If you were around for the late 90s and early 2000s, you are destined to know the voice that is Lil’ Mo. Outside of her own singles, some of your favorite collaborations with rappers featured vocals from the Long Island-born singer. With the astounding successes that many of her features have seen throughout that time, one would think that she was rolling in dough. But Lil’ Mo stopped by The Breakfast Club to “say it ain’t so” while speaking on lessons she’s learned from those experiences.
Born Cynthia Loving, the artist that the world came to know and love as Lil’ Mo began her career as a songwriter and background vocalist. She would later secure a record deal with Elektra Records thanks to her affiliation with Missy Elliot. From there, a slew of notable records and hits would follow, including multiple chart-topping features. On her own, Lil’ Mo released the well known singles such as “Superwoman Pt. II” and “4Ever,” both featuring frequent collaborator Fabolous. But the sought after singer’s vocals were arguably more successful on some of that era’s biggest records.
In 1999, Missy Elliot’s third single off of her sophomore album Da Real World would feature vocals from Lil’ Mo called “Hot Boyz.” The single and its remix featuring additional verses from Nas, Eve, and Q-Tip went on to chart within the top 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It also broke records as it held the number one spot on the Billboard R&B and Hot Rap Singles charts for multiple weeks.
Lil’ Mo also received feature and writing credits on Next’s smash hit “Wifey”, singing the memorable lyrics “Yes, I’ll be your wifey.” Fans would also be satiated with other appearances on the Ideal single “Whatever” and Keith Sweat’s “I’ll Trade (A Million Bucks).” But it would be her memorable vocals and pen on Ja Rule’s 2000 smash hit “Put It On Me” that catapulted her into the top ten on Billboard’s Hot 100 once again. It was also Ja Rule’s first top-ten hit.
The Ja Rule and Lil’ Mo pairing would occur once again with the release of his single “I Cry” in 2001. She also sang the hook on radio personality-turned-emcee Angie Martinez’s highest charting single, “If I Could Go.” Following a few other features with artists such as Jermaine Dupri and Mobb Deep, the “Ta Da” singer found incredible success once again. This time, Lil’ Mo was in the top 5 of Billboard’s Hot 100 once again thanks to her appearance on Fabolous’s smash hit “Can’t Let You Go.”
Things took a turn when in 2005, reports began to surface that Lil’ Mo filed a lawsuit against Ja Rule and his label, Murder Inc. and Def Jam for unpaid royalties. According to AllHipHop.com, Mo claimed that she was owed upwards of $15 million and that she was entitled to 10 percent of the publishing due to her contributions. “This is my livelihood as an artist,” the singer said at the time. “We don’t make money until the label makes money, so as a songwriter, that was a part of my career that I was supposed to receive a substantial amount of money.”
Recently, Lil’ Mo appeared on The Breakfast Club, where she spoke about the amazing run she had but revealed the reason for much of her hardships. “Twenty years ago, when we were touring and running around, I would say [that] I didn’t handle the admin the right way. I was hype,” the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Award-winning singer said. Instead of making sure that the business was handled correctly, Mo states that she was “runnning around” accepting features as she was one of the most sought out singers at the time. “I was the female Nate Dogg,” she said.
But Mo discovered a discrepancy after being informed that they would not be paid for a promotional run for the song “Put It On Me” at the time. According to her, she mistakenly received a deposit from a booking agent that was meant for Ja Rule and realized she was not listed to be paid. From there, the singer hired attorneys to sue for her to be compensated. While she was receiving royalties for “I Cried” and her Romeo Must Die Original Soundtrack contribution “Somebody’s Gonna D** Tonight,” she did not get paid for “Put It On Me” until years later. Ultimately, the singer acquired 2.5% of the publishing on the record.
Lil’ Mo also acknowledges that Ja Rule may not have been privy to the business as he was not at the session. However, regardless of the drama that surrounded the duo, Lil’ Mo’s relationship with Ja Rule is intact as the two were seen together on his Verzuz battle with Fat Joe.