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By Michael Harriot


Hip-hop has become a cultural powerhouse that fuels everything from fashion to corporate profits. They rap in beer commercials. Politicians come to Jay-Z for endorsements. With all its faults, more than any form of art that ever existed, hip-hop has always openly acknowledged the most powerful force in America: Money.

Every conversation about equality, civil rights and justice eventually collides at the intersection of wealth. Economic inequality is the underlying cause of many of the problems that face black America. The inability to afford adequate representation fuels the disparity in convictions and sentencing in the justice system. America’s history of racist housing policies, ghettos and underfunded schools traces back to lending institutions using redlining as a tool for segregation.

After marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., boycotting buses in Montgomery, Ala., and standing on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and telling the world about his dream, at the end of his life, Martin Luther King Jr. planned the Poor Man’s March.

Every enlightened soul from Martin to Malcolm, from Tupac to the Notorious B.I.G. eventually reaches the same conclusion: It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.