Lil' Bow Wow

If this year's The Source Hip-Hop Music Awards has taught us anything -- other than you can take the brotha out the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out the brotha -- it is this: It's getting more difficult for parents these days to trust their kids with rap music and its discontents. Bad influence seems to be the only thing the genre dishes out. You got Eminem, the most popular MC out there, rapping about raping and killing everyone he knows. You got Mystikal and nearly every other rapper praising big booties in their videos. And now you got trifling, ignorant-ass Wu-Tang wanna-bes starting fights at awards shows. Neophyte MC Lil' Bow Wow was also at the awards, but he probably wasn't throwing any punches. The boy's only 13 years old; he would've gotten his ass kicked across the auditorium. Besides, he's here on a more important mission: to bring some order to the hedonistic rap game. As the opening track on his debut album clearly states, he's "The Future."

Parents, you can give your kids their Discmans back; this rapper is clean, despite the innuendo of his single, "Bounce with Me." Discovered by Snoop Dogg and musically supervised by Jermaine Dupri, the pup is marking his territory as rap's latest wonder boy, even if his precocious demeanor can be a bit scary at times. Have you heard this child talk during interviews? The boy goes on like he's been in the game since he was a fetus.

With that said, the lil' barker does have some skills. He doesn't play all amateurish on the mike. He throws in requisite rapper metaphors and pop-culture references ("I'm loose now / Running at full speed / Like the Juice now / Back in '73."). Dupri and his production crew supply the young one with bounce-heavy beats for all ages; the whole thing would register as some serious shit if it weren't for the fact that the boy performing it is so gosh darn cute. His innocence often cancels out whatever roughneck attitude he's trying to establish. And to be quite honest, that's a good thing. Lil' Bow Wow is too damn young to be such a street-corner playa. If he manages to steer clear of the things that could make his head swell up, he could enjoy a career longer than, say, Kris Kross, another Dupri act. "Another thing I want you to know," he raps on "This Playboy," "I ain't one of 'em little cats that's gonna come and go."

Awww, ain't that cute!

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey