What a year for Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. In the past 12 months, this Brooklyn, New York native, hip-hop demigod has released a platinum-selling album, signed a 10-year, $150 million contract with Live Nation (a event organization, mainly known for organizing concerts) and finally married his longtime girlfriend Beyoncé Knowles. A record. But just enough to get the silver medal.
As Jay-Z rose to the top of Forbes.com’s first hip-hop earning chart last year, in 2008 he had to cede his throne to Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who pocketed $150 million. over the past 12 months, roughly double what Jay-Z has earned. by Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion. 50 Cent’s business portfolio also includes the hugely popular G-Unit clothing line and the record label of the same name, plus movies, video games and a slew of albums that all went platinum, including including last year’s album titled Curtis.
50 Cent is the only star in the growing firmament of “hip-hopreneurs” now being to be rich. Unlike the majority of pop or rock artists, who derive most of their income from album sales and touring, rappers have more strings to their bows.
These impresarios are masters in the art of creating brands and companies, labeling alcoholic beverages to books. Others have their own record companies, clothing lines, bars or even restaurants. 50 Cent sings about small entrepreneurs: “They try to buy Gucci / When I try to buy the mall”.
For the second year in a row, Sean “Diddy” Combs came in third place in the rankings. The perennial godfather of rap earned $35 million from his sources of income, namely his Sean John clothing line, his Bad Boy record label, his vodka brand Ciroc, and two reality TV shows. Last year, Diddy collaborated with his two A-list predecessors Jay-Z and 50 Cent on an album titled “I Get Money” as a tribute to their success.
Kanye West is in 4th place with $30 million. The rapper-producer in the sporty pink polo shirt released his third solo album, Graduation, last September. After comfortably outselling 50 Cent’s albums when they were released in the same week, West’s album went multi-platinum and won 4 Grammy Awards.
West has also written hits for Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Diddy among others. Earlier this month he conducted the Lollapalooza music festival in his hometown Chicago.
Some hip-hop legends don’t even have to do anything to rake in exorbitant sums anymore. Andre “Dr Dre” Young has earned $15 million despite not releasing a single hit in several years, he continues to earn royalties on hits two decades old. A founding member of the legendary band NWA, he released his only multi-platinum album The Chronic in 1992 and subsequently produced hits for Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Eminem and Tupac Shakur.
Tupac himself pocketed a tidy sum (about 15 million dollars) even though he has been dead for more than 10 years. He must probably be holding his ribs in the grave, knowing that his one-time friend Suge Knight isn’t getting any money from the windfall. Knight, the bodyguard-turned-president of Death Row Records long accused of planning Tupac’s murder, is bankrupt and put his Malibu mansion up for sale last June.