like my senior year. And everything relates back to learning and growing. It’s me as a man vs. me being young and just getting into the business. This album is more the real me.”

This is not to say that the man who set the radio and video worlds on fire with his debut hit “Pony” as well as the man who melted the hearts of women across racial and generational lines with the beautiful ballad “Differences” weren’t authentically Ginuwine as well. However, over time comes evolution. Now that “G” has been in the spotlight for seven years, he’s comfortable enough to shed more of his glittering exterior to show the man inside.

This process began in earnest when he followed up his red-hot sophomore album, 100% Ginuwine (1999 – featuring “What’s So Different,” “So Anxious” and “None of Ur Friend’s Business”) with the more confessional The Life (2001 – featuring “Differences,” “2 Way” and “Two Reasons I Cry”). The latter was a project deeply affected by the passing of both his parents within a year’s time. With that existential trial behind him, Ginuwine moves forward with a project that finds the artist looking deeper inward to define himself, improve upon the things he’s already done best, and to boldly embark upon new challenges.

Assisting Ginuwine on the songs and interludes of The Senior are producers Bryan Michael Cox (Usher, Janet Jackson and B2K), Troy Oliver (composer of “Differences”), Scott Storch (Dr. Dre, Next and The Roots), and Troy Taylor (the tunesmith behind Tyrese’s hit “Sweet Lady”).

The Senior’s first single, the in-your-face club anthem “Hell Yeah” featuring guest rapper Baby (a.k.a. The Birdman), was personally given to Ginuwine by R. Kelly. “I appreciate that he was even down to work with me,” Ginuwine states, “because, usually, male solo artists don’t want to work with other male artists. He hooked me up with something fast to come out with first. ‘Hell Yeah’ is a club joint for everybody in the club, male and female.” Interestingly, R Kelly wasn’t in the studio for “G”’s vocal session. “I didn’t meet him until after I recorded it,” he explains. “R. put the song on Pro Tools, sent it to the studio and I sang it…my way.” The result so impressed both men as well as Epic, the duo might soon work on a “slow joint” together.

Other highlights of The Senior include the super steamy “Sex” (featuring saxophonist Jimmy Sommers…and an unidentified female) and the funky flirtatious “Those Jeans,” both guaranteed to bring the heat like “G” brought it on his 1996 debut, The Bachelor (1996 – featuring “Pony,” “I’ll Do Anything/I’m Sorry” and a cover of Prince’s “When Doves Cry”).

But what the ladies really want to know is how Ginuwine plans to top the emotional wallop of his now-classic hit “Differences,” among the most played songs at Black radio for 2001/2002.

The answers (yes, plural) are “I Love You More Everyday” and “Better To Have Loved Than Not At All.” Of the latter, Ginuwine confesses, “I was in the studio listening to this music Troy Taylor brought me. I could feel it trying to tell me something… I screamed out, ‘I need an old cliché,’ and everybody in the studio started calling their moms and grandmas! They came up with, ‘Better to have loved than not at all.’ Within five minutes I had the hook. I thought, ‘This is coming to me so easy, it’s got to be right!’ I finished the whole song that night.”

There is also a surprisingly romantic collaboration with rapper Method Man titled “Big Plans.” That’s a song about a guy wanting to get married and letting a girl know if she sticks in there, I’ve got big plans for her,” Ginuwine shares: “Marriage, children and being together forever.”

As usual, Ginuwine co-composed about eighty percent of his new album. The song he feels he artistically “stretched out” on the most is the harrowing story piece, “Lockdown.” “I put my thinking cap on for that one,” he states with pride. “I ventured out to create a song that went beyond just saying ‘I love you’ or ‘I want to sex you.’ ‘Lockdown’ is about me going to a club, getting into trouble and getting locked up for murder…even though it was in self-defense. I do an interlude where I want Johnnie Cochran to be my lawyer. I’ve heard several stories like this and I know a lot of people will be able to relate…anybody who went out one night and later thought, ‘Dag, I wish I’d just stayed in the house.’ It’s a great song.”
Generally speaking, there is an edgier circumference surrounding The Senior, discernible from jump on the opening track “Niggas Get Ready,” featuring West Coast rap godfather Snoop Dogg. “He’s the first voice you hear on the album,” Ginuwine exclaims excitedly. “I’ve wanted to work with him for awhile. This song basically says I’ve been through a lot, so don’t mess with me! All my real fans know that I’m not a thug…but I’m not soft, either. Everyone else will probably think, ‘I knew he had some of this in him, too.’”

The release of The Senior follows Ginuwine’s hit soundtrack single “Stingy” from the film Barbershop (note: “G” also has the all-new song “Excuses” in Deliver Us From Eva). He also kept himself in the public eye via smash hit collabos with rappers Fat Joe (“Crush Tonight”) and P.Diddy (“I Need A Girl”). Both gentlemen show their allegiance to Ginuwine by appearing on The Senior along with Tweet, Trina, Missy, Trick Daddy, Nas, possibly Mariah, plus TV stars “A.J.” (from BET’s 106 & Park) and “Tigga” (from BET’s Rap City: Tha Basement).

Industry observers will note the absence of Ginuwine’s longtime producer, Timbaland, on The Senior. “Timbaland was scheduled to get down, but was running late and I wasn’t in a position where I could wait. But the plan is for my next album to be titled Back to the Basics and, hopefully, Tim and I will do the whole thing together.”

As a kid, Ginuwine knew that he’d be an entertainer once he saw Michael Jackson’s riveting “Billie Jean” performance on Motown 25. Like Mike, Ginuwine is just as known for his stage presence and dancing as he is his singing. He vows to take both to another level on tour and in the videos for The Senior. “I’m going back to the lab to come up with something different. I look at videos everyday and everybody’s trying to be Michael. I realize I’m the one who kind of brought that style of dance back. Now it’s time for me to be a leader again.”

Beyond the music, Ginuwine has been involved in several other ventures.

At the movies, he was featured in the 2002 comedy Juwanna Man playing “Romeo,” the cheatin’ singer/playboy/boyfriend of actress Vivica Fox’s character. Later this year Ginuwine will be seen playing himself in the film Honey, which is about a female choreographer trying to make it “in the industry” (note: it also co-stars Rodney Jerkins, Jessica Alba and Lil’ Romeo.) “For my next movie, I’d like to do an action picture or play a super hero,” Ginuwine confesses.

Ginuwine also has personal fragrances on the market: 100% Ginuwine for women and G-Spot for men. The biggest of Ginuwine’s career moves, however, is that he’s starting his own record label, Bag Entertainment (with “Bag” representing “M.O.N.E.Y.”).

Ginuwine’s immediate focuses are pleasing his fans while continuing to surprising them, as well as remaining a consistent, Platinum-plus seller and performer. “I want people to know that I work hard and put forth 110% effort,” his says with dead seriousness. “You can’t tell me how to ‘do me,’ so I do a lot by myself. It’s a burden, but in the end, it’s all worth it. I’m not greedy. I just want to be consistent. I don’t want to sell 6 million one album then not be able to sell 500,000. I like to be the underdog.”

“Sometimes,” he cautiously continues, “I’ve felt like people wrote me off in the beginning…saw me as a gimmick, a pretty boy, or a one-hit wonder. Proving myself is a never-ending situation.”

Summing up the various vibes of The Senior, Ginuwine insists, “It’s all me. I’ve still got the love joints and the sexy joints, but I’m also showing an edgier person that people will get to know. I’m not trying to come hard or soft. I’m just trying to be who I am at this point in time.”

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