Don't call it a comeback
Don't call it a comeback
Daniel Kohn

Bow Wow - City National Grove of Anaheim - 6/8/12

Bow Wow
City National Grove of Anaheim

You have to hand it to Bow Wow. Over the past 13 years, he's evolved from a pre-teen rapper to a Hollywood star. That's not an easy transition to make even if you are the equivalent of a hip-hop child star.

It seems like yesterday that the baby-faced rapper known at Lil Bow Wow released his debut, Beware of Dog, on So So Def Records produced by label impresario Jermaine Dupri and was rocking a Tim Couch Cleveland Browns jersey. Like the quarterback whose jersey he sported, expectations were high for the rapper, especially after a successful debut that spawned a few hits with "Bow Wow (That's My Name)" featuring Snoop Dogg, "Puppy Love" and "Ghetto Girls." But here we are in 2012 and though he's dropped the "Lil," Bow Wow hasn't produced the gamechanging single that hip-hop fans expected back in 2002.

But the Atlanta-based performer has evolved into a multi-platform star. Having seen his profile grown with roles on TV programs including Entourage and The Steve Harvey Show, in addition to films like The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Lottery Ticket, one would have thought name recognition alone would have drawn people to his show last night, the fourth stop of his Underrated Tour. But this wasn't the case.

The venue, which normally holds about 1,700 people, probably had around 400 fans there to see the rapper's show. Yikes.

Usually, playing to a 25 percent capacity would dishearten a performer, but not Bow Wow. To the delight of his fans, he played a crowd-pleasing set of songs that spanned his career. Now signed to Cash Money, the 25-year-old played a number of new songs, which went over well with the crowd. But as expected, the older, familiar material was what fans responded to best.

"I'm 25 now and I've been doing this for 20 years," the rapper told the crowd. "I consider myself an OG even though I'm not that old."

He's been here for years
He's been here for years
Daniel Kohn

The crazy thing is that he's right. He's still relatively young and judging by the way the crowd dug every bone Bow Wow threw at them, he has a decent shot to reinvent himself. Under less than ideal circumstances - including an early, public argument with the sound guy (never a wise career move) fans went home happy and for the rapper, hopefully this is the beginning of the long process of rebuilding his credibility with  younger, wiser hip-hop fans who are more in tune with rappers like Odd Future and Curren$y than Bow Wow.

Critical Bias: Bow Wow gets an A for effort. He could have easily mailed it in with the pathetic attendance, but gave it his all, which is the sign of a true performer.

The Crowd: A mix of people who grew up listening to his music and those familiar with his films.

Random Notebook Dump: During the set of one of the openers, I was fucking around on my iPhone when a t-shirt hit me right in the numbers and I dropped it. While in shock for a second, some kid swooped the shirt from under my foot. Kid, if I ever see you again, that shirt is mine.


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