People Staff
July 22, 2002 12:00 PM

At 15, Lil Bow Wow has worked up a good, credible swagger. “What kid do you know who’s my age who’s in the Guinness Book of World Records” asks Bow, who earned his spot as the youngest rapper to have a No. 1 hit (with the 2000 track “Bounce with Me”). “Let it be known—nobody.”

So he’s got the cocky routine down—and it plays. In just three years the kid born Shad Moss in Columbus, Ohio, has racked up two platinum albums—2000’s Beware of Dog and 200l’s Doggy Bag. Like Mike, a family film about an orphan who dreams of making the NBA that pulled in $20 million in its first week, should only stoke his confidence. “He has the charisma that Michael Jackson had when he was younger,” says Mike costar Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat. “He’s like a little adult.”

Bow had been rapping for two years at local talent shows when he was discovered at age 5 by a touring Snoop Dogg. Getting a chance to record took years, but “I just knew it would all fall into place,” says Bow (who’s looking to lose the “Lil”). But beneath the bravado is a kid who plays video games, collects wrestling figures and calls his mother and co-manager Teresa Caldwell, 37, “Mommy” (she split from his dad, Alfonso Moss, 38, who lives in Atlanta). He also knows who’s really boss: If he acts up, says his mom, “I will whup his buns.”

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