Despite the many things you may have planned out, life can take you in a total different direction. So is the story for Lil’ Mo. Many will remember her for her smash hits ‘Superwoman’ featuring Fabolous, and ‘4Ever’, also featuring Fabolous. She’s also laid some of the vocal foundation on such hits as Jay-Z’s ‘Parking Lot Pimpin’, Ja Rule’s ‘I Cry’ and ‘Put It On Me’, and so many others. Yet, a number of things pulled Mo in a different direction. Over the past few years, she has expanded her family, and hosted her own successful radio show. Even though not putting out music, Mo has definitely been busy. In our exclusive, Mo talks about her experience on Broadway during a brief stint in the Broadway adaptation of ‘The Color Purple’, and she takes us on a journey through her career.
Urban Grandstand: It’s been probably 6 years since I last spoke with you, how have you been?
Lil’ Mo: I’ve been good. I took a hiatus from the industry. I put out music, and did radio, but as far as an album, it’s been that long for me.
Urban Grandstand: I think so many fans are wondering what’s been going on in your life for the past few years. I know you spent some time doing your radio show, and I do want to talk about that, but I don’t think many knew that you were also a part of the latest production of The Color Purple. Talk to me about that experience?
Lil’ Mo: I only did it in D.C. for two weeks. They called me for the Easter return. It was a great experience to be in something that was so notable. Its truly a gift from God, and it as a great way to mirror me back into the business. I have my own fragrance now, and a new album that’s coming out mid summer, around July. As far as my absence, I had to put my family first though. You can please the world, but when fam needs you, that has your heart. The wait is over now.
Urban Grandstand: I can only imagine how excited people must have been to see and hear you! I just think back to a few years ago when you were here in Cleveland with Raheem DeVaughn, and you absolutely tore it up. How did it feel to be doing a stage play?
Lil Mo: The experience was overwhelming. Doing theatre, I could not go in as Mo. I had to go as the character, which was the church soloist. They ended up putting me in more scenes though because of me fitting in so well. The setting was like the 1920s, not 2011. I had to figure out how to rock it in that era. You have to be selfless. People want to know what you bring to the table. People who did not know me, they were like wow, she did her thing. People were not hating at all, but it was almost like, what is she going to do and bring to the table. We did 16 shows, and I nailed it every night. Sometimes we would broadcast live.
Urban Grandstand: So would you do more Broadway?
Lil Mo: I probably would do more. I didn‘t even have to audition [for The Color Purple]. They heard me, and saw my Youtube videos, and figured I could do it. I was in a play called ‘Sanctified’, but I just came in and sang. I have a great work ethic. People didn’t know if I would have a good ethic. Some come and show their tails. It’s a privilege for me. They could have done it without me. They made me feel so good. I don’t know if I can commit for the time they do, like 5 years.
Urban Grandstand: Now getting back to your radio show, I actually thought you had stepped away from it, but is it still airing right now?
Lil Mo: My contract was up. I did a year, then stayed til’ they found a fill in. It’s hard to do radio and promote your product. It’s a conflict of interest. I would have to restructure that way. I have a message to convey, and I don’t want to have to make people wait.
Urban Grandstand: I love how when you’re doing a live performance, you go hard and put it all out there. I was watching a video of you on your site where you were on the news network in D.C., and it was easy to see that you were feeling the performance.
Lil Mo: That was so early in the morning. Them [vocal] cords have me sounding like Weezy Jefferson. The good thing about me is my husband is my vocal producer. I know how to warm up. I pray, and warm my vocals. We were like Starbucks bandits. It warms my vocals. This is allergy season too.
Urban Grandstand: So if you will, kind of school us on your journey? I mean, as a fan, I’ve followed you, from your Missy & Timbaland days, up to your Cash Money experience, and then into your own deal where you were running the show, but I think there are a lot of people now who just don’t know your history.
Lil’ Mo: A lot of people don’t know that during my navigation, I was never directly connected to one crew. When I started off, I was with John P Kee. I did gospel. I went to New York and worked with Guru. They liked my voice so much that we did a U.S. tour. Then I met up with Missy [Elliott]. Someone beeped me and said call Missy. Of course, beepers were the big thing then. Right after that, I get on the phone with her, and went on the road with her. During the interim, I still was not a signed artist. I started writing, and that’s how I formed so many relationships. People respect me because I handled business. That’s why I’m still here til’ this very day. It don’t matter if I hit or miss, it’s just like Irv Gotti said. My name is not scarred. Your word is your bond. Others don’t realize it is all business. If I’m not going to do something, I say it.
I then met with Cash Money. Slim brought me under, but the reason it went left is hurricane Katrina. I felt like I needed to be there. Most importantly, I did not want them to keep spending money on me. They had already spent like 2 million, and I don’t want to be a debt to nobody. A lot of people don’t get the chances I get, or that I’ve gotten. I don’t use people. They call me and I make myself available. I try to keep my name clear. I never do anything to discredit anyone. I’m still the girl next door. I’m older and wiser now.
Urban Grandstand: Do you feel like you’re having to reinvent yourself at all for a new audience now?
Lil’ Mo: It’s almost like both. You never reinvent. If you were great, then you change the package and keep it fresh. It’s the same old me, but just a different package. I’m a mom now, so I try to keep it sexy. My daughter is in third grade, and people be like, your mom is hot.
Urban Grandstand: I’ve always found it amazing that you always come out of the gate swinging with a top 10 single, but when your albums drop, regardless of how much you’ve been out there, the numbers don’t really reflect it. Why do you feel like it’s been so hard to reach the people in a sense?
Lil’ Mo: It’s never hard reaching. I know my fanbase. They ask me am I really coming back, or tricking them. Fans want more. They better be able to handle it. I will flood the market so they get enough. I should have never stopped putting music out. I wasn’t ready a few years ago.
Urban Grandstand: How was it for you, doing ‘Troubled World’ with Faith Evans?
Lil Mo: For people to call you when no one else is checking, it’s great, and was a good way to get out there again. We also did ‘Endow Me’ a few years back, with her, I, Coko, and Fantasia. We are good friends. To hear me with her, and we’re all great singers. These are people I would sneak and listen to. Now these are my sisters.
Urban Grandstand: So your new album, ‘P.S. I Love Me”, talk to me about that, and what we should look for, in terms of growth and maturity?
Lil’ Mo: It deals with, nobody being obligated to make you happy and be your friend. I had to have a love for myself before considering if someone would love me. I have never had a platform to show how real I am. I’m just me. It deals with you loving yourself, with tracks like “This love”, I’ve got dance tracks, a song with Tweet called “I love me”. Sometimes, you give so much of yourself that you feel empty. If you have that love for yourself, then people have no choice but to love you. It’s a lot of people who are friends who we don’t keep in touch with. I realize that sometimes, but some people are there for a reason or season. You always go out with a bang. Like with radio, when I went out, I was number two. It’s an ode to me being myself. You waited, and now you see it was worth it.
Urban Grandstand: What’s been your biggest lesson through this all?
Lil’ Mo: No matter what, do not lose focus. It’s easy to lose it. Whether grassroots, or otherwise, it’s such a fight. You can’t get gassed up. It’s harder to get up than to go down. Maintain focus and humility.
Urban Grandstand: So would that be your advice for the next person trying to come up? Or what would be your advice?
Lil Mo: I could say follow great footsteps. Great leaders follow leaders. For every level, there’s another one higher. Know it’s a whole other world out there. Don’t give up, and don’t have a nasty attitude. It’s about having that chill factor, and not compromising yourself.
Urban Grandstand: Any final thought?
Lil Mo: Everything is going social and viral. You can find me at www.lilmoshow.com. I tweet a lot, but I want to fall back from that. People try to test you. I’m just out here trying to have fun. I’m putting out my own fragrance, and the album ‘PS I Love Me’. Lots of good banter, and showing love everywhere.