(Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
Born Shad Gregory Moss in Columbus, Ohio on March 9, 1987, Bow Wow was a precocious kid who started rhyming as a toddler and first appeared on stage at the age of 5. His showbiz career was launched just a year later when he made the most of an opportunity to open for Snoop Dogg on the Chronic Tour.
At 13, Bow Wow released his first solo CD, “Beware of Dog,” which sold more than 3 million copies. A hit single from that debut album, “Bounce with Me,” reached #1 on both the Rap and R&B charts. That achievement earned him recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest solo rapper to hit #1. He now has a half-dozen CDs to his name, with a new one in the works.
In 2002, the versatile entertainer expanded his repertoire, making an impressive foray into film playing the lead in “Like Mike.” He has since made “All About the Benjamins,” “Johnson Family Vacation,” “Roll Bounce” and “The Fast and the Furious 3.”
On TV, he’s appeared on everything from “Moesha” to “All That” to “Smallville,” and most recently, “Entourage.”
Here, he talks about his new film, “Lottery Ticket,” an ensemble comedy where he stars as a guy who has to survive a weekend in the ‘hood before he can cash in a winning lotto ticket worth hundreds of millions.
Hey Bow Wow, how you been? I don’t think we’ve spoken since “Like Mike.”
Wow, that’s years. I’m a grown man now.
What’s life been like for you since then?
It’s been crazy, man, one heck of a ride. I’ve done six more arena tours since then, five more movies and I’ve switched labels. I’m now at Cash Money Records, so I’ve got a lot of great things going on. I’m just trying to soak it all in slowly, at my own pace, even though everything’s moving kinda fast. But so far, so good.
What interested you in “Lottery Ticket”?
The fact that it had a great story behind it. When I signed on, we didn’t have all the cast together, but I believed in the project. And once I committed to the role, then Cube committed, and after that it was like a domino effect. What really sold me on it was the chance to work with such a great cast.
Yeah, a lot of veteran actors like Keith David, Loretta Devine and Terry Crews, and seasoned standup comics like Mike Epps, Charlie Murphy and Bill Bellamy, and some talented newcomers like Naturi Naughton and Brandon T. Jackson. I loved the movie. It’s one of those roller coaster rides that keeps you laughing and on the edge of your seat every step of the way.
Thank you very much, I appreciate that.
I have some questions for you from my readers. Harriet Pakula Teweles asks, “Do you play the lottery?”
Do I actually buy lottery tickets? Truthfully, no, although in this situation the safe answer would probably have been, “Yes I do,” because of the movie’s title. [Laughs] But, nah, I don’t.
Harriet also asks, would you rather have your fans buy your new album or lottery tickets?
The album isn’t about to drop just yet, and I’d rather they spend the money on the movie, “Lottery Ticket,” than on lottery tickets.
I thought your new album was coming out soon.
Not soon, right now we’re thinking Halloween. You’re the first person I’ve told that to.
Thanks for the scoop! Are you still in the studio?
I’ve begun doing a little recording for the album. But, I probably won’t officially start on the album until after I complete my next film.
What film is that?
As of now, I can’t say. I’m still waiting for them to give me an okay to make an announcement.
Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks, “From your rap roots to movie stardom what has been the guiding principle of your career?”
Wow! That’s a good question. I guess just studying, man, and watching all the greats before me, like LL Cool J, who is one of my idols. He has a very female-dominant fan base, like myself. He’s also an actor and has a hit TV show right now. He’s a great friend and someone I talk to. It’s always great to have your idols in your corner. That’s one guy I pay all my homage to and respect.
Attorney Bernadette Beekman says she still remembers you before your voice changed. She wants to know what you do to keep your image squeaky clean.
I wouldn’t say I’m a squeaky clean person. A wise man once told me, it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. At the end day, the only thing I owe the public is great entertainment, to respect my fans everywhere I go and to give the people what they want from me. I live by that motto and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet. I don’t want to mess up my life. You only get one shot. I don’t want to let my fans or anybody else down. So, I always think before I act. And as long as I do that, I’ll be okay.
The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
To be honest, I can get a little nervous, yes. In fact, I have butterflies in my stomach right now because I’m preparing for a new movie, and I’ll be doing a very long scene on the first day of shooting.
The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
If there’s a word better than happy, that’s how I feel right now.
The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
I had one hell of a laugh last night on my tour bus. [Laughs]
The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
One of my records.
The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
“How to Succeed with Women.”
The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
I don’t have one. I’m the simplest guy in the world. I don’t think the clothes make me, but I make the clothes. It’s all about swagger, man. I shop at Urban Outfitters. I’m a plain dude … white T-shirt … black T-shirt. I guess you can say I’m a cheap millionaire. [Laughs]
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
A young man who came from Columbus, Ohio and made it, and who wants every other young man and young woman, black or white, to know that if I could do it, they could do it. Me and my fans grew up together, and I believe they know I’m a walking billboard and proof of that. That’s what I see when I look in the mirror.
What is your favorite dish to cook?
It’s weird that you asked me that question because I have a great chef; his name is Roderick, who normally does all my cooking. But for some reason I’ve been doing some of my own cooking lately. Yesterday, I made some chicken on my George Foreman grill and it was good. [Laughs]
The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
Forgetting the combination on my locker at school. I think everybody has done that. The janitor had to come with those big old pliers and clip it. Then I had to go home and tell my momma that we had to go back to the grocery store to buy a new lock.
The Nancy Lovell question: Why do you love to do what you do?
Because my fans love what I do. That’s what makes me love what I do. I don’t do it for myself. I don’t do it for money. I really don’t. I’ve turned down money. People know that. When my fans tell me, “Yo, that movie was dope!” it makes me want me to do more movies.
If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
For nobody to have to be poor or live in the ghetto.
The Tavis Smiley question: What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be remembered as one of the illest, youngest cats to do it successfully and to keep doing it successfully. My early story alone deserves to be told, because at 6 years old I was discovered by one of the best producers of all time, Dr. Dre, and I went on tour at 6, and appeared on Snoop Dogg’s album at the age of 7. And I’m still here. Nobody else has a story like that, and it has to end great.
There have been so many child stars who have had really messed up lives. How did you avoid all the pitfalls of early fame?
Easily, by saying “No!” Trust me, they’re always around. But you have to have the strength within yourself to say, “No!” Like tonight, I’d like to go out, and I have the freedom to do so. But I probably won’t because I can’t risk having my name associated with anything negative at this critical time. That’s just to protect my brain and my job. There’s no reason to play any games with a career I love.
The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?
By telling me what they want. In fact, I’m live on USTREAM while I’m doing this interview. They’re watching me have this conversation with you right now. They’re giving me instant feedback on a chat box. I keep my fans close by working collectively as a unit. I figure as long as I do that, I can’t lose. I use the internet as much as possible.
The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
I know this may sound weird, but by playing video games.
The “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan question: Where in L.A. do you live?
I don’t live in L.A. I live in Miami. That’s home now. Columbus, Ohio, where I’m from, will always be home, too. And I have another residence in Atlanta, Ga.
Miami and Ohio. That makes you the perfect person to ask this, how do you feel about Lebron going to the Heat?
I love it, man, I really do. I love the fact that he’s going to be a Miami boy now, but he’ll still always be an Ohioan, no matter what. I’m glad that he’s happy and going to be in South Beach. I can’t wait to be able to catch a game after work. And I love the atmosphere in Miami. They accepted me with open arms and gave me the key to the city. It’s just a wonderful place to be.
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t follow in my footsteps. Create your own legacy! Be you! Do what you do! Stay focused! Stay positive about whatever goals you want to accomplish! Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t because you always can. To this day, I have people trying to discourage me and telling me I should hang it up. I call them clowns. [Laughs]