Lil Bow Wow (So So Def/Columbia)
open last year's Grammy Awards—driving a vintage Cadillac, no less—must have earned Lil Bow Wow big props at recess. And for show-and-tell he has a triple-platinum debut album, 2000's Beware of Dog
. On his second release this pint-size 14-year-old boasts that he's "the hottest thing in high school" over the gangsta-lite groove of "The Wickedest." No argument there. Lil Bow Wow, who got his rap moniker from Snoop Dogg (his real name is Shad Moss), makes his bones as a legitimate hip-hop artist on this effort, transcending the bubblegum niche.
Bringing a relaxed, assured flow to his rhymes, Bow Wow has acquired a credibility belying his age that keeps his not-too-hard, not-too-soft brand of pop-rap from seeming too gimmicky. Although he still has to rely on adults like Jermaine Dupri for his lyrics and beats (Bow Wow cowrote only one song), he manages to come off as a real teenager who would, as he suggests during one interlude, take a girl out to the Cheesecake Factory—even though he could by now afford to spring for any four-star restaurant.
Bottom Line: Doggone good