As young hip-hop legends go, Bow Wow is inarguably the crowned prince of rap. No one has been co-signed by more moguls in music’s modern era: Discovered by Snoop Dogg, signed by Jermaine Dupri, embraced by Birdman, befriended by Hov, and mentored by Puffy. Now referenced by his adult name and title Shad Moss with increasing regularity, Bow Wow remains the brand – and that brand is embodied by one of the few multi-talented entertainers capable of mind-setting their way from productions in film and television to projects in music and other magnate moves with a forward-thinking fluidity few others have foreseen. Now, at 31-years-bossin’ Bow is hip-hop’s transformer, an optimist in his prime.
Bow Wow rescued 106 & Park. He did, real talk. Ya’ll know it. When former stage mainstays Rocsi Diaz and Terrence J left the series to pursue other endeavors, Bow and media darling Angela Simmons stepped up to the plate and made the popular show with a shrinking audience an even bigger global hit with over 85 million viewers tuning in to watch those two turn-up. Having already starred in a number of box office films including “Like Mike”, “Johnson Family Vacation”, “Roll Bounce”, “The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift”, “Lottery Ticket”, “Scary Movie 5”, and “Allegiance”, the actor truly impressed fans when showing his range on the small screen, joining the storied CSI franchise as character Brody Nelson in “CSI Cyber”. As actors go, he’s more than likely found headlining dramedy genre movies or co-starring in something sci-fi, like The CW’s “Smallville”. Less character actor and more of a magnanimous persona often seen on screen, Bow is a major role away from stardom – but music has always seemed to be his primary focus. This hasn’t changed. He hasn’t changed it. The guy is an actor who doesn’t always act like it, largely because rap’s how he arrived, what he’s driven, why he has a lane of his own, and where his own major label parking space titled ‘Creative Control’ is positioned. Bow Wow will always have rap to rely on, but if we’re fortunate, film is his future.
Recently the artist made several announcements, some creative, others cautionary, all openly though cryptically conveyed via social media channels, radio interviews, and recently released music. There was Bow’s lengthy Instagram explainations of why he’s no longer doing interviews due to the media’s blatant disregard for accuracy in communicating his thoughts to the public, often misquoted or quoted out of context, he’d grown tired of the purposeful mistake game press platforms kept playing and decided to no longer take part. Who can blame him? More celebs should follow suit, as this would dish out the ultimate form of disciplinary action outlets would all regret; here’s the truth – without star engagements we no longer exist. Bow’s move made a statement not widely publicized, and this is because media platforms don’t want a wave off similar attitude and action to start. Point made. Point taken. Rep rappers right or rappers won’t rap with you. Writers, you read what I wrote right?
Then there’s Bow’s now famous Breakfast Club interview where he mentioned having contemplated suicide due to a self-perceived inability to identify new goals not yet accomplished. The interview generated over 3 million views across multiple video platforms and was replete with straight-no-chaser statements like, “I’m not as okay as I pretend to be.” Though this moved his millions of followers, a fan-base which extends from Brooklyn to Belgium, Los Angeles to Lagos, Tallahassee to Tokyo, Columbus to Cambodia, into a range of emotions circumstancially situated around sadness, Bow’s feelings are understandable, even admirable. He’s been underappreciated for some time. That’s our fault, not his. When select human beings showcase the rare abiliy to flirt with perfection in one way or another, we wrongly anticipate they will one day unite with awesomeness and consistently be that forever. If Bow’s guilty of anything it’s being so good so often we selfishly expected him to always be a bad boy getting cash money without ever burning out, or even tiring, which meant he’d never be on death row and def not just so so. Never demand more of someone than you ask of yourself. We did just that to Bow.
Child stars often have a short shelf life, the pressures of maintaining their prepubescent professionalism in an adult world of work, travel, and public appearances while their kindergarten classmates are taking community library field trips, playing tetherball at recess, and watching cartoon marathons, takes it’s toll. Some of the most talented and well positioned young entertainers, from Corey Haim and River Phoenix to Amanda Bynes and Orlando Brown, suffered well-publicized meltdowns, drug overdoses, or mental health issues and lost their careers, or even their lives, as a direct result.
In 1993 at the elementary age of six, Bow Wow, then known as Kid Gangsta, performed live in Los Angeles when invited on stage by Snoop Dogg during the crip walking star’s The Chronic Tour. A parade of record deals, film roles, global tours, TV appearances, pretty women, foreign cars, wealthy residences, million dollar deposits, and life under the requisite media microscope followed. Somehow, he handled it. All of it. He managed to never melt, to avoid the fall; never associated with serious legal problems, rape accusations, tax evasions, gun charges, dead-beat-dad dirt or anything else that would shame us. For this, we only rewarded him with wanting more. Seven major label albums, 12 box office films, hundreds of public appearances, thousands of sold out shows, and no bullshit excuses before the age of 30 weren’t enough. Fact is, Bow is only guilty of being so consistent that we fans mistook his work ethic for perfection and began to request more of him, from him, for our benefit, to his detriment. That’s selfish. We’re human. So’s Bow. We forgot.
“Greenlight 6”, known as G6, is set for release sometime this summer. The DJ Drama hosted mixtape offers 20 or so tracks of what promises to be the artist at his most vulnerable, honest, and uninhibited. Song titles like “Death”, “This Shit Getting Old”, “Ya’ll Don’t Know What I Go Through”, “Daddy Left Me When I Was 2”, and “Aunt Shell I Remember Everythang, Ya Nephew On To Better Thangs”, the highly anticipated body of work will be the most introspective of Bow’s career. Serving as an unofficial prelude to his eighth studio album “EDICIUS” (the word suicide spelled backwards) hip-hop will change a little, just a tad, after this project. The climate of young stars has all but disappeared as no kid mc’s have even come close to reaching Bow’s level of rap-skill-mastery, showmanship, success, and ultimately super stardom at such a young age. EDICIUS is Shad taking a bow, his magnum opus, arguably the most meaningful work of art he has amassed in isolation and delivered to the public. Formally introduced by the party lifestyle lead-off hitter “Yeaahh”, Bow avoided the formulaic trap track sure thing virus and caught his own cold beat with a spacious bouncy sound befitting of his flow.
Bow Wow arrived to his exclusive LOOT & RIOT cover shoot, held at Urban Myth studios in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, driven in a next-year-new-shit-you-cant-cop-this-yet Escalade. He was on time, maybe even a little early, greeted our creative team, reviewed look options, offered feedback, consulted direction, slid into the barber chair for grooming, then hopped into look-1 of many. He’s a professional, and has been for what essentially amounts to his entire life. He’s entertained us, whether racing Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s down the freeway with the bro Soulja Boy, hosting a club event in your hometown, starring in a big screen film on you and your boo-thang’s date night, dropping a hot album, releasing a cinematic music video, or keeping us abreast of his latest moves and lifestyle moments via social media. The question now is, how do we reciprocate? For starters, I feel Bow needs his own talk show. It’s him being himself at his best, in his naturally conversant star-studded element. Let’s make that happen, tag him on IG, and stream the hell out of his G6 and EDICIUS projects. After all, he did rescue rappers from rap in that his life and career succeeded in setting this example and defining this truth: Even if a kid from Columbus is gangsta, he can mature into a musician, movie star, media maven, and mogul-in-the-making without crapping on the competition, misleading millions of loyal fans, or selling his soul to sell out his shows. In this tech-steered A.I. era the intelligence may already be artificial, let’s not allow the love to be. No, let’s keep something, and someone, real.