Singer, songwriter, radio personality, author, and actress, Lil' Mo, debuted on the music scene as Missy Elliott's protégée after signing with Elektra Records in 1998 — She collaborated with the legendary rapper/producer on various songs including the hit single "Hot Boyz." During that time, Mo also collaborated with Ja Rule on hit records like "Put It On Me," and "I Cry," further extending her brand as a new artist and a force to be reckoned with. In 2001, Mo received her big break with her first solo hit single "Superwoman Pt. II," a collaboration with rapper Fabolous, which peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single also paved the way for her debut album, Based on a True Story, which peaked at #14 on the Billboard 200 chart and received rave reviews — the album was also certified gold by the RIAA.
Since her debut, Lil' Mo released four more solo albums, including the newly released project, The Scarlet Letter, led by the single "Should've Never Let You Go." In addition to music, Lil' Mo has expanded her brand over the years, adding radio personality, author, and actress to her growing resume. Most notably, you can watch Mo on TV One's "R&B Divas: LA," which premiered in July 2013.
If you've never met Lil' Mo personally, then you've definitely missed the opportunity to be in the presence of someone real and down to earth. Check out our Digital Cover sit down with the pint-size fire cracker as she talks openly about her new book, Taming Lil' Mo, her new album, reality TV, handling gossip, and much more.
Tell us about your new book “Taming Lil' Mo.”
Its piggy backing off of the Diva Logs we performed on “R&B Divas: LA” season finale for season one. It deals with the biggest battle that goes on between the twins, Cynthia vs. Lil Mo. Cynthia being the business side vs. Lil Mo, the image, the character, the monster that I’ve created. It also gives people an in depth look and feel for my whole duration in the music industry as well as my life growing up, and why I am the way I am. I grew up in a two-parent household, but a lot of people think that I had this perfect life, like all we did was go to church and eat dinner together, but there were a lot of things that went on. You have to read the book so you can get a better feel of who I am. I’m not just a singer, I’m an author, a mom, a wife… there’s so much to Lil Mo.
Since it’s like a biography, do you plan to extend it one day?
I really do want to extend it. I’m a handful and I really feel like if I give you too much at one time, you’re not going to be able to handle it. That’s like overdosing! This right here is just the build up to the greatest story ever told. There are still parts of my life that’s still being written. Even though this book ends in a happy place, I’m still going through things; there’s still more of my story to tell. At the end of the day, I’m telling my story my way, and that’s the only way I would have it.
Cool, so tell us about the making and the creative process of your new album, The Scarlet Letter.
The making of this project took place during the filming of the second season of “R&B Divas: LA.” How ironic, right? I was actually recording the song, “Just Not That Into You,” as one of my scenes and just my whole storyline coming back for a second season. I thought, let me put out a single like I did the first time to hold the people over until they see me again. The single ended up turning into an EP, which turned into a whole album, because I just kept on recording. I ended up recording about fourteen songs and we kept ten; we might add some remixes.
Why did you name the album, The Scarlet Letter?
The title, The Scarlet Letter, I knew that it was going to attract attention. I think I was walking past an old library or a thrift store when I saw the book, and immediately I was like, ‘that’s the title of my next album.’ From there, all the music fell under the concept.
How do you balance music and reality TV?
Music is something people have come to know and love me for; my singing voice, but when you get to see the personal side of me relive what I’m going through on reality TV, it’s just like, how do you balance that out? The way that I heal and get into my mood is being in the studio. Singing for me is therapeutic; thank God I can sing in real life.
When people think about Lil' Mo musically, there's never a doubt that it’s not going to be real, so as you dig deeper into these songs, what’s driving the content? Is it your current happiness, your past sadness, what is it?
This album is taking it back to the true essence of Based on a True Story, the essence of Lil Mo. It’s not just based on current happiness because happiness, smiles, love; all that stuff changes. But honestly, this may be one they call the honeymoon or courting period, because I’m still in the first year of me being in a new relationship. I’m also in the first year of me accepting myself actually wanting to be happy. For this project, I wanted to share what got me to my happy place – It took some losing to win again situations, it took some divorces, it took some deleting people, things, negativity, things I was accustomed to in my life, things that I was holding on to that was actually holding me back. This album has to come out for me to heal.
So, fans that are going through their own issues will be able to use this body of work in their healing process?
This is the cheapest way to keep your sanity if you really want to be sane or you can go pay that man $400 a session so he can tell you you’re a little bit crazy, and they put you on all these types of medications. This is my detox album. I don’t just sing songs to sing them, even if it’s not about me; I usually fill someone else’s shoes.
Digital Cover: Lil Mo is Real
The majority of the spotlight is on you because of TV and R&B Divas, but when the cameras turn off, do you feel like you’re depicted the way you want?
Yes, and I can’t blame anything on editing because they can only edit what you give them. They can’t add anything you didn’t actually do. It’s up to you; whatever you put out there, just realize you’re going to get it back. So, if you're acting like an ass, you gonna get ass back; if you’re acting shy, nobody is gonna care; you attract what you are. I’m totally cognizant of that; a lot of people aren’t. We’re here to tell a story, and it’s up to you to sell that or you won’t be around for another season… I know I get crazy at times, but was I personally going to do something? No, because I know violence is unacceptable.
You’ve always been a hustler; you’ve always been about your business, so at this point in your career, what do you think your purpose is?
Family first! I’ve always been about my business, like you said, but it’s not just about me anymore. Like, I have a big family. Every move I make, every decision I make, I’m not just thinking about myself. All money ain’t good money! With everything I do, there’s always a purpose.
How do you deal with gossip?
My whole life is an itinerary; everything is structured. The stuff you see on the blogs, I planned that. I work for MediaTakeOut TV. I know the power that I have; I know what I possess and I know who I am, so everything that I do is strategic. Some things do slip through the cracks, but I’m like, 'make that disappear.'
So, when it’s all said and done, how do you want people to perceive you?
That she was one of the realest, because as much as I can sing, there’s somebody that can out sing me, as much as I be turnt, there’s someone more turnt than me. I’ve been through some traumatic devastating things, but I don’t wear it on my face. No matter what I’m going through, I will never let it affect me personally, and people know that about me. People know that I’m always approachable. I can go anywhere and fit in. I’ve made myself a chameleon in this industry as well as in life to be able to fit in. 15 Years from now, the same people should be able to come up to me and say, ‘I’ll rock with you.’ I don’t hook a crook, I don’t fake it till I make it, I’m not for everybody, but I’m real.
Head over to iTunes and purchase Lil' Mo's brand new album, The Scarlet Letter.