'Growing Up Hip Hop Atlanta' preview: 'Being a celebrity's kid has its perks'

This was posted Tuesday, May 22, 2017 by Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

WE-TV's "Growing Up Hip Hop Atlanta" is a natural spin-off from the Los Angeles version that debuted last year and did well. That cast featured Romeo and the kids of Rev. Run, James DeBarge, Jam Master Jay, Treach, Sandra "Pepa" Denton and Damon Dash and already has a third season set to debut in July.

Atlanta's version, which debuts Thursday at 10 p.m. after "Braxton Family Values," also features one big name in 29-year-old actor and rap star Bow Wow (Shad Moss), who has been living in Los Angeles for a long time but has roots in Atlanta where he became a kid star. For the show, he comes back to his hometown to promote a mixtape and possibly produce his first album in six years with his former mentor and father figure Jermaine Dupri.

The other five cast members are relative unknowns, all kids of big stars. And there's no shortage of reality show synergy. In the first episode, Dupri (Lifetime's "The Rap Game") and Da Brat ("The Rickey Smiley Morning Show" and "Dish Nation") show up to advise Bow Wow and try to convince him to create an album locally. Tiny (VH's "T.I. & Tiny) takes care of teen-ager and singer Zonnique Pullins. Plus, manager Deb Antney (VH1's "Love and Hip Hop Atlanta") interacts with her son Brandon Barnes.

'My life is just lit... being a celebrity kid definitely has its perks," exclaimed Reginae Carter during the show's debut, which I previewed. She's daughter of reality star and author Toya Wright ("Tiny & Toya") and Lil Wayne and the most dynamic of the newbies. "Just walking in a house and seeing Drake or Nicki is normal to me. Most people might think I'm a spoiled brat, but I'm not. I just think... I was raised like this!"

Both of Wright and Wayne show up separately in the first episode as well. Reginae was featured in a classic, over-the-top MTV's"My Super Sweet 16" a couple years ago. "Sometimes, I have to remind her I'm the mom," Wright said on the show, noting that Lil Wayne really does spoil his daughter.

In the first episode, a minor beef occurs between two cast members who had been part of Tiny's girl group OMG Girlz: Zonnique and Reginae.

Reginae's dad  Lil Wayne was dismissive of the "Black Lives Matter" movement in an interview last November, which upset Zonnique's dad T.I., who wrote a lengthy retort on social media. The drama in episode one revolves how this beef trickles down to the girls.

I spoke with five of the cast members at Lobby in the Twelve Hotel Monday. Bow Wow bowed out at the last second for "personal reasons," the publicist explained without detail.

Brandon, brother of popular rap star and "Love and Hip Hop Atlanta" recurring character Waka Flocka, said he is firmly a behind-the-scenes guy. He does vocal coaching and wants to write and produce TV shows. "We're here to empower and inspire and share our real lives," he said.

He said it's a struggle to get out of the shadows of his powerhouse mom and brother. "It robs you of your identity," he said."They think we're spoiled and don't have to work for anything, that a lot of stuff is handed to us on a silver platter."

Brandon convinced 25-year-old Ayana Fite, daughter of DJ Hurricane, who worked with the Beastie Boys, to join the show despite her initial "hell no" reluctance. She was not drawn into the world of entertainment, having worked for H&M stores for several years. On the side, she is working on her own clothing line as well.

Ayana admits that she's spoiled. "I don't have to work," she said. "I choose to work. I get a paycheck. But if I don't want to pay my rent, I can get my dad to do that and I can do what I want with my money. Not many people can do that."

"I can't do that," Brandon said. His mom ensured he work for a living. So he said he has worked at a KFC, a Sam's Club and a janitorial company, among others. He also said he doesn't go out of his way to tell strangers his familial connections.

Zonnique has been singing since she was eight. Her mom on the show calls her a "new age Janet Jackson" but thinks she could use a stronger work ethic.

Reginae, who is about to graduate high school and is the youngest of the group, wants to be an actress and plans to major in in theater in college. She is also working on a book about the mother-daughter relationship with her mom.

Dupri's daughter Shaniah Mauldlin appeared the most soft spoken. As a college freshman, she has aspirations to be a pediatrician while also developing a children's clothing line. She plans to donate profits to a Nicaraguan charity and help clothe poor children there. (She had done a mission there.)


"Growing Up Hip Hop Atlanta," 10 p.m. WE-TV, Thursday, debuting May 25, 2017

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.