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Bow Wow, Greenlight 4

Quietly, Bow Wow’s become one of hip-hop seasoned vets in a way no other 24-year-old around can claim. His first foray into the mainstream was on the classic 1993 debut from Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle, where he appeared on a skit. As Lil Bow Wow, the Ohio native began making noise as a solo artist on 2000’s Beware of Dog, creating an filling a lane all his own. In the decade plus that’s followed, he’s released six more albums, starred in movies, and had his ups and downs in the industry. Now, the recent Young Money signee is out to prove that he needs to be taken seriously, using the mixtape Greenlight 4 as his avenue.

If what he says in his bars is any indication, Bow Wow wants the DJ ill Will & Dj Rockstar helmed project to separate him from other mid-20s rappers in the game. Though his flow is vigorous and lyrics typically respectable, Wizzle’s rhymes about dro (“Come Smoke With Me Pt. 4”), drinks (“You Drinking Too Much”) and dimes (“How Many Girls Wanna”) don’t do much to distinguish.

If Bow wants to prove what he boasts on “I Got Em Let Em Know,” where he spits,“Out of all the other young’ns, I’m the mothafuckin’ illest,” it’s cuts like the heavy “Boy or Girl,” that he should focus on. Over smooth production and gentle guitar plucks, the new father opens up about the nerves he faced before his child’s birth, kicking two verses—one about how he hopes to raise his newborn if she’s a girl, the other about if the kid is a boy.

This sort of conceptual, honest and vulnerable approach can help the YMCMB signee to standout, and serve as a solid compliment to the bragadoccio he’s honed in on and shouldn’t abandon. With Greenlight 4, Bow Wow inches closer to not being Underrated, as the title of his upcoming album claims. —Adam Fleischer

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