Story: Keith Murphy
Photography: Fredric Reshew
Say hello to dorifito (the Japanese word for drifting) and the basis for the upcoming summer blockbuster The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. However, serious drifting heads are bound to do a collective spit-take when they witness matinee-rap idol and PG screen star Bow Wow behind the wheel in the latest F&F installment. So, what does the 19-year-old rapper, who boasts a platinum album, Wanted , and beaucoup bucks, know about drift racing? A lot, but his car knowledge doesn’t stop there, and neither does his massive car collection. “It’s crazy because I get all these cars, but I don’t [have time to] drive them,” he says matter-of-factly of his fleet, which includes a Lamborghini Gallardo, a Bentley Continental GT and the new 2006 Mercedes-Benz S550. Minutes later, Bow Wow talks glowingly of his four-wheeled co-stars: a tricked-out green ’67 Mustang with a mean Nissan Skyline motor that easily goes to 220mph, a 2006 Evolution IX with 286hp and an orange RX-7 that hits 180mph in eight seconds. “Those are some tough cars,” Bow Wow concedes. “You almost don’t want to drive them.”
RIDES: Your involvement in The Fast and the Furious is bound to throw hardcore drift racing fans for a loop. How did you become connected to the project?
BOW WOW: I met with [the] director Justin Lin and we had a discussion about where I wanted to take my career. I told him I was a big fan of the first two films and he saw the respect factor there. He knew that I was dedicated to making this film.
Were you shocked to learn just how nuts the drifting scene is in Japan?
It’s crazy because a lot of people still don’t know what drift-racing is all about. It started in Japan as underground street racing. But it’s starting to blow up. With the movie, it’s only going to get bigger.
The whole drift phenomenon involves a lot of dangerous sideways slides and hairpin turns. Were the producers of the movie and the folks at your record label scared shitless at the possibility of you smashing into a wall?
I didn’t have to do any of the stunts. My driving scenes were pretty easy. We had real drifters on set everyday. So anything we needed to know, we went to them. When you watch a drift race it looks like the drivers are out of control, but they’re not. Basically, you are driving the car with your emergency brake [with proper clutch and throttle input] and just giving the wheel a little turn — you get graded on the slide. I never really drove a stick before, so it was tough for me to really just hop into it. I stalled out the car a couple of times [Laughs].
Hip-hop’s presence in Japan is so heavy, the natives can probably spit Das Efx’s album verbatim in English. It’s even translated into their street car design.
Yeah, hip-hop has had a huge impact on Japan’s car culture. In fact they are very West-Coast oriented. You have the Japanese guys doing it like in L.A., on Crenshaw, where every Saturday night they get their lowriders out. In Japan they have lowrider clubs; I saw them hitting switches.
We can’t talk about the new F&F movie without bringing up your extensive car collection. What’s in your driveway right now?
I got a tricked-out blue Range Rover with blue 24-inch rims, suede roofing and a cream interior that I drive all the time. I got my Lamborghini Gallardo, which I love a lot. I just kept that one basic…those cars are so expensive.
You really don’t want to mess with a Lamborghini.
Exactly. A Lamborghini is going to get attention anyway. My 2005 Bentley Continental GT…I love that one too. I have Lowenharts on that. But the one I’m really excited about is the new 2006 Mercedes-Benz [S550]. It looks like a Maybach. It’s just crazy man, unbelievable. I’m going to keep that one classy.
Is there a whip that you have your eye on right now?
There’s not just one. I want to get the new Rolls-Royce Phantom. I have a friend of mine that has one and he let me drive it. I also want the new Jaguar XR. The doors lift all the way up like a Lamborghini; it costs around $450,000 and it’s just stupid. If I get that, I’m done with cars. [Ed: Hate to let the cat out of the bag, Bow, but Jaguar’s reps can’t confirm this half-million animal.]
Are all your cars still in your mother’s name?
Not any more. All of my cars are in my name now. It’s just about knowing, “Yeah, this is mine right here. Mom didn’t pay for my car.”
What was the first car you bought when you got your license?
My mother bought me a Nissan 350Z for Christmas. I had Gianelle rims on it; I had that one tricked-out with speakers encased in glass in the back with my nickname engraved on them. [Laughs]
Yeah, it’s funny man, because I really thought I was doing something. But I stepped it up. I had my first Ferrari when I was 16 years old. That was my all-time favorite car when I was a little kid.
Slow down homie…you are going to have our readers hating you.
[Laughs] I know that I’m blessed. With the Lamborghini, I have to hit three different buttons just to back it up. That’s why I drive the Range Rover and the Bentley a lot. They’re practical cars.
Everyone from Will Smith to Master P. has given you heat for your swagger. What do you have to say to your critics?
I just really try to do me, man. People spend so much time criticizing somebody or worrying about what a person is doing, instead of worrying about what you have going on. I’m a person that’s self-motivated. Whether it’s music or movies, I strive to be the best. That’s not being cocky. Everybody should think that.