DETROIT - Rapper Bow Wow and R&B heartthrob Omarion are getting ready to start work on a joint album project, a two-CD set the two plan to release before the end of the year.

Bow Wow told Billboard.com that he and Omarion expect to hit the studio before the end of May.

"Me and O have been trying to put this together for so many years, and now we've got the opportunity to do it," he said.

The Atlanta-based MC (real name Shad Gregory Moss) said he expects the resulting album "to be an event" when it's released. "I'm not even calling it an album," Bow Wow said.

The two performers are hardly strangers, having partnered on past Scream tours, while former B2K frontman Omarion (born Omari Ishmael Grandberry) appeared on Bow Wow's 2004 single "Let Me Hold You."

"He's one of my best friends," Bow Wow said of Omarion.

Bow Wow is touring to promote his fifth album, "The Price of Fame," and will have an as-yet-unnamed song on the upcoming "Rush Hour 3" soundtrack, which will also feature Janet Jackson.

A Philly date has been planned, according to Bow Wow's Web site, but details could not be confirmed yesterday.

He's launching his own label, LBW Entertainment, which features fledgling artists such as Young Jinsu and Clee-O. The musical projects have put a hold on his acting career, which includes roles in the films "Like Mike," "Roll Bounce" and "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," as well as TV's "Smallville."

"I think this year's gonna be more of a music year for me," Bow Wow said, "and I think that next year I'll have time to get into some movies." *