Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Ruff Ryders boast about boozing; Cash Money brags about billfold size. At least the rap's good.

It's almost bizarre that Juvenile, the label's most recognizable artist, has a clean police record. Nearly all of the people involved in Cash Money have been struck with tragic/near-tragic despair of Death Row Records-size proportions. In 1991 one of the label's earliest artists, Pimp Daddy, was murdered. At the age of 15, B.G. (the "bling-bling" guy) was apparently nurturing a heroin habit when he wasn't on the run from the law. And as the youngest lad in the bunch, Lil' Wayne is a 15-year-old high school dropout and daddy who, while playing with his late father's gun, accidentally shot himself in the chest. So it's no wonder that Cash Money is celebrating its success like there's no tomorrow. There may not be.

It's the utter I-can't-believe-this-shit-is-happening amazement in Cash Money rappers' voices that partially explains why so many listeners are down with them. It's like they're kids playing grown-up with their fathers' CB radios. There may be a sense of crudeness to the Cash Money sound, but there's also a sense of optimism, a hope for a better tomorrow for all the inner-city brothas and sistas out there. You have to look for it, but it's there. The utopian idealism of Juvenile and his Cash Money gang perfectly complements the authoritative bark of DMX and his Ruff Ryders. One crew will bite you in the ass, the other will tell you to back it up.

The Ruff Ryders/Cash Money Tour, featuring DMX, Eve, the Lox, Drag-On, Juvenile, B.G., Lil' Wayne and Young Turk, will be Wednesday, March 22, at Compaq Center, 10 Greenway Plaza. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $41.75 and $46.75. For more information, call (713)629-3700.

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