[Spoiler alert: This story contains the identity of the third place finisher on Wednesday night’s (May 20) The Masked Singer finale.]
A pure rapper has never won The Masked Singer. But on Wednesday night’s season three finale, Frog got as close as anyone to being the first hip-hop artists to raise the trophy; season one winner T-Pain won thanks to his impressive singing. And Frog isn’t afraid to admit that his fancy footwork got him as far as his killer microphone skills.
Though Night Angel ended up taking the top prize, fan and judge’s favorite Frog nabbed the third spot after outlasting a fellow rapper, the season’s first eliminee, Lil Wayne (Robot), as well as two iconic singers (Miss Monster Chaka Khan and Mouse Dionne Warwick), a reality star politician (Bear Sarah Palin) and a metal singer and country star (Banana Poison‘s Bret Michaels and Astronaut Hunter Hayes).
He did it all for his nine-year-old daughter, a huge fan of the show, and to help reboot his rap career. The judge’s guesses were all over the place, from Olympian Carl Lewis, to Kid Cudi, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Lil Romeo. He got that far because his performances were impressive week in and out, including 50 Cent‘s “In Da Club,” Naughty By Nature‘s “Hip Hop Hooray,” Young MC‘s “Bust A Move,” as well as classics by MC Hammer and Kriss Kross. He even mixed it up to show his range by singing Imagine Dragons‘ “Whatever It Takes” and the Gap Band‘s “You Dropped a Bomb on Me.”
He got so close, and that was plenty for the man known as Bow Wow, 33, (born Shad Moss), who spoke to Billboard before his elimination to talk about learning choreography for the first time, why he’s not worried about losing his rap cred by being on a reality singing show and how his run was the perfect prelude to the launch of the next generation of Moss family superstars.
Check out our exit interview with Frog below.
You said that you wanted to prove that you had as much talent as the singers, but what did you think you could bring to it with your particular set of skills?
The fun factor, the wow fact, the entertainment, the party. Everything that you guys see is me. Also, I wanted to see where my competition was going. I knew I would be going up again a lot of heavy vocalist and singers and I defined m niche, my thing that I could run away with that would make me stand apart from what everyone else was doing. To me I was like, “Yo, I’m the only fun, wild dude!” I’m out here to have fun and if I party and do my thing and rock it I will stand out and be like nothing else on season three. I didn’t want to try to sing my heart out and sound crazy, that wasn’t my thing. I had to find my own little space and be comfortable and stay in my lane. I used that to my advantage — I used the dancing, the performing, the movement, the records, the choice of songs. I was very, very happy with my choices.
Everyone has told me all along that it’s real hard to breathe in those masks, that it’s hot and singing is near impossible. Rapping takes even more breath control in some ways, did you struggle with that at all, to hold your wind and keep your cadence?
Nah, it wasn’t hard at at all. I’ve been performing since I was five and been on so many tours. Doing it for so long it’s just second nature to me. I can turn it on and off whenever I want. I’m comfortable up there on stage with a crowd and a mic in my hand, that’s when I’m at ease. No other place I’d rather be.
You said in one package that you started to doubt yourself at some point, but got more confidence as the show went on. What made you feel better on stage as you progressed?
Just getting in a flow, a rhythm, knowing these songs. I never once felt pressure. Like I said, I was ready to go. I was excited for this. I would say that by the time I did my second song I was like, “Cool, okay, it’s time to lock in and be here for a while.” There were a couple producers walking around and they were like, “You should get comfortable, man. You might as well buy you a new car because you’re gonna be out here for a minute.” Hearing all that type of talk it was like I felt that too and I [thought], “I can’t half-step, I have to go all out.” And that’s what I did.
Why the Frog costume? What spoke to you about it?
Number one, I knew I could swag it out. I knew that was me, it fits me. Number two was that it was a Frog and I knew the kids would love it and it appeals to that young demographic that I wanted to tackle. I knew they would be annoying their parents about the Frog and that’s what I wanted. Number three I knew what I wanted to do and I needed to dance. I needed to move around and I needed that looseness, that freedom. If you notice I’m pretty much the only one in a costume that has regular pants and a regular suit jacket, so I’m flexible. I can move. Those other costumes can’t really move as much so I don’t know if I would have advanced to finals being another character.
You definitely moved better than anyone else and I thought you said you’d never done choreography before, which was surprising because you seemed very comfortable with it.
Yeah, never done choreography before. You know I’m a rapper, so there aren’t too many rappers who are going to be dancing like Chris Brown.
Except for Hammer…
I was just about to say that! You took that right out my mouth. Hammer was the last one. It was different for me, but it was something I wanted to learn because I wanted to add a little something to my own thing. I might want to switch it up one time and dance during a show, so it was cool. Once again, I wasn’t being Bow Wow up there, I was being the Frog. Doing things I’ve always wanted to do without worrying about, “Are they gonna call me crazy or corny?” Or they’re not gonna respect me in hip-hop no more because I’m dancing now? But this is something I really know how to do. I told one of the producers backstage one day that one of my favorite holidays is Halloween because I get to dress up and be in character and be whoever I want to be. So it was like Halloween the whole time I was shooting. I never broke character, I had a blast.
You’ve talked about retiring from music a couple times before, but is this a signal that you’re ready for your next chapter in music?
I get up in the wee hours of the morning before anyone is up and I like to talk to my fans and I think what started that rumor again was someone asked me, “when you drop the album are you thinking about retiring again?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m definitely going to drop two albums for sure and if anything I’m going to switch my hustle around a little bit because now my daughter’s nine and she’s about to take that leap into Hollywood.” She’s about to star in her first movie. Those are moments I want to be there for and I want to guide her to make sure she’s straight, so if I need to pause my train a bit to come hop on hers I’m willing to do that at any cost. I know that once she blows up… I know she’s already getting this Insta fame where she’s getting more views than me without me being in the videos, so dad’s a little jealous. I gotta be there for her when that train takes off… like the next Lil Bow Wow, there’s no comparison. She is me, but in a girl’s body. It’s about to be one of the illest one-two combos since Pippen and Jordan and Kobe and Shaq. There’s probably never going to be a [father-daughter] duo like this that’s gonna attack the business.
In your clue package you had a basketball, “My Baby,” No Limits. It definitely felt like you were trying to throw them off and make them think it was Lil Romeo. Even he talked about it on Celebrity Watch Party.
Yeah, I think that’s what’s great about this show, the clues. I think that’s what people wait for, other than the performances and being revealed. You want to play mind games with the competition. You don’t want it to be easy, that’s the fun factor, the fact that you can guess so many names. Of course, you’re gonna throw people off, especially when it’s a guessing game. But what’s crazy is I have a song called “My Baby,” it’s one of my biggest records.
I also thought you brought it all the way around to your former label home with “Bad Boy For Life,” which would have been a dead giveaway for anyone who wasn’t paying attention before.
Oh yeah, most definitely. I was excited to perform that record. That’s a huge hip-hop record… I’m not a dancer like Puff [Daddy], that’s one of my guys, so when I got the okay for that one I was like, “oh man.” I hope that he gets a chance to see it. I know he’s gonna be proud when he watches it. I’m sure he’s gonna be like, “Yo, this is crazy.”
You’ve done TV and movies, toured the world, released albums. What was the hardest part of being on this show?
Um… I don’t think I went through anything that was hard, honestly. If anything it was gonna be hard with the choreography, but I was telling myself, “that’s gonna be dope.” I was like, “Let’s do it. I don’t care how many steps, I wanna learn it, this is fun. I’m on vacation.” I was ready for whatever.
How much rehearsal did you do for the choreography?
It was enough, maybe three or four sessions. Not counting when I get home and take it upon myself to do my own thing.
You talked before about being in costume dancing as Frog so not worrying about it ruining your hip-hop cred. Did you have any fellow MCs reach out to you like, “that’s not you dancing up there is it?”
Oh yeah, I’ve had so many people send me frog emojis, my DMs or in my comments. But for me it’s nothing but positive praise. When I saw guys like Lil Wayne that’s when I gained my confidence, because I was like, “Lil Wayne is here?” That changed the landscape of the game of the show. It just gave us more confidence and I think the great thing after this season I think we’ll see more MCs or rappers come on this show. I think Fox might give leeway to more rapping performances. One thing I take away from it is I hope guys like myself and Wayne were the floodgates to open up for more guys to have more confidence and come on the show and do it. A lot of these guys don’t do it because they’re scared. They think they really have to get up here and ballad sing like Mariah Carey. That’s what runs them off. So once get a glimpse of Wayne and what we’re going you might get more guys who want to step in and have more fun with this thing and tap into another realm of themselves.
On that note, you showed off some of your range with Imagine Dragons and Gap Band. Were you trying to surprise people and throw the judges off a bit?
Oh yeah, because I knew I couldn’t just rap the whole way. Fox wasn’t going for that. I was like, “Yo, this is gonna be fun because people don’t know that I can actually do this and it’s gonna blow them away.” And it sounded so good. And the first time I worked with my vocal coach I had a great time. It was perfect.
Did you think you might have a chance to win? Were you disappointed that you didn’t?
I definitely didn’t think I was gonna make it to the finals. I was like, “Okay, let’s go ahead and get these two and go ahead and go home.” I had no idea, but I think once they saw me and saw what I could do it was over, there was nothing that I couldn’t do. There was no going home at that point. And like I said, being a rapper and making it this far? To me that’s a win. That shows me right there that you have to have some type of talent to get to that point, so I can take that.
You said you did the show for you daughter, did you guys watch it together before you were on it? And did she know you were on it?
Yeah, my daughter always watched. She loved the show and that’s who I was doing it for. I wanted to give her that trophy. I wanted to definitely walk off that stage and go home and drop it off to her. That was my fire to keep me going. But all in all, she still loved it and we had fun. We definitely tried to keep it a secret, but once she watched it it was over. She knew right away. I had to bring her to set with me one day, which was cool because they gave her a little tour and she really enjoyed it and it made her day.
Anybody else figure out it was you?
I had a couple friends. T-Pain sent me a frog emoji and I definitely ignored that message and definitely didn’t reply. But, yeah, everyone wanted to know. And your boys are saying, “You might be Bow Wow to the world, but you’re Shad to us… is that you for real?” And I was like, “Nah, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
What about your Uncle Snoop? Did he hit you up?
Snoop? No, he did not.
Do you have new songs in the works? Night Angel and Turtle both talked about their new songs. What’s next for you.
I think this is the perfect set up. Me and Omarion just tweeted that out, Bow Wow Omarion and a CD emoji and that went viral. Me and O been in the studio working with Jermaine Dupri, we’ve been working non-stop. I finished the album as soon as we got off tour, which was postponed because of what we’re going through right now. I finished the album up in the first three weeks and then me and O was already working on stuff while we were on tour and now that we really have time to work on stuff he called me two days ago like, “Yo dog, now’s the time, let’s go.” I definitely have a major announcement to make tomorrow about everything I have coming. There are two albums on the way and two movies on the way and I can’t wait. It’s gonna be crazy.
So, it’s another joint album with you and O?
Yeah, you know we had success with the first one, Face Off. When we click it just connects and that combination is a good one-two punch, it just works. And when we tweeted it out it was kind of the bait to see if that’s what they wanted. And I could have guessed that’s what they wanted because of the capacity of people that were showing up to come out to see us. Our music from that era is so important and we want to give them something. If they can’t come see us this year because of corona then we want to give them something they can hear. We’re gonna give them some real good stuff.