Though my parents had bought me many CDs prior to "my first album" (most notably the Space Jam soundtrack and *NSYNC's landmark eponymous debut) I didn't really get my own CD--one I picked out and brought to the register--until I was eight. I remember that day like it was nine years ago, which is to say my memory's a little hazy and half this story might be made up.
Anyhow, my parents were getting me my first walkman from Best Buy. I felt cool. Really Cool. I picked out the one I wanted with some help from a Best Buy employee and headed towards checkout. But I was missing something: a new CD to inaugurate my new CD player. Prominently displayed on the new releases rack were many albums I hadn't heard of and one I had. That one? Lil Bow Wow's debut, Beware Of Dog (the edited version, of course). I had heard Lil's "Bounce With Me" on local station B96 once or twice and was thoroughly excited about seeing this album in the store. I snatched that CD like it was the last one on earth and brought it to the cashier along with my walkman. And just like that, my first real album was bought.
Now, my tastes have expanded, I'm allowed to get the non-edited versions of CDs, and I've listened to less and less Lil Bow Wow as the years have progressed. But that first experience--the act of buying a CD--is so ingrained in my psyche and my personal history. On an increasingly regular basis after that day in the year 2000, I've done the same thing; I pick out a CD I want and buy it (or download it, now) all the time (more or less). Albums as a whole are a huge part of my life and personal culture, and that all began with Beware Of Dog.
This isn't to say that album is terrible. I still nod my head to "Bounce With Me" or the Snoop-assisted "Bow Wow (That's My Name)" or even the amusing "This Playboy". (I say "amusing" because at the time of the album's release, Bow Wow was thirteen years-old. Part of what made me like him so much was his age and its proximity to my own. I felt a kinship to him as a child and also as a midwesterner. He's from Cleveland.) The music itself is very radio-ready hip-hop, full of Jermaine Dupri-produced hooks and prepubescent, nasally rapping. But for an eight year-old whose internal musical library went from 98 Degrees to *NSYNC to Space Jam and then stopped, radio-friendly hip-hop sounded pretty badass. And the fact that it was mine and I could listen to it through headphones on my CD player made it all the better.
I'd pick Andre 3000 over Lil Bow Wow nowadays, and I'd pick Lou Reed over Andre 3000 (I know they're not really comparable--I'm just making a point), but Il Buono and I are forever indebted to the feisty little MC: the man (boy) behind the first album I ever got.