Lil Bow Wow's Growing Image
On the cover of his recent debut album, "Beware of Dog," Lil Bow Wow looks like a typical gangsta rapper. His hair is glued to his head in tight braids, he stands in front of a graffiti-covered wall wearing an oversize jersey and baggy pants, and he holds a pit bull on a heavy leash -- a picture of tough, unsmiling defiance.
The only thing that reveals Bow Wow's age: The pendant hanging off the gold chain around his neck is a diamond-encrusted Mickey Mouse.
The 14-year-old superstar, born Shad Moss, is one of the few pint size rappers to hit the charts since the duo Kris Kross went to No. 1 with 1991's" Totally Krossed Out." Led by the success of the single "Bounce With Me," "Beware" went to No. 8 and has sold 2 million copies, according to SoundScan.
Moss first came to fame when, at age 6, he climbed on stage at a Snoop Dogg concert and amazed the hardened West Coast pros with his preternatural rhyming talent. Snoop promptly gave "Kid Gangsta," as Moss then called himself, his new name, and signed Bow Wow up for the rest of the Chronic Tour.
But the late '90s was not a good time for a child from Columbus, Ohio, to be falling in with the Death Row crowd, what with murders and murder indictments swirling around artists like Dogg and Tupac Shakur. Fortunately, Moss eventually got out of his contract and signed with Kris Kross producer Jermaine Dupri's So So Def Records.
Dupri has lofty and lucrative aims for Bow Wow: He sees him as a role model, the next Michael Jackson. The producer, along with rapper Da Brat, wrote a profanity-free album for his protege. Bow Wow may look tough on "Beware's" cover, but his raps, delivered in a prepubescent squeak, are squeaky clean.
Bow Wow speaks in the universal language of young adolescents: Monosyllables.
"It's cool. Everything's going good for me." Lil' words, but the lil' girls understand. The advance buzz on Bow Wow's tour is that he draws thousands of screaming adolescents.
Not surprisingly, Bow Wow doesn't have much to say about what to expect from one of his shows.
"I don't want to give away any secrets," he says. "Expect a lot of surprises."