February 24, 2009 at 1:00 am

Mekeisha Madden Toby

Rich black men share perspective

LeBron James is on the roster for CNBC's "NEWBOS." (Getty Images)

No racial or ethnic group is monolithic, and as the upcoming CNBC documentary "NEWBOS: The Rise of America's New Black Overclass" proves, African Americans are no exception.

Even among the nouveau riche athletes and entertainers profiled in the film, there is no prevailing perspective or technique, making "NEWBOS," which airs Thursday, quite fascinating.

Wall Street Journal reporter/CNBC correspondent Lee Hawkins leads the charge, interviewing the likes of the Williams Brothers of Cash Money Records, NBA superstar LeBron James, gospel great Kirk Franklin, and billionaire and BET founder Robert L. Johnson, as well as others. The documentary is based on Hawkins' forthcoming book of the same name.

For instance, Hawkins talks to Bryan "Birdman" Williams, co-founder of Cash Money Records, who brags about the thousands of dollars worth of platinum in his mouth, the garish black diamonds on his ears and all the cars he owns. In contrast, Franklin feels that his wealth means that he should give back to young African Americans who are less fortunate.

"It is no longer an excuse when black athletes and entertainers who are now having access to money that our forefathers would probably had a heart attack if it would have been offered to them, (to buy) a half a million dollars in jewelry," Franklin, 39, tells Hawkins. "It's like how many more chains? How many more cars? One Bentley can put computers in an inner-city school to help kids that are struggling."

If there is one criticism of "NEWBOS," it is that no African-American women of means are interviewed. Despite such a glaring omission, the doc is enlightening all the same.

You can reach Mekeisha Madden Toby at (313) 222-2501 or mmadden@detnews.com">mmadden@detnews.com.