SPRAWLED ACROSS THE ARMCHAIR AS IF IT WAS a hammock, his legs hanging over one end, Lil Bow Wow doodles the letter "B" on a notepad and flips through a Toronto TV guide, held upside down. One would think the 14-year-old rapper was on a break from talking to the press. Un-un, as he would say. He's in the middle of an interview.
Young and restless, the cornrow kid, whose real name is Shad Moss, talks in quick, short sentences and yawns occasionally. It's been a long day. Anything distracts him. As his tutor turns toward the door, so too does his attention: "Un-Un. No, come here! No, you're staying," he pleads. Then, without warning, he leaps off the chair and runs into the hallway, trying to stop her from going on errands without him. Moments later, he returns to his comfy position on the chair, this time with another preoccupation, taking off his shoes without using his hands. He jiggles the heel of his sneakers with the toe of the other. Finally, one drops. The second goes flying across the hotel room. Better than hurling a television like some stars are wont to do. Lil Bow Wow has had an exhaustive schedule since his debut album, Beware Of Dog, now double-platinum, dropped last year. Who can blame him for acting up? He's a kid. His first headline tour is already under way, booked by Jeff Frasco at CAA in conjunction with Artistic Control Management. "As for an agency to handle him in the future, we haven't made that selection yet," Artistic Control's Lucy Ryans-Raoof said. Since Lil Bow Wow is a minor, his shows run from Friday to Sunday with occasional Thursday gigs. Tickets have been selling quickly in most markets. Many of the performances start at 3 p.m. and the evening shows start at 7:00 and end before 10:00. Monday is his day off and Tuesday and Wednesday he is available to his labels, So So Def and Columbia, to do promotion. "Our concern was him getting his sleep at night," Ryans-Raoof said, "having the three to four hours everyday in the morning to do his schooling, and giving him those days off so that he can rest. So, we don't put a lot of stress on him with his voice and just physically because tours can be exhausting even with the energy he has as a kid." By now, the story of Lil Bow Wow is legendary in the hip-hop community and almost as well-known in the mainstream. Moss was only 5 when his mom took him to see The Chronic Tour, at which the Iowa native was hoisted onstage to freestyle with Snoop Dogg. "I was just a real kiddie, kiddie-type rapper," Bow Wow recalled. "I had nothing to talk about, just cartoons and stuff like that, everything that was around me. So things that I would talk about were positive little things, like school, ABCs, stuff like that." Backstage post show, Snoop dubbed the boy wunderkind "Lil Bow Wow." His previous moniker was Kid Gangster. "I had that name for a quick second," Bow Wow said. "As soon as I met Snoop, he was like, 'I wanna give you this name.' So I was like, 'OK.'" Snoop then invited him on the road for a week and later to freestyle on his 1993 album, Doggystyle. In 1997, hip-hop visionary Jermaine Dupri, the man responsible for teen rap duo Kris Kross, signed Lil Bow Wow to his So So Def label. His first single was "Bounce With Me" from the "Big Momma's House" soundtrack. "He did do some radio shows and some performances," Ryans-Raoof said. "That's when people first started seeing him. He's always been great," she added. "He always had that star quality, that stage persona, and I'm sure that's what Snoop and all of them saw that he's so young and he delivers so well."
Lil Bow Wow went on to guest on the soundtrack to "Wild Wild West" as well as on Destiny's Child's "Jumpin' Jumpin'" video remix. Once his album came out, he performed seven dates with 'N Sync, which Ryans-Raoof said was booked directly by Artistic Control's touring and concert division, Atlanta Worldwide Touring, headed by Jeff Sharp. "Columbia Records and So So Def Records got involved in terms of tour support to put him out there because he didn't get paid," Ryans-Raoof said. "We thought it would really expose him to the pop side of the industry and we really did all the work ourselves." While those shows were just 15 minutes to track, this current headline tour is a full show. Bow Wow's mother, Teresa Caldwell, is on the road with him at all times and works closely with management. "After this tour, we definitely want to give him a break," Ryans-Raoof said. "His mom says she wants to get him really caught up with his school work. He's been doing very well but she feels there's some subjects that she really needs to emphasize. They have his tutoring continuing throughout the summer. We've been given a couple of opportunities to do some movie projects and we want to look into those for the fall and then he'll go back in the studio and start working on the second album with Jermaine." Now a seasoned rap artist, the eighth-grader likes representing. "I really want them (the public) to hear me or see me," Bow Wow said, adopting the rap bravado of his older peers. "I'm always on the TV. Bow Wow's everywhere now. I am the future. I'm everywhere." Can this be the same kid who a moment earlier admitted he was "tired all the time" and added, "I miss my bed"?