Former teen sensation Bow Wow, who’s now a nearly ten-year veteran in the rap game, spoke to HipHopDX last week regarding his forthcoming sixth solo album, the role two of his mentors have played in his music past and present, and why if he doesn’t already, he’ll soon have your full respect as one of Hip Hop’s best emcees.
The 21-year-old’s latest full-length, New Jack City Pt. II, draws its title from the Barry Michael Cooper [click to read] penned classic crime noir. The self-proclaimed “Prince of Rap” chose the NJCII title as a means of explaining the current standing of his decade-long friendship with producer extraordinaire Jermaine Dupri, which he compares to the bond between Cash Money brothers Nino Brown and G-Money.
“So So Def was our Carter,” Bow Wow explained to DX. “That’s how me and Jermaine got money. And it enabled us to feed our siblings, feed homeboys, buy homeboys cars, which was the same thing in ‘New Jack [City].’ But, after all the fun and splurging and money and getting women, when the business comes into play it kinda eliminates all the fun. See, then it gets serious. That’s basically what happened in the movie… They was arguing about the girls, and then [Nino] end up killing his man off. And we [call the album] ‘Pt. II,’ because if that never woulda happened they woulda still been here right now gettin’ money - if they never had got caught, and they still woulda been doing they business…We taking off from where they would have continued.”
Confessing that he and Jermaine too once let the business come between their friendship, Bow’s new album is being billed as a reunion between mentor and mentee. And while it should be noted that J.D. has in fact worked on all of Bow’s solo efforts, save only for 2003’s Unleashed, there does indeed appear to be a renewed chemistry between teacher and student on the new single from NJCII, “Roc The Mic” [click to watch], a sort of sonic sister to Warren G’s signature g-funk sound of the mid-‘90’s.
The track’s laidback production is clearly J.D.’s work, but the song’s concept was Bow’s brainchild. Documenting the twists and turns he and Jermaine’s relationship has taken since the Columbus, Ohio born rapper was introduced to the ATL-based beatmaker when the then pint-size pup was only 9-years-old was entirely Bow’s idea, inspired by other artist’s tributes to their guides in the game, including Kanye West’s “Big Brother” and Lil Wayne’s Like Father, Like Son union with Baby.
“But I know I can’t come out and [bite what Wayne did], ‘cause I get compared to Wayne so much,” said Bow. “And Wayne is like the bestest friend that I got in the music game period, other than Jermaine and Snoop.”
Even though showing love to the West Coast legend who first discovered him at the Columbus stop of the 1993 “Chronic Tour” (and subsequently blessed him with his Lil Bow Wow moniker), as well as his now triple-platinum best friend in the game (and co-star of the forthcoming flick, Hurricane Season), Bow Weezy still saved his greatest praise for his “Roc The Mic” rhyme partner during his discussion with DX.
“Jermaine raised me,” he said. “I never had my father around. My father was an alcoholic... Everything that I know from a man standpoint all came from J.D.”
While initially opposed to Bow recording a “talk just alike, walk just alike” tribute of sorts to him, Jermaine eventually ceded to his pupil’s vision for the track after the similarities between the two were repeatedly highlighted by others. As Bow noted, “Everybody’s always around Jermaine talking about, ‘Man, [Bow] act just like you though, J.D. He like the same kind of girls you like. When you were 22 you was in the strip clubs heavy like Bow is.”
Apparently, Bow doesn’t have to be in the strip clubs heavy anymore, and can support his interest in adult entertainment from the comfort of his own home, as he details on the Drumma Boy-produced [click to read] “Pole In My Basement” (a song wherein which Bow tries his hand at singing with the aid of Auto-tune).
Bow explained to DX that he had no choice but to dedicate a sizeable chunk of his new album’s tracks to the opposite sex. “I got to. I’m a pretty boy and I love women,” he joked. But Bow also assured that NJCII won’t be entirely comprised of odes to older women (“I Ain’t Playin’”), laments on rollercoaster relationships (“You Can Get It All”) [click to listen], or explanations of why he spoils his better half (the T-Pain assisted “She’s My”), and will be more a display of the deft rhyming he showcased during his recent YouTube freestyles and DJ Infamous-helmed Half Man, Half Dog mixtape (the second installment of which hits the streets on January 31).
“One thing a lot of people don’t realize is I was discovered by Snoop, so I’ve always had that Hip Hop background,” said Bow. “So I’ve always been eager to rap, to rap-rap. Jermaine was the one who had to mold me and be like, ‘Yo, we gotta kinda tone it down. ‘Cause like dude is kinda aggressive. This little boy really be rappin’!’ So I had to tone down for so many years, but now it’s different.”
That different, more lyrically-adept side of Bow is showcased on “Anything I Can Do,” a conceptual gem that sees Big Bow Wow “battling” Lil Bow Wow, with the young spitter taking both his past and present selves to task.
Bow continues to showcase his ability to satisfy an audience outside of teenage girls on the Ron Browz and Nelly featured “Big Time,” the supercharged Swizz Beatz produced “Big Bank,” the punchline heavy “Get That Paper,” and “Been Doin’ This,” which was produced by budding beatmaker T.I.
During Bow’s conversation with DX, talk turned to the self-proclaimed ‘King of the South,’ and Bow was asked if he believes previously enlisting T.I. and others to write his rhymes has damaged his credibility as an emcee with the core Hip Hop community.
“Nah, not at all,” he replied. “Even the best have had stuff written for them. [And] Tip only worked with me one time, and that was for the ‘Unleashed’ album. And I actually wrote, I would say, 85 percent of that album. Tip probably wrote maybe like one [full] song, [and] he might have did like a verse [for a few songs]… If it was a three-verse song, I might have did two verses [and] he might have wrote one… So it’s not like he [was] in there just writing the whole album… [But] it’s like, I [had] to learn eventually. And I [had] been writing for so long, it was that Jermaine just kept me sheltered and he didn’t want me to go in, because he felt that it wasn’t appropriate for my age.”
While expressing sincere gratitude to T.I. for his microphone mentoring, Bow warns those sleeping on his skills due to the fact that he once enlisted the aid of ghostwriters that he has now truly been “unleashed” and is capable of eventually earning his own way into the incessant “top five dead or alive” discussion.
“I can easily get top four,” he confidently declared. “Because I feel like there are some artists out here who can’t rap better than me. That’s just what I feel. And I know that’s the truth.”
New Jack City Pt. II is due in stores March 31 from Columbia Records.