A pint-sized novelty act who made preteen girls swoon with his 2000 debut Beware of Dog, Bow Wow has somehow evolved into a hip-pop elder statesman. Now 20, he has split with longtime producer Jermaine Dupri, and his sixth CD, Face Off, a collaboration with B2K's Omarion, was released Tuesday. The Columbus, Ohio, native, whose real name is Shad Gregory Moss, recently spoke to the Houston Press by phone from his home in a suburban Atlanta gated community.
Houston Press: On Face Off, you do the rapping and Omarion does the singing. Kind of like the Jay-Z and R. Kelly collaboration, no?
Bow Wow: It's sort of similar, but it's not. There's a lot of things that are different. I have a lot of pressure on me with this album. I'm stepping away from Jermaine, and just trying to prove to myself and to other people that I can do it.
Bow Wow performs Friday, December 14, at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk, 713-758-7200. Chris Brown, Shop Boys, Lil' Mama and Soulja Boy are also on the bill.
HP: Are you sick of people making fun of the album cover, which has your faces split in two?
BW: That's why we did it, to entertain people! I wanted people to talk about it. If they not talking, it's a problem. It was on every blog and Web site, so I'm like, "Right there, we won."
HP: As a rap veteran of sorts, what advice would you give to your tour mate Soulja Boy?
BW: Number one, don't listen to what nobody got to say, because right now Soulja Boy's been catching flak. [Some artists] feel like anybody can go into the studio and say "you" a hundred times and have a hit record. But one thing that you can't take away from him is his stats. Right now he's got the biggest record out, period. If you asked a lot of rappers to make records like Soulja Boy, they couldn't do it.
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HP: What do you think about the video circulating of him peeing off a hotel balcony?
BW: [Laughs] People don't realize that he's only 17. He's just a kid. I'm not saying that's the right thing to do, to pee off a hotel balcony. But people need to realize that Soulja Boy is Soulja Boy. He's a wild 17-year-old. I would tell him, "Don't do that no more, because it's nasty!" That's very disgusting. I actually saw the clip. It's crazy. But that's what makes Soulja Boy Soulja Boy.
HP: Why did you break off from Jermaine Dupri?
BW: The main reason was to discover who I am. My whole career I've wanted to write my records. I want to be more involved with the direction my music goes, and I can't do that when I have a coach that I'm playing for, and he draws up the plays. I've learned everything I can from Jermaine, and now I'm ready to move on. I'm so smart that, when my fans hear the music — especially my next album, which I might do myself — they're really not going to be able to tell whether Jermaine was part of the project or not.