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Bow Wow has gone from rapper to big screen actor as he appears in Tyler Perry’s latest “Madea’s Big Happy Family”

Kam Williams
Bow Wow has gone from rapper to big screen actor as he appears in Tyler Perry’s latest “Madea’s Big Happy Family”

Shad “Bow Wow” Moss started his career as a rapper and has moved to the big screen. (Photo courtesy of

Bow Wow has gone from rapper to big screen actor as he appears in Tyler Perry’s latest “Madea’s Big Happy Family”

Shad “Bow Wow” Moss stars as Byron in Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Big Happy Family.” (Photos courtesy of Quantrell Colbert)

It was clear from an early age that Shad “Bow Wow” Moss was destined for the spotlight. At just 5, he was discovered by Snoop Dogg and featured on the rap icon’s groundbreaking “Doggystyle” album.

Renamed “Bow Wow” for his solo debut, he teamed up with chart-topping/hit-making producer Jermaine Dupri to release “Beware of Dog” in 2000, the kickoff to a string of platinum and gold albums that spawned a half-dozen #1 singles and platinum songs.

Bow Wow is the “Youngest Solo Rapper to Ever Hit No. 1,” as recognized by the Guinness World Records. All told, he’s sold more than 10 million CDs and 14 million digital assets to date.

Last year, he starred in the hit motion picture “Lottery Ticket,” and he also enjoyed a recurring role on the HBO hit series “Entourage.” His impressive list of screen credits includes: “Hurricane Season” (2009), “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006), “Roll Bounce” (2005), “Johnson Family Vacation” (2004) and “Like Mike” (2002).

Here, Bow Wow talks about playing Byron in “Madea’s Big Happy Family.”

What interested you in “Madea’s Big Happy Family?”

What interested me was the opportunity to work with Tyler [Perry], which had always been an objective of mine because of him being a top Hollywood director. I remember walking up to him at a Janet Jackson concert and going like, “Yo, man, you gotta put me in one of your movies,” as if he’d be crazy if he didn’t. I thought he’d probably forget, because I have people come up to me trying to talk business all the time. But I guess he kept me in mind. It was like a blessing from God when I heard he wanted me to play Byron.

What was it like working with Tyler Perry?

It was dope! I had a lot of fun working with him. He’s a hard worker. And he works extremely fast, which is how I like to operate, because he comes to the set knowing what shots he wants to get. He’s very professional and doesn’t waste any time. I definitely can’t wait to do another Tyler Perry movie, especially since I liked the moral of the story.

What would you say is the movie’s message?

That tomorrow is never promised and that family is very important. So, make sure you tell your family you love them each and every day because you don’t know when it might be your last opportunity.  

Tyler certainly has a knack for crafting morality plays which touch folks deeply.

Most definitely. He does a terrific job with those dramatic moments. I think it comes from his own life experiences and from making it after everything he had to overcome.

How was it acting opposite Lauren London who played your girlfriend, Renee, and working with the rest of the ensemble?

I’ve known Lauren for a while. I had just worked with Loretta Devine on “Lottery Ticket,” and I’d worked with the majority of the cast before, so it was really comfortable for me on set.

Tyler Perry plays so many parts in this film. Were you worried that he was going to take your role?

[Laughs] No, I wasn’t worried about that at all. [Laughs some more]

I’d like to know whether you faced any difficulties making the transition from childhood to adulthood. Most of us not in the spotlight can easily shed those childhood personas, but I wonder if it’s the same for someone who is both a music and film star?

I always say, “It’s all about the work.” That’s one thing I’ve done. I’ve just committed to my work, which I think is what has enabled me to make it over that hurdle that a lot of other child stars don’t. You can become greater than what you already are. That’s what I’m always about.

How has show business changed since you started?

Dramatically! In music, everything’s digital now. But I think change is normal. There’s always a natural progression. Even in Hollywood, where you see many more independent films being shot.

What achievement in your career makes you proudest?

I’m too young to say at this point in my career. I have way too much more to accomplish.

Acting or rapping, which is your preference?

Acting in movies.

When you got older, you removed the ‘Lil’ from your name. As you age and mature, might you shorten it again?

No, I think if I ever changed my stage name again, I’d just start using my real name, Shad.

Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

That’s crazy! [Laughs] Yeah, one question people rarely ask me is whether I’m happy doing what I do?

OK, are you happy doing what you do?

Honestly? Sometimes. When it comes to movies, I love it. No complaints. But with music, I’m only happy 75 percent of the time because there’s a lot of nonsense you have to deal with in the industry, although I still give it 110 percent. It’s a constant struggle for artists in the music industry.

Do you ever wish you could have your anonymity back?    

In my eyes, I feel like I’m still a regular dude. For instance, I went to the movies last night. I can go to the busiest places and not get noticed, even in Manhattan.