Gina ThompsonView in iTunes
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Comparable to Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, Faith Evans, and the late Aaliyah, Gina Thompson is among the hip-hop-drenched urban contemporary female vocalists who emerged in the '90s. Thompson grew up in Vineland, NJ, where she began singing as a child. She kept singing as a teenager, and by the time she graduated from high school, Thompson had become the first black homecoming queen in the history of her high school. In 1995, Thompson signed with Mercury/PolyGram, which released her debut album, Nobody Does It Better, the following year. The album's producers included Stevie J. (not to be confused with Stevie V or Stevie B) and Bad Boy Entertainment leader Sean "Puffy" Combs, aka Puff Daddy, who had become one of the most famous (and controversial) producers in both rap and urban contemporary. One of the songs that Puff Daddy produced for Thompson's first album was "The Things That You Do," which featured Elliott and gave the Virginia singer/rapper some valuable exposure. In 1996, Elliott had yet to become a superstar vocalist; she was still a behind-the-scenes songwriter/producer and was best known for working with Aaliyah and producer Timbaland. "The Things That You Do" was a major step forward for Elliott the vocalist (as opposed to Elliott the songwriter/producer), and thanks to Thompson's single, more people started to think of Elliott as a vocalist and not just a behind-the-scenes person. "The Things You Do" helped pave the way for the tremendous acceptance of Elliott's debut solo album, Supa Dupa Fly, which Elektra released in 1997. Thompson didn't write "The Things That You Do," although she co-wrote three of the other songs on Nobody Does It Better: "Freak On," "Without You," and "Strung Out." Nobody Does It Better turned out to be Thompson's only album for Mercury/PolyGram; a few years later, Thompson's association with Elliott led to a deal with Elektra. In 1999, Elektra released Thompson's second album, If You Only Knew. The album's guests included Elliott as well as Los Angeles singer Montell Jordan (best known for his 1995 smash "This Is How We Do It"), DJ Jazzy Jeff (as in DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince), and Philadelphia rapper Beanie Sigel. ~ Alex Henderson