Lil' Mo & the Dynaflows
Cynthia Karen Loving (born November 19, 1979) best known by her stage name Lil' Mo, is an American R&B singer, radio personality, songwriter, and record producer. She debuted on the music scene as Missy Elliott's protégée and contributed guest vocals to some of Elliott's work, most notably the record-breaking "Hot Boyz". Under the wing of Elliott, Lil' Mo would land a contract deal with Elektra Records and release charting singles of her own, including "Ta Da", "Superwoman Pt. II", "4Ever", "Hot Girls", and her debut single "5 Minutes".
In addition to her solo work and collaborative efforts with Missy Elliott, Lil' Mo worked with former associate Ja Rule, with whom she penned chart-topping hits like "Put It on Me" and "I Cry". Thereafter, Lil' Mo would go on to release four studio albums, eleven music videos and over fourteen hit singles. Mo would also be largely responsible for bringing then-unknown rapper Fabolous to mainstream media attention. Aside from her work as a solo vocalist, Mo has contributed production and backing vocals to numerous artists' records throughout the years including: Nicole Wray, Jay-Z, Tamar Braxton, Gerald LeVert, Faith Evans, among many others.
Born into a military family, Loving was raised primarily on Long Island, New York, but moved about regularly as her family followed her father's military assignments. Along with her parents, Bishop Jacob and First-Lady Cynthia Loving Sr., she lived in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina before settling in Baltimore, Maryland. Dreams of becoming a famous singer began early and she always pertained to the goal, performing in talent competitions wherever her family would settle. By her adulthood, Mo set out to reside in New York City's Manhattan borough, in hopes of pursuing a music career there.
1998-2001: Elektra Records and Based on a True Story:
In early 1998, while submitting demo material to future-labelmate Nicole Wray's 1998 debut album, Make It Hot, Lil' Mo received a call-back from Merlin Bobb, who later connected her to Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott. Intrigued by Lil' Mo's voice, Missy Elliott requested Mo to come to the Elektra Recording studios immediately in New Jersey. Upon her arrival, Mo landed a contract deal with Elektra and began working closely with Elliott throughout the early course of her career. Shortly after the release of labelmate Nicole's 1998 debut album, Make It Hot, Mo would begin work on her own debut tentatively titled Based on a True Story. In between recording sessions for the debut, Mo would either collaborate on Elliott's records or perform in Elliott's touring venues. By fall 1998, Elektra Records had serviced Mo's debut single, "5 Minutes" to radio airwaves as the original lead single for both the Why Do Fools Fall in Love soundtrack and Mo's debut. However, because the single underperformed in the US, the song was pulled from the final track-listing of Mo's debut album.
As a scheduled release date for March 1999 approached, Elektra pushed the album multiple times in hopes of revamping Mo's image and sound. By late 1999, Mo would go on to gain further exposure for her appearance on Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Good Morning Heartache" and Missy Elliott's record-breaking "Hot Boyz". Mo's next big exposure came in 2000, when she was granted her own production company, HoneyChild Entertainment, and featured on Ja Rule's single "Put It on Me" alongside Murder Inc. Records signee Vita. The single was a hit on both urban and pop radio, and reached number eight on the US pop charts. More collaborations by Ja Rule and Lil' Mo followed, including "I Cry", which repurposed The O'Jays' 1978 hit "Cry Together".
After years of successful collaborations, Lil' Mo would finally release a successful hit of her own, "Superwoman Pt. II", in March 6, 2001. The single peaked at #11 on Billboard Hot 100 and helped bring underground rapper Fabolous to mainstream attention. In June 26, 2001, Mo's debut album, Based on a True Story was released to generally favorable reviews. Additionally, the album peaked at #14 on Billboard 200 and attained a gold certification from the RIAA, making it Mo's successful album to date. In August 2001, the debut generated a follow-up single titled "Gangsta (Love 4 the Streets)", which failed to match the success of her preceding single.
2002-2005: Radio work, Meet the Girl Next Door and Syndicated:
In 2002, Lil' Mo developed an interest in communications after her work as a part-time anchor for Baltimore urban radio station WXYV-FM. That same year, Mo began work on her second album, Meet the Girl Next Door. Mo revealed to Billboard magazine that she was going to purposely use a different sound for the effort in hopes of convincing the public to overlook her credibility for "Superwoman Pt. II". As early as December 2002, the album generated three singles, "4Ever", "21 Answers" and "Ten Commandments". The former being the only successful, alongside being granted a music video release. On April 29, 2003, Meet the Girl Next Door was released to favorable reviews and mild charting on Billboard 200. Promotion for the album was limited; according to Lil' Mo, this was largely due to the fact that she was pregnant and Elektra did not give her proper support. Despite minimal promotion, Mo went on to perform the album singles on very few shows, including Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Soul Train. Shortly after promotion ended, Mo's contract with Elektra expired. She was then shuffled to Cash Money Records to record a follow-up.
In July 2004, Lil' Mo began recording material for her third album, Syndicated: The Lil' Mo Hour. During the course of its recording, four singles were released; half of which ("Hot Girls", "Dem Boyz") saw charting progress via Billboard. After a final scheduled release of October 2005 passed, alongside the destruction of Cash Money's New Orleans studio caused by Hurricane Katrina, Lil' Mo was dropped from the Cash Money roster and Syndicated was shelved.
2006-2012: Pain & Paper and P.S. I Love Me:
In 2006, Lil' Mo, alongside Faith Evans, Fantasia, and R&B-turned-gospel singer Coko, appeared on the remake of The Clark Sisters' "Endow Me" from Coko's gospel album Grateful (2006). Under her independent label HoneyChild Entertainment, Lil' Mo released the album Pain & Paper on August 28, 2007 with support from Ike Morris and Morris Management Group. The album featured production from Joey Cutless, Bryan-Michael Cox, Jules "Judah," Mike Moore, Troy Taylor, Adam "Streets" Arwine, Daniel "D-Up" Allen, Wesley "Mister Wes" Toone, among others. The first single from the effort included "Sometimes I" featuring rapper Jim Jones. Its music video was directed by Gabriel E. Hart of Drew Barrymore's unreleased Vh1 program Shoot to Kill. Later in the year, a second and final single, "Lucky Her", was released.
In 2008, under a new label, Global Music Group, Lil' Mo began work a new album, formerly titled Tattoos & Roses: The Rebellion Against My Pain. Initially, the album was to include a double disc set; half of it being a live production. However, plans were scrapped and the album under went a completely different recording process. The album's title was then revised to P.S. I Love Me with guest appearances from Tweet, Dawn Richard (of Danity Kane, Diddy-Dirty Money), PJ Morton and other performers Mo admired in the music industry. Initial contributors Missy Elliott, MC Lyte and Fabolous did not make the final cut due to undisclosed reasons. Prepping the release of the album, Lil' Mo hosted a radio show in Washington D.C. and insisted the album dives into "everything I have been through on my hiatus." On November 1, 2011, the project was released via HoneyChild Entertainment/Bronx Bridge Entertainment; distributed by Fontana Distribution.
2013-present: R&B Divas: LA and The SCARlet Letter:
In 2013, Mo became a cast member of TV One reality show R&B Divas: Los Angeles alongside Chanté Moore, Kelly Price, Claudette Ortiz (of City High), Michel'le and Dawn Robinson. The series premiered in July 2013. The premiere of a reunion special to R&B Divas: LA built on TV One's historic summer ratings success, attaining a total of 834,000 viewers. Additionally, the special's ratings tied with the debut of the original sitcom The Rickey Smiley Show as the network's #1 telecast among adults 25-54 in TV One history.
On September 10, 2013, Lil' Mo released the song "I'm a Diva" via iTunes. Another song titled "L's Up" was released the following week. In April 2014, as part of preparation for her fifth album, The SCARlet Letter, Lil' Mo released her second mixtape No Shit Sherlock, which featured contributions by Da Brat and songwriter Tiyon "TC" Mack. On August 20, Lil' Mo announced via Twitter that The SCARlet Letter would released on October 28, 2014.
In 2001, Lil' Mo met her first husband, Al Stone, at a Washington, D.C. gas station; she initiated a conversation and asked for his number. He proposed to her in May, and they wed on August 29, 2001, after dating for only 5 months. Just two months later, Loving became pregnant, and on August 19, 2002, she gave birth to a daughter, Heaven Love'on Stone. Her second daughter, God'Iss Love Stone, was born on February 24, 2005. In December 2005, she filed for divorce from Al Stone. She then married Gospel recording artist Phillip Bryant; the couple welcomed a son, Justin McKenzie Phillip, on January 16, 2009. She currently lives in Odenton, Maryland. She gave birth to their second son, Jonah Maddox-Phillip Bryant, on July 10, 2012. In 2014, Lil' Mo and Phillip Bryant separated. The same year, Lil' Mo revealed on Philly's Hot 107.9 that she's in a current relationship with professional boxer Karl Dargan. In June 2014, Lil' Mo revealed via Instagram that she had an estranged stepson nicknamed Kidd Cole, who infamously appeared on an episode of MTV's television series Catfish: The TV Show. In March 2015, Lil' Mo revealed that her and husband Karl Dargan were expecting their eighth child together. On August 29, 2015, Mo gave birth to a baby boy Karl Dargan Jr. .
On June 22, 2001, while being escorted to a limousine, Lil' Mo was assaulted by a male at a San Francisco concert venue. She was bludgeoned in the head by the man's champagne bottle and was immediately hospitalized at California Pacific Medical Center, where she received 20 stitches. The incident traumatized Mo and left her suspicious of the attack, in which she felt it may have been a potential "set up". Mo confirmed to MTV News that she had to cancel many shows and cease a double-music video shoot for her single "Gangsta" so she could recover from the incident. A reward ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 was issued in hopes of catching the assailant. Though the alleged male attacker was never found, local San Francisco police received anonymous tips that the attacker boasted about his actions at a Hunters Point housing project near San Francisco, California. In 2004, Lil' Mo referenced the incident in her mixtape song, "Why". In 2003, Lil' Mo revealed to Vibe magazine that she struggled with an eating disorder since 2000, just two years after she was signed to Elektra Records. She wanted her weight to be at 102 pounds so she could "be like everybody else" and "look good." However, Mo grew depressed and felt that she "looked a mess" and resembled a lollipop. She was suggested to do Weight Watchers for a healthier lifestyle.
A feud between Mo and former associate Ja Rule embroiled in late 2001, when Mo was dismissed by Murda Inc. executives and subsequently replaced by then-newcomer Ashanti. The feud would later be brought to public attention in early 2003. In January 2003, while co-hosting 106 & Park: Prime, Mo sent a shout-out to 50 Cent, just seconds after she premiered a Ja Rule video. The incident sparked an outrage with Ja Rule and the Murda Inc. clique. Mo had told the press she assumed BET was going to edit out the shout, furthermore she didn't think the gesture would cause such an uproar. In response, Ja Rule released the diss track "Loose Change," which targeted Eminem, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Chris Lighty and Lil' Mo. Rule rechristened Mo as a "bitch", and credited himself as the reason why she had any hits. Mo refused to fire back, stating that she "had better things to do." However, in May 2003, Mo released a freestyle diss to Ja Rule, where she rapped, "Used to be my homie, used to be my ace, now I can't stand you, yeah I wanna slap the taste out your mouth."
In April 2003, additional controversy surrounding lack of recognition and payment for Lil' Mo's contributions on records "I Cry" and "Put It on Me" was brought to attention. After the single release of "Put It on Me" and no payment, Mo received a booking agent's check by accident when Mo and Ja Rule were set to perform the song at a concert venue. Mo ripped the check up and contacted a lawyer to launch an investigation surrounding the masters of "Put It on Me". Mo told MTV News, "Those two records "I Cry", "Put It on Me" ruled 2001. The whole world knows that ... If I speak the truth, I can't apologize. I helped that brother sell 3 million records, and I don't have a plaque for Rule 3:36." Mo went on to contrast the situation with Jay-Z, where the Brooklyn-native rapper gave Mo recognition; a plaque, a thank you card and a bottle of Cris for her work on "Parking Lot Pimpin'". In 2005, Lil' Mo filed a lawsuit against Ja Rule, Murda Inc. and Def Jam Records for over $15 million. In 2010, the two reconciled. Lil' Mo stated that she ended the dispute due to the declination of Ja Rule's career and noted that "life is too short ... You just never know what people are going through." In 2011, the two reunited and recorded a track together titled, "U & Me".
A feud between Lil' Mo and R&B singer Keyshia Cole originated in August 2005 via controversial radio series Star and Buc Wild Morning Show, the lead hosts of whom were well noted in the press for ridiculing the death of Mo's close friend Aaliyah. While on the show, allegations of Mo criticizing Keyshia Cole's presence in the industry were made, where Mo was reported to have compared Cole's vocal talent to "new" chicks like Ashanti. Angered, Keyshia Cole rushed to Dream Hotel in New York, where Lil' Mo's manager Phil Thornton and a stylist were preparing a concert venue. Cole angrily questioned the two why they were present; the pair responded that they wanted to see Mo. Cole in response stated, "You all are traitors. Lil' Mo is the enemy," and immediately rushed off. Lil' Mo stated that witnesses from the scene recalled Cole being "drunk". On October 7, 2005, during her interview with Angie Martinez on Hot 97, Keyshia Cole challenged Lil' Mo's take on the event and cited her own side of the story being true; insituating that Lil' Mo was a liar.
In March 2013, 8 years following the controversy, Keyshia Cole was criticized by urban media outlets for her vocal critique of Beyoncé's "Bow Down/I Been On" via Twitter. The incident provoked a response from Lil' Mo who told HipHollywood in April 2013, "I've seen Keyshia talking about, 'First you talk about women's empowerment now you talkin' about bow down.' But, just a couple of weeks ago you just said that Beyoncé was your queen and you dissed Michelle ... You can't get mad. Just sit down, get off Twitter; if you can't handle it, keep your opinions to yourself. Who is your publicist? Who is tweeting for you?" Days after the release of Lil' Mo's interview, Keyshia Cole dissed Mo via her Twitter account, stating: "You gotta be able to smile through the bullshit." Mo then responded to Cole, "If YOU can't take that, then the whole interview is gonna fuck the front of ya panties up." Despite the exchanges, in May 2013, Mo addressed to The Breakfast Club that there was no beef between her and Cole. She added, "I felt some type of way, she shaded Michelle first. I feel like when you try to attack (what you think is) the weakest link, be careful. Why are you tryin' to come for Beyoncé? She's at the Superbowl sic. Bitch you ain't there. It's not about what you said, it's all about how you delivered ... She's not gonna say it to nobody's face." Additionally, Mo revealed via Twitter that she recently designed outfits with the caption, 'Who's your publicist?' Keyshia Cole, who was offended, perceived this as another attempt for Mo to take shots at her. Cole responded to Mo via Instagram in a captioned picture that read: "The saddest thing about betrayal is, that it never comes from your enemies!" Mo lashed at Cole's response, tweeting: "I've been saying, 'Who's ya publicist?' for over 13 years. For all the dumb ass niggas that think I made it up the other day: I got sayings, yo."