It's been some year for Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter. In the past 12 months, the
Brooklyn, N.Y.-born hip-hop demigod released a platinum album, signed a 10-year,
$150 million deal with concert promoter Live Nation and tied the knot with
longtime girlfriend Beyoncé Knowles. Quite a record. But only good enough for a
While Jay-Z topped Forbes.com's inaugural Hip-Hop Cash
Kings list of the top-earning people in the business last year, in 2008 he cedes
the throne to Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, who raked in $150 million over the past
12 months--almost twice what Jay-Z made.
The new king of hip-hop wealth
banked $100 million after taxes on one deal alone when his stake in
VitaminWater's parent, Glacéau, was bought by Coca-Cola (nyse: KO - news -
people ) as part of a $4.1 billion deal. 50's portfolio also includes the
popular G-Unit clothing line and record label, plus films, videogames and a slew
of platinum albums, including last year's Curtis. Also in the works: a mining
partnership with South African billionaire Partrice Motsepe.
isn't the only star in the growing firmament of "hip-hopreneurs." After years of
violent rivalry marked by the murders of such icons as Tupac Shakur and the
Notorious B.I.G., rap's focus has shifted from beef to cake--making money, that
is. Unlike most pop and rock musicians, who make the bulk of their earnings from
record sales and tours, rappers have more diversified portfolios.
impresarios have mastered the arts of branding and cross-promotion, with
licensing deals for everything from booze to books. Others own record labels,
clothing lines, bars and restaurants. As 50 Cent says of lesser entrepreneurs,
"They're trying to buy some Gucci / I'm trying to buy the mall."
second year in a row, Sean "Diddy" Combs finished third on our list. The ageless
Dapper Don of rap banked a cool $35 million from his revenue streams, including
his clothing line Sean John, record label Bad Boy, premium vodka Ciroc and two
reality-TV shows. Last year Diddy collaborated with fellow list-toppers Jay-Z
and 50 Cent to release "I Get Money (The Forbes 1, 2, 3 Remix)" in honor of
Kanye West clocks in at No. 4 with $30 million. The
pink-polo-sporting rapper and producer released his third solo album,
Graduation, last September. After handily outselling 50 Cent's Curtis in a
head-to-head opening-week matchup, West's album went multiplatinum and won four
Grammys. West has penned hits for Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Diddy, among others.
Earlier this month, he headlined the music festival Lollapalooza in his native
Some hip-hop legends don't need to do anything to keep earning
outrageous sums of money. Andre "Dr. Dre" Young banked $15 million even though
he hasn't had a hit in years--he still gets rich on royalties from two decades
of hits. A founder of the seminal rap group N.W.A he released his multiplatinum
solo opus The Chronic in 1992 and has produced hits for the likes of Snoop Dogg,
50 Cent, Eminem and Tupac Shakur.
Tupac himself pulled in a handsome sum
this year--about $15 million--even though he's been dead for over 10 years.
Tupac is probably having himself a last laugh from beyond the grave, knowing
that his onetime friend Suge Knight isn't cashing in on the bonanza. Knight, the
bodyguard-turned-president of Death Row Records, long rumored to have arranged
Shakur's killing, filed for bankruptcy and put his Malibu, Calif., mansion up
for sale last June.
1. Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson
Cent has come a long way from his early days dealing drugs in Queens, N.Y., and
getting shot nine times. The reigning king of hip-hop wealth banked $100 million
after taxes last summer when his stake in VitaminWater's parent, Glacéau, was
bought by Coca-Cola as part of a $4.1 billion deal. His portfolio also includes
the popular G-Unit clothing line and record label, plus films, videogames and a
slew of platinum albums, including last year's Curtis.
Brooklyn, N.Y.-born Jay-Z
had a monster year, releasing a second platinum comeback album, American
Gangster, inspired by the movie of the same title. In April he signed a $150
million, 10-year recording, touring and merchandising deal with concert promoter
Live Nation and days later married his longtime girlfriend Beyoncé Knowles on
the roof of his New York City penthouse. Jay-Z also owns a stake in the New
Jersey Nets and has advertising deals with Dell and Budweiser.
3. Sean "Diddy" Combs
"Dapper Don" of hip-hop continues his decade-long run of good fortune. He brings
in cash from his clothing line Sean John, record label Bad Boy, premium vodka
Ciroc and two reality-TV shows. His catalog of hits, both as a producer and a
rapper, includes collaborations with the likes of Jay-Z and the Notorious
B.I.G., as well as rap anthems such as "Mo Money Mo Problems" and "Been Around
4. Kanye West
The pink-polo-sporting rapper and producer released his third solo
album, Graduation, last September. After handily outselling 50 Cent's Curtis in
a head-to-head opening-week matchup, West's album went multiplatinum and won
four Grammys. West has penned hits for Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Diddy, among
others. Earlier this month, he headlined the music festival Lollapalooza in his
5. Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley
The portly producer has churned out hundreds of tracks for hip-hop's
brightest stars, including all four above him on this list. His most popular
hits include Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin' " and Ludacris' "Roll Out." More recently,
Timbaland has produced pop songs for Björk and Madonna. His second solo album,
Shock Value, went platinum after its release in 2007. Timbaland is reportedly
producing Jay-Z's next studio album.
This multifaceted star made his
name penning hits for rappers and pop artists alike as part of the production
team, the Neptunes. He also fronts the funk-rock band N*E*R*D and is said to be
an avid Star Trek fan. A geek with exquisite taste, Williams designs sunglasses
for Louis Vuitton and owns apparel lines Ice Cream and Billionaire Boys Club.
Esquire named him "the world's best-dressed man" in 2005
Kasseem "Swizz Beatz" Dean
N.Y.-born prodigy got his start as a producer at age 16, penning the catchy
"Ruff Ryders' Anthem" for DMX. Since then, he's piled up a massive production
catalog working with other artists. Last year he released his debut solo album,
One Man Band Man. He has appeared in ads for the Gap, owns a stake in trendy toy
company Kidrobot and is in talks with Telmex to produce cellphone content.
8. Calvin "Snoop Dogg" Broadus
Snoop has parlayed a pimpish image into mainstream fame. Once the
embodiment of West Coast gangster rap, he revealed a softer side this year in
his reality-TV show, Snoop Dogg's Father Hood, where he's been filmed doing yoga
and managing family crises. His ninth album, Ego Trippin', came out in March.
9. André "Dr. Dre" Young
Dr. Dre hasn't had a hit in years, but he still gets rich on royalties.
A founder of seminal rap group N.W.A, he released his multiplatinum solo opus
The Chronic in 1992. Dre spent the rest of the 1990s cutting tracks for the
likes of Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg; this decade he's produced songs for 50
Cent and Eminem. Dre also moonlights as an actor, appearing in Set It Off (1996)
and Training Day (2001), to name a few.
10. Christopher "Ludacris"
"The Mouth of the South" is known as much
for his raunchy lyrics as for his public spats with Bill O'Reilly and Oprah
Winfrey. He's also among rap's most consistent performers--all five of his solo
albums have gone platinum. Ludacris has parlayed his musical success into a
number of substantial acting roles, including an appearance in Crash, which won
the 2005 Oscar for Best Picture
11. Clifford "T.I."
$13 million (tie)
The self-crowned "King of the
South" co-founded Grand Hustle Records in 2001 to distribute his mix tapes.
Since then, he's become a cross-platform star. Last year he appeared in American
Gangster alongside Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington, and his album T.I. vs.
T.I.P. debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart. He might have trouble
repeating last year's fiscal success. He was busted for machine gun possession
last October but reportedly is working on a new album while under house arrest
11. Dwayne "Lil Wayne" Carter
Along with fellow rapper Juvenile, Lil Wayne got his start
in the group Hot Boys. He released his first solo album, The Block is Hot, in
1999, and soon became a Billboard charts mainstay. In June the New Orleans-born
rhymester released his much-anticipated album Tha Carter III, which went
platinum in its opening week.
12. Marshall "Eminem"
$12 million (tie)
Like his pal Dr. Dre, Eminem
is in the midst of a musical dry spell, but he still gets hefty royalties from
his ample body of work as a rapper and actor. His 1999 debut album, The Slim
Shady LP, has been certified five-times platinum; his follow-up, The Marshall
Mathers LP, sold 1.8 million copies in its opening week. Eminem is said to be
working on a new album and is slated to star in Paramount Pictures' Have Gun,
Will Travel, a Western remake.
12. Lonnie "Common" Lynn
$12 million (tie)
Formerly known as Common Sense,
the Chicago native is one of hip-hop's most socially conscious artists. An avid
supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and HIV/AIDS awareness
campaigns, Common has also spoken out against the use of homophobic rap lyrics.
Though he released his debut album in 1992, he gained mainstream fame only with
last year's release of Finding Forever, which was certified gold and nominated
for three Grammys. His substantial acting experience includes roles in Smokin'
Aces (2007) and Wanted (2008).
12. Aliaune "Akon" Thiam
$12 million (tie)
After splitting his childhood between Senegal
and the U.S., Akon gained mainstream fame with his 2004 hit "Locked Up." Since
then, he has become one of hip-hop's most versatile artists. He writes, sings,
raps and produces; he often sings the backing vocals on his own tracks; and he
has made nearly 150 guest appearances on other artists' songs. His business
ventures include a clothing line, an in-the-works reality-TV show and his own
Konvict Music imprint, to be distributed by Interscope.
$11 million (tie)
rapper-turned-super-producer masterminded Usher's chart-topping Confessions in
2004 and followed it up with Mariah Carey's monster comeback album, The
Emancipation of Mimi. In 2005 he joined Virgin Music as head of its Urban Music
division but resigned a year later following the release of fiancee Janet
Jackson's album, 20 Y.O. Now president of Island Def Jam Records, Dupri released
his autobiography, Young, Rich and Dangerous: The Making of a Music Mogul, last
13. Jonathan "Lil Jon" Smith
The silver-toothed rapper/producer is the self-titled
"King of Crunk," a bass-heavy, club-thumping subgenre of Southern rap. Lil Jon
became a radio sensation himself in 2004 with an appearance on Usher's hit
single "Yeah!," which was punctuated by Lil Jon's trademark exclamations. That
year he partnered with liquor baron Sidney Frank (now deceased) to create the
energy drink Crunk Juice. His 12-pound, 73-carat "Crunk Ain't Dead" medallion
holds the world's record for largest diamond pendant.
$10 million (tie)
The Georgia duo of Andre
"3000" Benjamin and Antawn "Big Boi" Patton make up one of the most musically
innovative yet commercially successful hip-hop acts in history. Their six studio
albums, from Sony BMG and LaFace Records, have collectively sold over 20 million
units. OutKast's double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which featured the
infectious hit "Hey Ya," has sold over 10 million copies since its 2003 release.
14. Hakeem "Chamillionaire" Seriki
The Houston native, known as the "Mixtape Messiah," became a
household name with the release of "Ridin' Dirty," the catchy, Grammy-winning
single from his 2005 platinum album, The Sound of Revenge. The song became a
ringtone legend, selling over 3 million downloads. He followed with Ultimate
Victory, released last September to moderate success. He also picked up an
endorsement deal with Energizer batteries last year.
"The Game" Taylor
After the release of his Grammy-nominated
debut album, The Documentary, in 2005, The Game feuded with 50 Cent and left
Aftermath Entertainment for Geffen Records. Since then, The Game released a new
album, Doctor's Advocate, and picked up endorsement deals with Skechers, Kangol
and British apparel outfit Lonsdale. He co-starred in the low-budget action
flick Waist Deep (2006). His third studio album, L.A.X., is due out later this
Hip-Hop's Cash Kings 2008
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Posted August 18, 2008 - 07:01 PM
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