Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

A lot has happened to Lil' Mo since the 2001 release of her first album, "Based on a True Story," and its hit single, "Superwoman Pt. II." Just as the album arrived in stores, an unknown assailant hit her over the head with a champagne bottle following a San Francisco concert and Lil' Mo received nearly two dozen stitches. Since then, she also became a wife, a mother, and a radio personality. Thus, her April 29 sophomore set on the Gold Mind/Elektra -- "Meet the Girl Next Door" -- reflects a more mature Lil' Mo.

"I know you're only as good as your last hit," says the Queens, N.Y., native who now calls Maryland home. "But I never try to top myself. I just try to improve. To this day people won't let that record ["Superwoman Pt. II"] go, so it gives me credibility. But this album shows different sides of me. It's not about walking around with an 'S' on my chest. It's time to grow up."

When choosing producers to help realize her vision, Lil' Mo (real name: Cynthia Loving) "wanted to work with producers who are hot and don't always get the credit they deserve. I didn't want to be name- and logo-heavy." The resulting roster includes Bryan Michael Cox, Precision, Chucky Thompson, Missy Elliott, and Warryn Campbell. Cox helmed lead single "4 Ever"; it features Fabolous, who also guested on "Superwoman Pt. II." The song is No. 30 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.

With the album packing a solid selection of traditional R&B- and hip-hop-flavored tracks inspired in part by her new family, such cuts as "4 Ever" will no doubt keep Lil' Mo fans happy. But other tunes -- like the ballad "Shoulda Known" -- could help widen her appeal, since Lil' Mo notes that, lyrically, "Meet the Girl Next Door" is an attempt to showcase a depth not always associated with modern-day R&B.

"I think the audience I had before was 15 and under; now it's 15 and over," says Lil' Mo. "Because of my age [25], I think I need to be the spokesperson for women. People are always trying to make you dance. They don't want you to listen and think. I want to keep people, [especially] women, on the positive tip."

While mulling a return to singing after her attack, Lil' Mo worked on-air at Baltimore's urban formatted WXYV-FM. The move was surprising to some, but it gave her invaluable lessons about being on the other side of the industry fence.

"It showed me just what lengths people will go to to get a song on the radio," she says. "Overall, though, it was a great experience that I definitely want to take to the next level -- like doing a talk show."





Excerpted from the April 5, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.

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