For many years it has been a goal of ours to track down Gina Thompson for an interview so we can help share her story. We’re proud to share that we’ve finally had the opportunity to do so.
The singer will of course always be known for her timeless 90’s R&B Jam “The Things That You Do” (Bad Boy Remix). Anyone who’s listened to any of her music though will know that her talents run way beyond just the one song. We’ve had a chance to hear each of the projects she’s released and even put together a list of her best songs here.
During our interview with Gina Thompson, we discussed her early days signed to Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, her debut album “Nobody Does It Better”, being on top of thew world after releasing “The Things That You Do”, signing with Missy Elliott to release her second album “If You Only Knew”, her industry journey, what she’s currently up to, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about signing your first record deal after high school?
Gina Thompson: Let me say how I even got into the singing aspect of things. Basically it started with me singing in the church. I grew up in the church of course. I had two brothers at the time, one remaining, and he wanted to take me into a studio to see how I would sound doing solo stuff. A friend of his had a studio so we went to his home and recorded in his basement. I remember doing a Tracie Spencer song and a Shanice song. Nevertheless, once my brother had heard my vocals, he really felt like I should try to do more singing. In moving forward, my brother in law at the time, and one of my cousins knew Rodney Jerkins. So what happened was they got me set up with Rodney, so he could hear me sing. I went to his house and sang in his living room. Right off the bat, he was very interested in signing me to his company Darkchild Productions. I signed with him, we did pre production right in his basement. When I signed, I was 20 years old, and getting ready to go to college. With all of this happening, I ended up focusing more on a music career. We pre-recorded songs in the basement and really pre-recorded the whole debut album, for the most part. After we had done three songs, his father, who was representing me as my manager at the time, took the first three songs and shopped them around in New York. Within a matter of weeks, we got a couple of callbacks. Reverend Jerkins, who was my manager at the time, said Mercury Records, with Polygram, they were the ones that pretty much offered the best deal. In moving forward, we signed with Mercury, recorded the album in Manhattan, NY, and then were deciding on the first single to come out. After getting some ears involved, A&R’s, the president and CEO of the record label, everybody came to the conclusion of “The Things That You Do”. They wanted it more like a sound that was poppin at that time. Not to say the original wasn’t, so they decided to first talk to us and ask how we feel about Puffy doing the remix. We agreed and Puffy agreed and wanted to jump on it. At that time, that sound was out. Puffy wanted to arrange the vocals. So 112, myself, and Puffy and Rodney, we collaborated on a melody, and 112 actually sang backgrounds on that single. When Puffy heard the finished product, he put his spin on it as well, Rodney put his spin on it as well, and then they felt like a rapper was needed. Puffy of course knew Missy, who then heard the album and wanted to get on it. She got on the record, then it kind of went from there, that was 1996 in the Summer. That’s pretty much how my music career got started.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What was it like collaborating with a young Darkchild to create your debut album “Nobody Does It Better”?
Gina Thompson: For awhile honestly, it was such a shock to me. I knew that I could sing, and I thought it was surreal, it was really happening. As I began to really start working with him, the pre-production part was cool, but once we got Manhattan and recording in the studio, I think that’s when it really clicked to me. Rodney works so fast. He probably still does. He works so fast, he’s such an acrobat with his talent, the way he collaborates and comes up with stuff. Missy is the same way. It truly was a blessing to have that experience and work with a producer so phenomenal first time around. Even his brother Fred worked on that album as well, it was a blessing. I can’t give it any other word. Dream come true. I think that honestly everyone that I did work with on the project, we all had that cohesive touch, we really did. There is nobody on either of my albums that I can say that I wasn’t feeling. I learned a lot, the importance of writing, and much more. The music industry of course has its ups and downs, and let me tell you I definitely went through some things. It’s you live and you learn.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What was it like having a smash hit like “The Things That You Do” (Bad Boy Remix) out in the mid 90’s?
Gina Thompson: I still always go back to it being a blessing. It was a dream come true. I’m so thankful and appreciative of every moment of it. I felt like a star. Just to know that people appreciated the song and I was blessed with an opportunity to share what I have with others and for people to be receptive. You’re always going to have those that are not. But just to be received off of that first single, many people don’t get that. I didn’t take that and I still don’t take that for granted. The whole journey itself was a roller coaster. Even 20 something years later, the more I think about it all, it made me who I am today and I’m very pleased and thankful for who I am today. Overall the experience, I still wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m thankful for the good and the bad. It was amazing, to travel the world, to sing for fans, and to be appreciated and be able to share my story with others and make other people feel the joy. It was so amazing. Prayerfully, if it’s the lord’s will, yes it’s 20 something years later, but here I am finally opening up now and telling my story, maybe better things will come in 2022.
YouKnowIGotSoul: How did you end up signing with Missy Elliott at her Goldmind label to create your second album “If You Only Knew”?
Gina Thompson: After “The Things That You Do” came out with Mercury/Polygram, the industry went through some changes, and I try to be very careful when I speak about making moves, but things happened. I had to just keep it moving. The record company was not trying to put out another single. So I had heard these things happen. For the life of me, I was so confused. I just didn’t understand what was going on. So many things were said and put out there, but I became unhappy and talked to my attorney to let me move forward. Meanwhile, me and Missy began to talk more, so with that being said, our relationship got tighter and what began to happen is, Sylvia Rhone saw that, and others at Elektra saw that. So Missy said we had to keep it moving for me, and they wanted to sign me over there. Timing was good. So Missy of course was the executive producer, and I co executive produced it. She gave me the green light to do my thing. I believe that more so happened because I think she wanted to be more hands on, but what happened was she was so busy at that time, and even prior to me signing, and having her own artists, and her own label. I think what began to happen was she couldn’t be in every place. She had to prioritize and do her thing and she did. Meanwhile, while she was out doing her thing, I was collaborating with my manager at the time on putting this record together. We were finding producers. The second album to me was so awesome. Another blessing. What happened was, every time that I did complete a song, I’d play it for Missy and she’d say “Yes” or “No”, but for the most part I put together the album myself because she was so busy. But once the album was completed, the majority had agreed on “Ya Di Ya” as the single. Eric Roberson was the one who wrote that single. He wrote that and also helped me co write and arrange three other songs on my album. I was introduced to him through DJ Jazzy Jeff’s camp at the time, and that whole team blessed that album. “Ladies Anthem” was a track on there that Eric also wrote. I thought that should have been the first single! I thought it was perfect, at that time it would have really rocked, and added a rapper to it. But “Ya Di Ya” was the most chosen one. After that album was completed and the single came out and we dropped the video, it was a repeat, I thought it was déjà vu. The first single was out and then nothing happened with the second single. The album got shelved, people started saying Elektra was going to fold, and at that point I just became so numb. I poured my heart out on both albums, but when I tell you every blood in my capillaries was poured into hat second album! I did a lot of writing, Jon B. was on there, he and I did a duet. Montell Jordan’s camp with Shep Crawford did two or three songs. I had Beanie Sigel on there, my cousin had did that track. A friend of my son’s father was on there and he did a really nice track. The list goes on. I even had my son on the album, I wrote a song about him, “As Long As God Allows” and had his voice on there. That album was so meaningful to me and I put it together. So when I was told it was being shelved, I was so confused and I became numb and shut down and anger took over. That’s where I started turning really emotional downward on a coaster. I asked my attorney again, but I was done. I didn’t know what was going on here, maybe I just wasn’t liked. It was like trying to reach out to people and nobody is returning your calls. Everyone is ghost. I felt abandoned. It was so, so, so hurtful. I went into a deep depression. It gets really deep with me. I was just so over music. Then a few years later, I tried to do another project with the guy that owns the Laugh House. That didn’t work out. Then that’s when I really said, ok I’ll try another career! With all of that being said, fast forward, depression did try to take my life. But God said he had other things in store. Here I am and I stand today as a registered nurse with a master’s degree. I’m beginning to work on self and music again. There are fans out there that do deserve and want to hear my story. I’m hoping someone can learn from my story. That’s how I feel. I’m so much more content in who I am. This story could really go on, but for the most part, having a supportive husband and family, three beautiful children, two beautiful grandchildren! At the end of the day, I’m just thankful to be able to speak to people like yourself to share my story. Hopefully it’s a testimony for somebody. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give to anybody getting into his music industry: put your full trust in no man but God, and make sure you learn the business. You’ve got to get what’s yours. You are a commodity, so a lot of times people don’t quite grasp what that means. People will drag you and try to suck every penny out of you. You’ve got to keep your mind and soul, and let go and let God. These battles, you can’t fight them alone. Once I truly realized that and gave it all to Him, I became so much more at peace and he saved me. That’s my story!
YouKnowIGotSoul: We really did appreciate your “If You Only Knew” album. The songs you did with Jon B. are all amazing, “Cool Out With You”, “Up All Night”, and “Calling You”.
Gina Thompson: Jon B. that whole experience with him, was absolutely in a different pocket. I was so comfortable in that zone. That is the vibe that I love. I loved that whole vibe. Can I wail and do vocal stuff? Of course. But to me that soulful vibe right there was so me. That’s why I said to my current manager, that if Jon B. and I could reunite and do a couple of things together, I know in my heart that it would be a wonderful collaboration once again. It was so phenomenal. I totally get what you’re saying about those tracks.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Touch more on your time down at A Touch of Jazz in Philly with DJ Jazzy Jeff and his camp.
Gina Thompson: They worked on four songs on the album. One of them was “As Long As God Allows”, I was missing my oldest son so much. What happened was, the song just melted in my frontal lobe so easily and Keith played the keyboard and helped me with arranging some of the lyrics for the most part. I straight wrote the song lyrically. We did that at Jazzy Jeff’s spot. Like I said “Ya Di Ya” was another one, and Missy recorded her part elsewhere. Eric Roberson wrote and arranged that one. “Take My Number Down”, I wrote that song, but Eric Roberson did backgrounds and arrangements. Then “Ladies Anthem”, Eric also wrote that one. That should have been the first single. *Laughs* My manager at the time had a connection with Jazzy Jeff. He knew one of his producers, so he wanted to know how I felt about listening to some of their music. I was open to it. I was trying to get a variety of things on the album. Then my manager made a couple of calls, spoke to my A&R at the label, and we went from there. When Missy heard the songs, she said they were winners. That’s how that journey came about.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Share with us what it was like working with Missy Elliott in the studio.
Gina Thompson: She truly, truly is so gifted, the way she just comes to get her own thing. The way she writes, her arrangements, what she hears, her dances. She just has this mind that’s one of a kind. Seeing how she comes together and delivers, it’s phenomenal, it’s amazing, and it was a blessing. Rodney is pretty much the same way and in his own world. Both of them are amazing writers and producers, and have great ears. The times I was in the studio with Missy, it wasn’t just working on my own stuff. I was there once with Missy and Timbaland in the studio and they were working on stuff for Aaliyah, bless her soul. I was there once and they were working on stuff for 702. There was even a time she wanted me to go into the studio and I referenced a song that Aaliyah did end up singing. I think the name of it is “Can I Talk To You”. It didn’t really get the buzz of her other songs, but I heard it several times on the radio. Even when I did that reference track for that, Missy wrote that song I think in 30 minutes. She’s super duper fast! Again, such an amazing spirit. I even met her mother and her mother is just as amazing as she is. The experience in the studio was awesome. Both Rodney and Missy, the same situation kind of happened with both. They both blew up so quickly and work was just coming at them, and I get it, they had to feed their family. You don’t want the headaches if you don’t have to have them. Unfortunately I just got caught in the midst of two tornadoes. I am who I am today, and everybody I cross paths with, I’m ok with that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What are your upcoming plans for new music?
Gina Thompson: That’s my plan, and I’m having God steer this. Slowly but surely, and I know it’s been over two decades, but it’s in God’s time, and whatever is meant to be, he’s guiding that. That’s my story and I’m sticking to that. Yes, I will be back in the studio, my manager and I will be working on things. 2022 we are working on some exciting things.