While the hip hop industry is mainly known to foster adults, there have been a number of youngsters who’ve jumped in as rappers. Though small in size, they carried loads of confidence and even were equipped with the same — or more — level talent than some of their older counterparts.
From taking over the playground to dominating the rap game, many young artists have made music history. Instead of living the average life of a child, kid rappers topped charts and became viral sensations. But, what are they up to these days? While some decided to stay in the limelight, others chose to pursue other passions.
REVOLT has compiled a list of former kid rap stars and where they are today. Check it out below!
1. Bow Wow (formerly known as Lil Bow Wow)
Probably the youngest to ever do it, Lil Bow Wow hit the scene in 1993 at the ripe age of 6 and was immediately recognized by Hollywood greats like Snoop Dogg and Jermaine Dupri. He even appeared on the Arsenio Hall show to broadcast his talent to the world during his come-up.
Bow Wow, who now goes by his real name Shad Moss, went on to produce several hit records and step into his acting bag by starring in movies like Johnson Family Vacation, Like Mike, Roll Bounce, Lottery Ticket and the Fast & Furious franchise.
While the former rapper claimed to be done releasing music in 2016, he still regularly performs his past hits at concerts and shows. Moss also has other business endeavors like his own clothing brand, BW Apparel, which includes fashion items and hair tools.
When he’s not chasing the bag, he’s spending his time being a dad. His daughter Shai not only looks exactly like him, but she carries just as much talent. From acting to dancing, she’s already following in her father’s footsteps.
2. Kris Kross
In the early 1990s, Atlanta record exec Jermaine Dupri discovered Chris Kelly and Chris Smith in the mall. Shocked by the flock of girls surrounding them, the producer asked them what they were known for and Smith responded, “We just cool.”
Then, at only 12 and 13 years old, the two kids released “Jump,” one of the hottest records of that decade. The song went double platinum and sold over two million copies. Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly and Chris “Daddy Mac” Smith went on to drop a total of three albums by 1996.
Aside from being young superstars, the duo was also trendsetters. While baggy clothing was popular in the era, Kris Kross encouraged others to wear their pieces backwards. Jeans, overalls, jerseys – it didn’t matter. The Chrises wanted to prove that they were in a lane of their own.
There aren’t any details on why the group chose to stop making music together, but, in February 2013, Kris Kross reunited to celebrate So So Def’s 20 year anniversary. The two performed their top hits and gave the crowd an intense feeling of nostalgia.
Unfortunately, just a couple of months later, Kelly passed away. On April 29, he reportedly suffered a drug overdose. Two days later, he died in the hospital. He was 34 years old.
As for Smith, he continues to have a career in the arts and media industry. His company, Urbane Muse, is a fashion and lifestyle brand that focuses on creativity. Per its website, the label aims to merge “artistic inspiration with innovative design.” He produces a wide variety of merchandise— from sweatshirts and eyewear to mugs and paintings, Smith has a little bit of something for everybody.
Smith is also still making music. His songs can be found on streaming platforms, and a physical copy of his album is available for purchase on Urbane Muse’s website.
3. Romeo (formerly known as Lil Romeo)
When he was 5-year-old, Lil Romeo was given the ultimate opportunity when he was signed to his father Master P’s label, No Limit.
Raised around nothing but rap, it was inevitable that he, too, would be involved in the art. He dropped his single “My Baby” in 2001, and it went to No. 3 on the Billboard charts.
As his music career gained traction amongst the teenage crowd, the star decided to invade another area of the entertainment industry: television. In 2003, he starred in his own Nickelodeon sitcom, “Romeo!” Much like real life, the artist played a rapper with a record-producing dad.
Romeo also added movies to his resume by acting in films like Honey, Madea’s Witness Protection Program, Brotherly Love and others. He’s focused on his on-camera career, too. The talent can be seen on the BLK show “A La Carte,” which is produced by Meagan Good, as well as alongside DaniLeigh in a BET+ Christmas movie, “Christmas Angel.”
Romeo is also the co-host of the REVOLT game show “Receipts.” Together, he and Quincy Brown highlight the diverse talents of Black consumers.
Aside from working, the Louisiana native uses his social media platforms to display fatherhood and faith. He frequently posts his kids and gloats about the joys of being a dad.
4. Soulja Boy (formerly known as Soulja Boy Tell’em)
Soulja has coined himself as the first “viral rapper” and there’s truth in that statement. When he was 14, he moved with his father to Batesville, Mississippi. There, he was able to jumpstart his music career by going back and forth to the studio.
It didn’t take long before the teen forced the entire world to “Crank Dat.” He quickly became the face of party music by creating a sound that brought his listeners joy and influenced other artists.
Since his younger years, Soulja has successfully managed to maintain his relevancy by participating in reality shows like “Marriage Boot Camp” and “Love & Hip-Hop.” He has also proven to be a great businessman by releasing NFT versions of his songs, starting a clothing line, creating his own video game console among other products.
Additionally, his music career is still afloat. Not only does Soulja still release hits, but he has artists signed to his label, Stacks on Deck.
5. Latto (formerly known as Mulatto)
At just 10 years old, Atlanta-raised artist Latto was dedicated to making a name for herself. As a youngster, she wrote her own rhymes, performed in cyphers and competed in poetry competitions against high schoolers and college students, she once told Paper Mag.
Growing up in the age of digital media, the star decided to capitalize off her internet following. Miss Mulatto, which was her former moniker, would start posting original rap songs and music videos to her YouTube channel, and garner millions of views in the process.
This method bought her a great deal of success, and ultimately helped her land a spot on Jermaine Dupri’s rap competition television show, “The Rap Game,” in 2016. Each week, Latto, along with other kid stars, would do challenges to prove they had what it took to be signed with So So Def. In the end, 16-year-old Latto was crowned the winner, and her dreams started to unfold.
In 2019, the young MC signed to RCA Records, and her career has been on an incline ever since. In 2020, she was inducted into the XXL freshman class. She also became the first solo female rapper from Atlanta to go RIAA-certified platinum for her record “B**ch From Da Souf (Remix).”
In 2022, she won Best New Artist at the BET Awards along with Best Female Hip-Hop Artist, the latter which she snagged again in 2023.
With features from major music icons like Mariah Carey, Gucci Mane and Trina, and a fanbase that grows daily, the rapstress has a lot of success in her near future. Her career is going the exact way she envisioned it as a little girl.
6. Jaden Smith
In 2010, when Jaden Smith appeared in The Karate Kid, he also launched his musical career when he worked with pop sensation Justin Bieber on “Never Say Never,” which was featured in the film.
Smith’s dropped rap songs like “Pumped Up Kicks” and “The Coolest” in the early 2010s before transitioning to a more alternative sound. His bars are effortlessly placed on a plethora of diverse beats. From punk rock to trap beat flows, you never know what he may deliver.
The talent dropped his album Syre in 2017 on his own record label MSFTS Music. Aside from artistry, he’s also deep into the fashion industry. Smith’s brand, MSFTSrep, focuses on helping the environment by creating sustainable clothing. The company has collaborated with popular shoe brand New Balance.
Moreover, Smith launched a pop-up food truck in the Skid Row area of Downtown, Los Angeles, CA to help feed the homeless. What a guy!
7. Roxanne Shanté
At the tender age of 14 years old, Roxanne Shanté was one of the first female rap artists to hit the scene and gained an abundance of popularity when she dropped “Roxanne’s Revenge” in 1984. The track was in rebuttal to U.T.F.O’s “Roxanne, Roxanne,” which was about a woman turning down men.
The artist continued putting on for girls in the rap game by releasing numerous hits. Although Shanté achieved success, at age 25, the MC decided to cut ties with the music industry. During an interview with VladTV, she revealed that she stepped away because she never received a royalty check. “Regardless of what they stole then, it’s nowhere near what I make now,” she said.
In 2017, Netflix released a film about the New York native’s life and it brought her the recognition that many believe she deserved a long time ago. Aside from getting a peek at her music career, viewers also observed the teen struggle to survive in such treacherous conditions.
Now, Shanté still spends a lot of her time in front of the mic – but in a different way. Every weekday at 4 p.m. ET, radio lovers can tune in and listen to the former rapper on SiriusXM. Her show, “Have A Nice Day,” airs on LL Cool J’s Rock The Bells Radio. She uses her platform to discuss hip hop history, and share her opinions on current events and pop culture moments.
8. Lil Wayne
Coined one of the greatest artists of all time, Lil Wayne took the industry by storm when he was just 12 years old. Yes, Weezy joined Hot Boyz and signed to Birdman before he was even a teenager.
Being the youngest artist in the company may have seemed intimidating, but the rapper handled the title like a pro. He brought the group several hits with verses on songs like “Back That Azz Up,” “Tha Block Is Hot,” “Bling Bling” and countless others. The New Orleans native quickly rose to stardom and has kept his A-lister status for decades.
While he has countless accomplishments on his own — like five Grammys and several No. 1 hits — he’s also notable for what he’s done for others. Through his label Young Money, Wayne introduced the world to two rap icons, Drake and Nicki Minaj, which he’s collaborated with time and time again.
Plus, the rapper is still pouring into others and working on his craft. From teaming up with numerous artists like 2 Chainz, Ciara, will.i.am, Mario and others, Weezy’s bars still show that he’s the best.
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