Born Shad Gregory Moss on March 9, 1987, in Columbus, OH; son of Teresa Caldwell (his manager). Addresses: Record company--Sony Music Entertainment, Inc., 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211. Website--Bow Wow Official Website: http://www.bowwowunleashed.com/.
The youngest rapper ever to have a hit single in the United States, Bow Wow was six when he made his recording debut as a guest artist on a Snoop Dogg album. Calling himself "Lil' Bow Wow,"; he made his solo recording debut in 2000 at the age of 13 with Beware of Dog, which went double platinum the following year. A single from this album, "Bounce with Me," earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest rap st ar in American history. Bow Wow followed this release with Doggy Bag in 2001, and added "film star" to his resume a year later when he starred in the basketball movie Like Mike. In 2003 Bow Wow release d his third album, Unleashed, added more film roles to his list of credits, and dropped the "Lil'" from his name. Unleashed continued the rapper's practice of clean lyrics, proving that rap music need not be vulgar to be popular.
Bow Wow was born Shad Gregory Moss on March 9, 1987, and grew up in Columbus, Ohio. His mother, Teresa Caldwell, a purchasing manager at a computer systems company, saw her son's talent early on, entering him in talent contests when he was onl y four. Bow Wow began rapping when he was just five, repeating lyrics he heard on TV, performing at that time as Kid Gangsta. Because his mother and father separated before he was even a year old, Bow Wow's biggest influence as a young boy was the p op superstar Michael Jackson. The first rapper he listened to extensively was Jay-Z.
Bow Wow got his start when he climbed on stage at a Snoop Dogg concert and began rapping. "The next thing you know," Bow Wow later told Lauren Wakefield in the Washington Post, "he wanted me to come backstage, which I did with my mom." The famous rapper invited Bow Wow to continue with him on his tour, which he did, accompanied by his mother. During the show, Bow Wow would wait for his cue, then jump on stage and begin rapping as part of Snoop's act.
After moving to Los Angeles with his mother, Bow Wow made his first recording when he was six years old, appearing as a guest artist on the 1993 Snoop Dogg album Doggystyle. Snoop Dog gave Bow Wow his stage name and also h elped him land his own recording deal with Death Row Records, Snoop's label. Bow Wow's first recording sessions at Death Row were not successful, however, and the label decided that the young rapper did not fit its lineup of hard-core, gangsta rappers.
Disappointed, Bow Wow and his mother moved back to Columbus, where Caldwell worked to land her son a new record deal. Her persistence paid off in 1998 when Snoop referred her to an executive at Epic Records, a Sony label. Sony signed Bow Wow to make his first solo album under the creative direction of producer/rapper Jermaine Dupri.
In 2000, at the age of 13, Bow Wow released his debut album, Beware of Dog. It was a hit, selling upwards of three million copies; a single from the album, "Bounce with Me," earned the young rapper a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest rapper in the United States to have a hit single. Dupri, who the New York Times claimed had "created the blueprint for kid rap," believed the time was ripe for a ne w wünderkind. He described his working relationship with Bow Wow to Josh Rottenberg in the New York Times, "I wanted him to get my vibe, to turn basically into me as a little guy. I'd write all the lyrics and do all t he demos. Everything you see from Bow is basically from me."
Caldwell has made sure that she is at the center of all decisions regarding her son's career to make sure he is not exploited, despite money and pressure to do so. "I will not," she told Rottenberg, "let anybody make a slave out of my son." In 2001 Bow Wow won the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Best Male Singer Award. Among his many appearances that year was at the Grammys, which he opened with pop superstar Madonna. That same year Bow Wow released his second album, Doggy Bag, which also went platinum. A single from the second album, "Thank You," was an homage to the fans who helped him become so successful.
By the time he was in eighth grade, the demands of his career made it impossible for Bow Wow to attend school. He began to study under tutors, beginning in the ninth grade. Predictably, he says that he doesn't miss being in school.
In 2002 Bow Wow starred in the film Like Mike, in which he plays an orphan who finds a pair of magic sneakers that allow him to play basketball like NBA superstar Michael Jordan. Bow Wow said that he'd always dreamed of being a basketball player, and that acting in movies had been another ambition. As he told Barry Koltnow in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "I always knew [movies] ... would be part of my rapping career.
In 2003 Bow Wow released several singles off his upcoming third album, including "Let's Get Down," and "18," in which he raps about wanting to be old enough to get a tattoo and have other adult privileges. When he released Unle ashed in August of 2003, fans found that the rapper's voice had deepened. Then 16, Bow Wow he told Jim Farber in the New York Daily News that "it didn't change my flow and that's what matters."
There were other changes, as well: with this album, Bow Wow dropped the "Lil'" from his name, no longer wanting to be regarded as a child star. He wrote most of the album himself, and insisted on covering more mature themes, saying that his fa ns had grown with him and no longer wanted to listen to kid's stuff. If the charts were any indication, his new sound was right on the money; a single from the album, "Let's Get Down," landed in the number 15 position on the Bi llboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart, and number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
In addition to his recording efforts, Bow Wow launched a line of clothing called Bow Ware. As of 2003, he was at work on more film projects, including Mr. President, a comedy in which he appears with Will Smith, and Johnson's Family Vacation, co-starring Vanessa Williams. Asked whether he intended to pursue acting as a full-time career, Bow Wow was noncommittal, saying that he just wanted to keep trying new things and see what appealed to h im. He did say that he still held his dream of joining the NBA, adding that he did not intend to be a rapper for the rest of his life. He planned to go to college at 18, then play for the NBA at 20. In the meantime, he said that he loved his celebrity sta tus and was quite happy just being where he was.
by Michael Belfiore
Bow Wow's Career
Made recording debut on the Snoop Dogg album Doggystyle, 1993; released debut solo album, Beware of Dog, 2000; released debut solo single, "Bounce with Me," 2000; became youngest-eve r U.S. rap artist with a hit single, 2000; released second solo album, Doggy Bag, 2001; starred in the film Like Mike, 2002; dropped "Lil'" from his name, released third album, Un leashed, 2003.
Bow Wow's Awards
Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, Best Male Singer, 2001.
- Selected discography
- "Bounce with Me," Sony, 2000.
- "Bow Wow (That's My Name)," Sony 2001.
- "Ghetto Girls/Puppy Love," Sony, 2001.
- "Thank You," Sony, 2001.
- "Let's Get Down," Sony, 2003.
- Beware of Dog Sony, 2000.
- Doggy Bag Sony, 2001.
- Unleashed Sony, 2003.
August 19, 2003: Bow Wow's album, Unleashed, was released. Source: Yahoo! Shopping, shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=product&id=1921988374, August 20, 2003.
September 23, 2005: Bow Wow starred in Roll Bounce, which was released by Fox Searchlight. Source: New York Times, http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=310125, October 3, 2005.
December 19, 2005: Bow Wow's album, Wanted (released July 12, 2005), was certified platinum, having sold one million copies. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bbcom/riaa/index.jsp, January 15, 2006.
June 16, 2006: Bow Wow starred in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which was released by Universal Pictures. Source: New York Times, http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=329125, June 30, 2006.
- Billboard, August 16, 2003, p. 15.
- Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), October 4, 2002, p. G15.
- Chicago Sun-Times, July 1, 2002, p. 34.
- Daily News (New York, NY), August 19, 2003, p. 48.
- Jet, February 11, 2002, p. 56.
- St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, FL), September 27, 2002, p. 7.
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 5, 2002, p. 24.
- New York Times, June 30, 2002, p. 22.
- Washington Post, July 8, 2002, p. C14.
- Bow Wow Official Website, http://www.bowwowunleashed.com (September 23, 2003).