Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality My great-grandpa Johnson is a longtime deacon at Harlem’s Convent Avenue Baptist Church. Shaking off early-morning lethargy and lamenting the passing of Sunday-morning cartoons, I attended an occasional service with my parents back in my single-digit-aged youth. Under my drowsy circumspection were the wooden pews, colorful stained-glass windows and hand-held fans adorned with the images of young, virtuous church girls or the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. More relevant, I noticed the dress of the worshipers: broad-brimmed, often elaborately styled hats and elegantly puritanical dresses on the women; handsome yet unyielding suits on the men. Sunday best. Easters were especially voguish — my young cousins and I always wore brand-new suits, which we were certain to outgrow by the following Easter. Church was the social life for many migrated Southern blacks who worked diligently six days a week, which accounted for the grand visual display. Black materialism spans back to civil-rights-era baby boomers, and back further to zoot-suited Harlemites of the jazz age. America is the birthplace of custom-tailored gangsters and Dynasty and Dallas, and of the snooty material elitism of the ’80s yuppie tome The Bonfire of the Vanities.And since the very beginning, mainstream black America has inevitably acceded to wealth’s influence. If hip-hop culture is negatively beset by materialism, it’s essential to dig a little deeper before placing the blame on Puff Daddy. In his essay "Greed Is Only the Begin- ning," Chicago State University professor Haki R. Madhubuti wonders, "Where are the serious rich among our people who are concerned about the vast majority of black people? It is sad to say there are tens of thousands of black people in the United States with serious money, skills and talent who do nothing except compete in the Western race for conspicuous-consumption champions. The money that black people earn in the U.S. stays in the black community for about four hours. The real dilemma among most blacks with money is that of values." This is why sociopolitical purists of the hip-hop nation boo Sean Combs. Don’t knock me for trying to bury Seven zeros, over in Rio Dijanery Ain’t nobody’s hero . . .