Updated: Oct 11, 2022
When Reynoldsburg’s Shad Moss woke up the morning of September 8, 1993, he had no way of knowing that his life would be forever changed by the time he went to bed that night. Dr. Dre’s tour was in Columbus over at the Convention Center and six-year-old Shad would be there. Already performing informally as Kid Gangsta, his Mom and her boyfriend volunteered Shad to perform when tour manager AJ Johnson asked the crowd if anyone wanted to come on stage between sets. Moss reluctantly got up on stage and did his thing. Snoop Dogg’s jaw dropped and he invited Shad backstage to hang out. He reminded Snoop of himself at that age. He invited Moss to join the tour and started calling him Lil’ Bow Wow.
Lil' Bow Wow
So So Def – CK 69981
As Snoop Dogg was feverishly trying to leverage the hype generated from his features on Dre’s The Chronic by completing a debut album of his own, Moss moved out to L.A. with his Mom, where he recorded character voices on the Doggystyle track Gz And Hustlas. Snoop saw acting potential in Bow Wow and put him in the Gin And Juice video. By the end of the year, he was on the Arsenio Hall Show.
Although Bow Wow signed a contract with Death Row Records in 1993, Death Row did not know quite what to do with him. “We put him on a couple songs on Death Row. They had him on some bullshit-ass songs, he was going hard on the motherfuckers,” Snoop said in a 2012 interview. He recorded a song intended for the Murder Was The Case soundtrack, but it was not included. Death Row finally released the song, After 3, on a 2012 compilation, the only Bow Wow track ever released by the label.
After nothing came off with Death Row, Bow Wow reluctantly moved back to Columbus with his Mom. When Snoop Dogg left Death Row in 1998, he worked with Sony A&R rep Steve Prudholme to get Bow Wow signed to Epic. Prudholme flew Bow Wow to Atlanta to meet Jermaine Dupri, who’d had multi-platinum success with kid rap act Kriss Kross. This happened to be the night of Dupri’s album release party for his debut, Life In 1472. “It was instant chemistry,” Dupri wrote in his 2007 book Young, Rich, And Dangerous. “Me and Jay-Z were performing, then I introduced Lil’ Bow Wow onstage to freestyle. Until then I’d never seen him perform except on a videotape. We couldn’t get over what a lil’ rhyming genius he was. Jay-Z was tripping on how Bow carried himself like a grown person.”
Dupri put soon-to-be sixth grader and industry vet Lil' Bow Wow on the bill for KMEL’s Summer Jam at Shoreline Amphitheater where, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, he stole the show. “Joining Jermaine ‘JD’ Dupri and Da Brat onstage near day's end, the little tyke spun out a rap so smooth, sassy and completely cool that he won the afternoon's most enthusiastic applause,” reported the Chronicle. “That's saying something, considering that the six-hour lineup included Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Mase and Whodini.”
In the spring of 1999, Dupri took Bow Wow to Atlanta to record a track for The Wild, Wild West soundtrack. Released that summer, Stick Up was his major label debut. Bow Wow toured the sheds with the Summer Jam. Dupri talked the Sony execs into transferring Bow’s contract from Epic to Dupri’s own So So Def.
Bow Wow returned to Atlanta late in 1999 to begin recording tracks for his full-length debut. It wasn’t easy. He was 12, after all. “Bow was a funny lil' kid to work with,” Dupri wrote. “When he was on, he was on. But in between times he was a pain in the ass.” Bow’s first single would be the theme song for Big Momma’s House and it became a hit - Bounce With Me.
Released first on the Big Momma’s House Soundtrack in May 2000 and then as a single in August, Bounce With Me topped the Billboard R&B and Rap charts and hit #20 on the Hot 100. With the single already riding the charts, Beware Of Dog was released on September 26. It was a hit out of the gate, selling over 100,000 copies in the first week. Critically, reviews were mixed but generally positive.
The second single was Bow Wow (That’s My Name), which was released on October 17, featured Snoop Dogg and was also a hit. It was his second number 1 on the Rap chart and it went to #21 on the Hot 100. Even his singles were flying off the shelf in this pre-streaming era. The label rushed Puppy Love to radio as the third single. While it and the last single, Ghetto Girls, were not as successful as the first two, the album had already sold two million copies and peaked at #8 on the album chart. The videos were successful as well, with Bounce With Me, in particular getting heavy rotation on MTV and BET. In the video, Bow Wow wears an Ohio State jersey, which he points to at the line "Ohio is where I'm from."
It was an auspicious debut by any measure and, with three million copies sold to date, the most commercially successful album ever to spring from Columbus. Many fans still consider it his best record. By all accounts, Bow Wow remained level-headed and continued attending school in Reynoldsburg when he could. He’d eventually move to Dupri’s Atlanta neighborhood in 2002 with his Mom and was remarkably able to transition his success to adulthood in music, acting and clothing. Although he understandably hasn’t been without his struggles, and even announced his retirement at one point, he’s still going strong. Bow Wow will be back in his hometown when his Millennium Tour with Mario and Keri Hilson hits the Schott on October 14.
Featuring – Jagged Edge Written-By – Brandon Casey, Brian Casey, Bryan-Michael Cox, Jermaine Dupri Written-By [for interpolation of "Kanday"] – Bobby Erving, Darryl Pierce, Dwayne Simon, James Todd Smith
Background Vocal Production – Bryan-Michael Cox Additional Vocals – Bryan-Michael Cox, Sean Blaze Written-By – Bryan-Michael Cox, Jermaine Dupri, Terron Mitchell Written-By [for excerpts from "Covert Action"] – Wilton Folder
Copyright © – Sony Music Entertainment Inc.
Copyright © – So So Def Recordings Inc.
Phonographic Copyright ℗ – Sony Music Entertainment Inc.
Phonographic Copyright ℗ – So So Def Recordings Inc.
Manufactured By – Columbia Records
Distributed By – Columbia Records
Recorded At – SouthSide Studios
Recorded At – Manta/Eastern Sound
Mixed At – SouthSide Studios
Mastered At – Bernie Grundman Mastering
Design – Chris Feldmann
Executive-Producer, Producer, Mixed By – Jermaine Dupri
Management – Artistic Control Management
Assitant Mix Engineer – John Horesco IV
Photography By – Kwaku Alston
Da Brat's Vocals Recorded By – Bill Hermans