While most 13-year-olds were busy worrying about whether their crush reciprocated their feelings and slurping up the last bit of Coke at the mall food court, JoJo was busy making her swift rise to fame. After "Leave (Get Out)" hit the airwaves, she became the youngest solo artist in history to have a number-one single in the United States, and along with it came a dedicated, diehard fan base. Fast-forward a few years, and the internet was littered with headlines like "Where Is JoJo Now?"
"I felt totally stuck and I was making the decision whether to go to college and study anthropology and sociology, or to go through with the lawsuit and try to get out and focus on the next chapter of my career," she says, referencing the time during which her label, Blackground Records, decided to silence her. "It was really frustrating because people had questions and I didn’t have answers. Even my family, they saw me, you know getting very, very sad. It was just confusing and mostly I wanted to be able to explain things to people, but I also didn't want to seem like I was anti-label or like I wasn't trying to make things work."
Because after two albums, 2004's JoJo and 2006's The High Road, and an iconic '00s breakup anthem ("Too Little Too Late"), her record company decided that they wouldn't be releasing any more of her work. She was still stuck in her existing contract, which stipulated that she release seven exclusive albums with them, and it seemed like she would never be able to release music again.
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Photographed by Atisha Paulson; Styled by Marissa Smith.