Rap musician, actor

Met Snoop Doggy Dogg

Released Beware of Dog

Image Distributed on Book Cover

Selected discography

Selected filmography

Sources

Popular music at the turn of the millennium featured a plethora of teenage stars, and Lil’ Bow Wow was hip-hop’s unusally successful entrant in the teen pop competition. Lil’ Bow Wow packed shopping malls with young female fans after the 2000 release of his first album, Beware of Dog —even though he was only four-foot seven inches tall and weighed a mere 85 pounds. His success has been attributed to both his personal charisma—he reminded some observers of the young Michael Jackson—and to his purely musical talents. Lil Wow, observed Jason Birchmeier of the All Guide, “miraculously raps better than most MCs industry despite his youth.”

Lil’ Bow Wow was born Shad Gregory Moss on March 9, 1987, in Columbus, Ohio, and was raised in nearby Reynoldsburg. He was a middle child, a brother between two sisters. It didn’t take long for his musical talents to surface. “He’d pick up my kitchen utensils and combs and brushes and start rapping,” his mother, Teresa Caldwell, told Jet. By the time he was three it was clear that Shad (the name still used by his friends) was something special, and his mother began to enter him in talent shows around the Columbus area. He began performing under the name of Kid Gangsta.

Met Snoop Doggy Dogg

In 1993, at the tender age of six, Kid Gangsta became Lil’ Bow Wow after he met rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg (later Snoop Dogg) at a Columbus concert during the latter’s The Chronic tour, and was invited on stage to perform. “He reminded me of myself as a kid—his energy, his look, “the older rapper told Jet. “He was a little me. Instead of naming him Lil’ Dogg, I named him Lil’ Bow Wow.” Lil’ Bow Wow went on tour with Snoop Doggy Dogg as an opening act, and at that point the youngster went from being a novelty act to having a chance for major success as a child star.

That success didn’t come right away, however, even though Lil’ Bow Wow made a guest appearance on Snoop’s wildly successful Doggystyle album. Lil’ Bow Wow, with backing from Snoop Doggy Dogg, signed a deal with Death Row Records, but the heavily gangster-oriented label was unsure of how to promote its pint-sized musical acquisition, and several recording sessions at Death Row came to nothing. But with his mother as his manager, Lil’ Bow Wow managed to maintain the semblance of a normal, well-grounded

At a Glance…

Born Shad Gregory Moss on March 9, 1987, in Columbus, OH; son of Teresa Caldwell.

Career: Appeared on stage with Snoop Doggy Dogg, who gave him name Lil’ Bow Wow, 1993; toured with Snoop Doggy Dogg; signed by producer Jermaine Dupri to So So Der imprint of Sony label, 1997; released debut album, Beware of Dog, 2000; Doggy Bag, 2001; changed stage name to Bow Wow; starred in film Like Mike, 2002.

Addresses: Record Label —Sony Music, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022. Website —http://www.lilbowwow.com

childhood. He remained a strong student in school, having won a junior-high-level award from the Ohio Interscholastic Writing League.

Lil’ Bow Wow’s contribution to the Doggystyle album was expletive-laced, but Atlanta producer Jermaine Dupri envisioned a different path for the youngster and signed him to his So So Def label (an imprint of Sony) in 1997. Dupri explained to the Daily Telegraph (London), “These days in rap, kids don’t have any role models. I knew it was time for him to come out, because little girls from 11 to 16 don’t have anyone they can claim as their own.” Dupri began writing material for Lil’ Bow Wow that included no profanity at all.

Released Beware of Dog

With the hip-hop sections of CD stores featuring a sea of parental warning stickers, the move was a brilliant one. Lil’ Bow Wow immediately stood out from the crowd when Beware of Dog was released in September of 2000. Pictured on the cover with a boxer dog that looked genial rather than threatening, Lil’ Bow Wow was, in the words of an Entertainment Weekly critic, “sunny and scrubbed—a cherub in street braids. “According to Birchmeier, the album delivers “sure-fire pop rap: ‘Bounce with Me’ is the sort of feel-good song destined to be a summer anthem.”

By the summer of 2001, Lil’ Bow Wow was a teen sensation. When he undertook his Scream tour, accurately named in view of the reactions his appearances elicited from teenage girls, tickets for major venues sold out in less than an hour. The Evergreen Plaza shopping mall in Chicago had to be shut down for the day after girls fainted from excitement during a promotional Lil’ Bow Wow appearance. The rapper generally lapped up the attention, but occasionally seemed a bit overwhelmed. “I really thought it was crazy,” he told Jet.

Image Distributed on Book Cover

“Bounce with Me” gained added exposure from its inclusion on Dupri’s soundtrack for the Martin Lawrence film Big Momma’s House, and Lil’ Bow Wow’s image appeared on a free promotional book cover given out to millions of students by the makers of the soft drink Dr. Pepper. The song landed the youngster in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest rapper to have a number one hit. He also performed with superstar Madonna at the beginning of the 2001 Grammy awards. With publicity like that, Lil’ Bow Wow was well placed to match the multimillion-copy sales of Beware of Dog with his next release, Doggy Bag. That album, released a week before Christmas in 2001, reportedly sold over a million copies by early February of 2002, and seemed well on its way to equaling or eclipsing the sales of its predecessor.

Lil’ Bow Wow, who has a pet box turtle named Snoop, moved in the usual rap-star fashion to diversify his activities in 2002. He prepared to launch a clothing line, Lil’ Bow Wear, and in the summer of that year made his first starring appearance on film in the family-oriented comedy Like Mike. The rapper played an orphan who finds a magic pair of athletic shoes that might once have belonged to basketball superstar Michael Jordan. The shoes turn him into an NBA superstar, and the five-foot-tall Bow Wow (he dropped the “Lil”’ in 2002) announced plans to play in the NBA himself.

That proclaimed ambition exemplified one of the keys to Bow Wow’s ongoing popularity—he has the gift of gab. “I just always know what to think and what to say next, “he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. On tour in the summer of 2002, when he was asked by that paper where he planned to be in five years, he responded, “I don’t know; I feel like I’ve done everything. The only thing I’m missing is a Grammy. I’ve got the keys to five cities I’ve never heard of. I have a street named after me. I’ve accomplished more in the last five years than a lot of people.” Despite that sentiment, it was obvious that rap’s child star displayed a quickness and ease that should allow him to continue to master new challenges.

Selected discography

Beware of Dog, Sony, 2000.

Doggy Bag, Columbia, 2001.

Selected filmography

All About the Benjamins, 2002.

Like Mike, 2002.

Sources

Periodicals

Baltimore Sun, July 4, 2002, p. E1.

Daily Telegraph (London), July 23, 2001, p. 13.

Entertainment Weekly, July 12, 2002, p. 55.

Jet, November 13, 2000, p. 14; June 4, 2001, p. 58; February 11, 2002, p. 56.

People, January 28, 2002, p. 37; July 22, 2002, p. 60.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 5, 2002, p. 24.

San Diego Union-Tribune, April 19, 2001, p. Night & Day-22.

Sports Illustrated, July 1, 2002, p. 28.

Toronto Sun, January 12, 2001, p. Pop Life-46.

Washington Post, June 30, 2002, p. G1; July 8, 2002, p. C14.

On-line

All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com

—James M. Manheim

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Kay Adams