Columbus Has A Bow Wow Problem
I ain’t never had nobody show me all the things that you done showed me and the special way I feel when you hold me; we gonna always be together, baby that’s what you told me. And I believe it. Because I aint never had nobody do me like you.
Bow Wow has 3 top ten hits in the Billboard Hot 100 and sold over 10 Million (14 Million Digital) over an 18-year career. He has six studio albums to his name, 26 singles, 51 music videos and seven mixtapes in his discography. If you’re not familiar, check out this Essential Bow Wow Playlist on TIDAL. He is on the industry sniper list, with dating ties to Erica Mena, Ciara, Tyra Banks, Angela Simmons and more. He’s acted in blockbuster movies like Like Mike, Lottery Ticket and Roll Bounce and anchored cultural television staples such as 106 & Park. By all accounts, Bow Wow should be a first-ballot hall of famer and is indisputably a LEGEND.
Most importantly, Bow Wow is from Columbus, Ohio.
Despite a decorated resume, in 2018, “Bow Wow” is a punchline, whose name evokes images of fake private jets, phony Atlanta Falcons tickets and other social media missteps. In a lot of ways, he brought the scrutiny on himself; the #BowWowChallenge, where people pretend to have things that they don’t really got, didn’t just pop up out of nowhere.
Deserved or not, the name of one of hip-hop’s first young stars has been tarnished and no more is that true than in Columbus, where “Bow Wow” is basically a dirty word. It hasn’t always been this way, though. You can try to lie about that, but you can’t tell me that you ain’t read that opening line with Bow Wow’s sing-songy cadence. Once upon a time, Columbus was proud to claim Lil Bow Wow. Just last year, TrigNO rapped about being hot since “Shad Moss was everybody’s cousin,” a line that resonated with a lot of people in this city because growing up, people were quick to find any remote tie that would link them to our biggest star.
Everybody had a story about Bow Wow, and in the early 2000s, he was Columbus’ greatest son. Somewhere along the line, things got blurry. The word whole “Atlanta” thing happened; Cam’Ron said he “be in Columbus and never see Bow Wow”; Souljaboy ranted on YouTube that Bow was really from Reynoldsburg and nothing was ever the same.
A Prophet is Never Loved in His Own Town – The Hypocrisy of Our Hate
What’s wild is that nobody can really pinpoint WHY we hate Bow Wow (my personal guess is that he called it the ‘O Town’). At times he may have made some questionable remarks that came across as dissing the city. One common thing that we like to say here is that “he claims Atlanta, not us,” because he rapped in a song that he was Atlanta-found. Ignoring the fact that Atlanta native Jermaine Dupri probably wrote that line, and it’s factually accurate (Bow Wow was discovered while performing in Atlanta), to have a problem with that tract of thinking is flagrantly hypocritical.
One problem I have with Columbus is that the energy is never the same. Drake rapped last year, “People love you more when you’re working towards something more than when you have it.” I think that it applies here in Ohio as well, because people leave Columbus all the time and it’s never static. If we keeping it a buck, our favorite IG girls have put ATL in their bios at one time or another. Other city natives such as Jerreau and Rarri are out in LA kicking it. We have prominent 614 transplants residing in New York, Atlanta, Chicago and countless other cities. And yet, never do we hear any chatter about the city disowning them.
I’ll give you that the times have changed and we live in a much more fluid society than before. I’ve heard counters from people that say, “He didn’t have to stop claiming us just because he was down South.” But I think that the city has to take some culpability in that. Somewhere in the midst of his run, we turned our back on him. Even If I don’t think it’s right, I think there’s something to be said about somebody choosing to spiritually move on from claiming a city that doesn’t show love back.
Every other week on Twitter, you see a rapper who can only dream of reaching the success that Bow Wow actually achieved, talking about acting brand new once they make it and leaving a city that didn’t show enough love and appreciation in the rearview mirror. Imagine being an international sensation, traveling all over the world and coming home just to be told you ain’t shit. I’ve seen people stop effing with the city for far less. It ain’t right, but I can understand it.
Why Cape For Bow Wow in the First Place
“What I do ain’t never been done; Ohio is where I’m from,” Bow Wow raps on “Bounce With Me,” from his debut album Beware Of The Dog.
“Can’t forget about the Midwest, that’s where I was found; That’s where I live and Columbus is the town,” he raps on Doggy Bag, his second album.
Bow Wow was the first person that I can remember on a national level repping for Ohio. As I get older and more aware of how important representation is, especially in media, I have to remind myself how it felt being a young nappy-headed boy seeing another young, nappy-headed boy from Columbus dancing with Snoop, playing basketball like Michael Jordan in movies, dating Ciara and hosting 106 & Park.
Especially in this season where we see greater amounts of #blackexcellence across all levels of society, most recently demonstrated by the unapologetic blackness of Marvel’s Black Panther, we’ve got to stop and recognize what Bow Wow should have meant to the culture. These things mattered. We should cape for him BECAUSE he put on for us.
Moreover, Bow Wow was a trailblazer musically. The jokes about Bow Wow are funny, but increasingly, outside of 270, you’ll have somebody saying, “Aye, but he had hits though; let’s not front.” In case you forgot: “Bounce With Me,” “Let Me Hold You,” “Like You,” “Fresh Azimiz”, “Shortie Like Mine,” “Outta My System,” “I’m A Flirt,” “Marco Polo,” “I Think They Like Me,” “Run It (Remix),” and more.
He Was the First “Regular Nigga” That I Can Remember
It goes deeper than just making popular songs. Bow Wow may have been kicking it with Snoop Dogg -this was America’s Most Wanted Snoop, not America’s favorite Uncle Snoop – but he never had a gangster image. He also wasn’t some pretty boy in a boy band, crooning pop records. Bow Wow was just a regular, hood-adjacent nigga who rapped about the things that young boys like me could relate to. Whether that meant playing basketball with the homies, not falling victim to street life, being yourself(!!), getting money or spitting game, it was just regular nigga shit.
The best part of this brand of regular nigga shit was that there was no propaganda. Listening to Bow Wow didn’t make me want to go sip lean, war with an opp, or whip work in the bando. Listening to Bow Wow made me want to go talk to shorties. Matter fact, some of Bow Wow’s records taught me how to approach a girl that I wanted to talk to. Who the kids going to listen to in 2018 to find out how to talk to girls? I’m just saying.
Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City
A couple years ago, an Arena District promoter went viral in Columbus for tweeting out a video pushing a party featuring a lot of white women gyrating (off beat) to hip-hop music. Noticeably missing from the video was ANY melanin, and when people pressed him about it, the promoter plainly stated that he doesn’t market his parties towards blacks because the owners didn’t want us to come out to the venues. “When the parties are directed towards blacks, there’s a whole lot of things that come with it,” the purposely unnamed promoter stated. “We ain’t trying to have no fights or ghetto people around.”
The whole incident got me thinking a lot. What hurt the most about buddy’s comment was that he was a young black guy, just like me. Even though it’s hurtful, I at least get it when outsiders are prejudice against people in my culture. It was insult to injury that somebody from inside the family would not only hold such a view of the rest of us, but also feel comfortable casually forwarding an agenda that would exclude us from one of the few nightlife scenes in Columbus.
In the days and weeks following the Twitter Incident, I’d given a lot of thought about how we treat each other in the city. The promoter’s perspective was problematic, but it was indicative of a larger spirit that hovers above Ohio’s capital. I’ve long spoken from the soapbox about how we need to appreciate the talent and culture in the city more, and recognize the ongoing renaissance blossoming within 270, but all this time I’ve neglected to acknowledge Columbus’ original sin: We should never have rejected (lil) Bow Wow the way that we did and continue to do.
The same self-depreciating energy that caused that promoter to turn his back on his own people translates itself across every spectrum of the culture. If we don’t banish that spirit, it’s going to poison and halt any positive momentum that we’re able to get going here. Nobody wins when the family feuds.
So no more saying “He’s not really from here, he’s from Reynoldsburg,” because we all know that all the suburbs are a part of our metropolitan area. No more saying “He forgot about us/doesn’t rock with us,” because we threw him away first—artist are sensitive about their shit, and we said he wasn’t shit. No more saying “He’s corny and we don’t want nothing to do with him,” because corny shit happens every day and nobody trips about it; we’re not moving the goal posts in 2018.
If Columbus wants more heroes, we have to learn to appreciate the ones that we have. He waved our flag back when we were still regarded as a cow town. Let the rest of the world think that Bow Wow is corny, but here at home, we need to treat him like the legend that he is. He made “Shorty Like Mine,” dammit.
I will be the first to publicly state that we haven’t treated Bow Wow right, and I hope that I’m not the last. Until we do right by Columbus’ original pioneer, we will never prosper as a city, bro.