Bow Wow
New Jack City, Pt. 2
(So So Def/SONY)

Bow Wow became a 106 & Park staple when he dropped his pre-pubescent debut, Beware of Dog, in 2000. Five solo albums later, though, the kid wants to get his grown man on. To his defense, the Ohio native has made some effort to transition from teen idol to legitimate rapper, but his last two efforts—2006’s Price of Fame and the 2007 joint LP with Omarion Face Off—really only toed the line. Looking to finally cross it, Bow returns with New Jack City, Pt. 2.

Serving as chief producer, Jermaine Dupri shapes his primary protégé’s latest offering with that distinct So So Def sound. The influence is most apparent on “You Can Get It All,” which finds Bow singing about infatuation over an interpolation of TLC’s 1992 hit “Baby-Baby-Baby.” Then there’s the Baby and Lil Wayne–like collabo “Roc the Mic,” where Bow and JD trade bars over a sparse midtempo groove. B-Dub shows the most lyrical progression on “Been Doin This,” as he impressively employs a dizzying double-time flow (“I’m still on top, whether you like it or not, I won’t flop/What you think, just ’cause I sold a couple million, I’ma stop?”).

It’s a shame he doesn’t display much topical growth, continuing to rap primarily about women and material things. See the “Lollipop” rip-off “Pole in My Basement,” complete with Auto-Tuned vocals, and the generic “Get That Paper.” On the latter, he describes himself with outdated lines like, “Willie Beamen, ballin’ in off-season.”

Nine years into his career, Bow Wow knows a thing or two about making radio hits, but he stumbles here trying to recreate past magic on every track. While cookie-cutter tracks may work for the teenybopper crowd, mature hip-hop fans demand more. So for now, Bow can find solace in the fact that you can teach a young dog new tricks. —PAUL CANTOR