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The Boston Phoenix Big Pimpin'

The Cash Money/Ruff Ryders tour

By Jon Caramanica

APRIL 3, 2000:  Before the Cash Money Millionaires even enter Long Island's Nassau Coliseum back on March 19, host T.K. Kirkland, raunchy comedian about town, sets the tone for the night. Insulting the fans, spitting loosely thought-out invective, throwing backstage passes at women who look as if they'd merit backstage passes. The passes also go to rappers and singers who flood to the side of stage for their moment in the sun. One teen impresses Kirkland enough to make it onto the main stage, then proceeds to drop a blistering rhyme about rising up against white America in reprisal for centuries of slavery, a rhyme that culminates in the order to castrate white men. White high-school juniors with buzzcuts and boots nod and smile uncomfortably. After all, isn't this what hip-hop's all about?

More so than last year's Hard Knock Life tour, the Cash Money/Ruff Ryders extravaganza, which brings a slew of multiplatinum rappers, including Juvenile, B.G., DMX, and Eve, to the FleetCenter this Sunday, is all about the confluence of numerous raciosexual spaces in one venue. Teenage thugs, iced down and draped in bandanas, sit next to suburban white girls dropped off at the show by their parents. Fathers sit next to their young children, unsure whether to plug the kids' ears or share the good time with them. Middle-class white kids decked out in Fubu and Lugz sway their arms in what I can only imagine they think is "gangsta" fashion and get booed by the crowd, which expresses enmity and shame, not to mention offering what comes off as a paternalistic pat on the head. Hey, they're trying.

Yet for all the frisson in the audience, the stage show manages to one-up the crowd's energy. The Hot Boys soar in on a rigged helicopter and perform before an oversized Rolex backdrop with fake encrusted diamonds. The low-hung sign announces the boys as the Cash Money Millionaires. Hell, it could be talking about the collective value of the jewelry the cats wear -- Brian "Baby" Williams alone sports $100K in his mouth. "Expensive conversation" is what he calls it.

So expensive that it's hardly worth the time. Might as well cut right to the chase and bring on the girls! Of course, that's the finale, so wait a minute. The Cash Money folks, for all their floss, have only a few genuine hits. They slog through reduced versions of these one after another, stopping only to chant antiphonally with the crowd, "I need a project/Bitch!/A hoodrat/Bitch!"

So let the search begin -- five willing (I swear) women are plucked from the audience and given the chance to strut their stuff to the mellifluous sounds of Juvenile's "Back That Azz Up" (no clean version here). It's obvious who the winner will be, so obvious you might think she's been planted for the purpose. Sporting a black leather bikini top with matching fur-trimmed skirt, she wastes no time in dropping to the floor and displaying her earthly, unclad goods to the crowd (average age 17).

As the contest champion, she's treated to a 10-foot-long inflatable phallus, which expands so the tip just reaches her. She's uncomfortable for a moment, so clearly the victim of unchecked misogyny; then she turns to the balloon and does what's expected of her, grinding against it before dropping to the floor and continuing her gravitatious shimmy. This time, though, she flips onto her back and wiggles her legs excitedly in the air. B.G., a scant 18, gapes openly. Cash Money associates peep at the spectacle and swarm around her with lust in their eyes. Soon she's swaddled in a jacket and ushered backstage.

There's no good ending to that story. Just ask Eve, who's already gone public on MTV expressing her distaste for the open hot-girl auditions. Out of all the acts on the tour, Eve is the one the teenage hardrocks don't rap along with -- they chime in only on her verse from Missy Elliott's "Hot Boyz" and the opening line to the domestic abuse allegory "Love Is Blind": "I don't even know you and I hate you." Why that song? Because even after these kids get past Eve's silky femininity, they see her as their dog, and what is "Love Is Blind" other than a "Dead Homiez" for the female set. She's a ruff ryder.

As for the rest of the team, they inspire religious devotion, but none more so than the Dark Man himself. DMX closes the show, coasting in on a cage suspended over the audience. His set is the longest of the night -- half album cuts and still everyone knows the words. Gaggles of white girls who a decade ago would have been attending hair-metal shows dance together on the balcony chanting "Fuck all day! Fuck all night!" in perfect time with X. There's no lust in their cries, just the collective exultation of pop mania, which in the Clinton years has taken on new dimensions of race, class, and sexuality. Fascinating, but probably not enough for a backstage pass.

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