Cash Kings 2013: The World’s Highest-Paid Hip-Hop Artists
photo: Bryan Steffy/Getty Images
Sean “Diddy” Combs hasn’t always agreed with FORBES’ evaluations of his wealth. “[Screw] the Forbes list,” he rapped on a Rick Ross song three years ago. “Let’s tell the truth: I ate more.”
These days, however, the hip-hop mogul is changing his tune.
“You started learning how to count right, I see,” Diddy told FORBES earlier this year, referring to more recent estimates. “Thank God!”
He likely won’t find fault with our latest rankings, either: Diddy tops this year’s list of hip-hop’s top earners, pulling in $50 million over the past 12 months. He’s one of rap’s most diversified moguls, thanks to his Bad Boy record label, Sean John clothing line and Blue Flame agency. But it’s his agreement with Diageo’s Ciroc vodka that brings in the bulk of his bucks. Next up: cable channel Revolt, which will debut this fall via Time Warner and Comcast.
Jay Z lost his hyphen this year but gained $43 million—good enough to earn the second spot on the list. He’s been padding his coffers with his lucrative live shows, Armand de Brignac champagne, D’Ussé cognac, Roc Nation label and management firm and a host of other ventures. His new album went platinum before its July launch when Samsung shelled out $5 million to buy 1 million copies (for more on Jay-Z’s rise, check out Empire State of Mind).
Dr. Dre rounds out the top three with $40 million. After winning last year’s cash crown, he’s down two spots because he’s no longer boosted by a nine-figure payout for selling part of Beats by Dr. Dre in 2011. But he’s still cashing in on the ubiquitous headphones, expanding the company to include a long-awaited streaming music service. He’s also made time to mentor other artists on the list, including Kendrick Lamar, who makes his Cash Kings debut with $9 million.
“Definitely one thing [Dre] said is, you can’t accept everything for a dollar,” Lamar explained. “If it’s not right … if it’s not something that you see has longevity in it, you have to pass it up.”
When it comes to longevity, it’s hard to top Cash Money Records, which has been among hip-hop’s top labels for two decades. Its roster includes four names on the list—crossover star Drake ($10.5 million), rap legend Lil Wayne ($16 million), label cofounder Birdman ($21 million) and fourth-ranked Nicki Minaj, the only lady on the list ($29 million).
photo: Todd Oren/Getty Images
“I think we all have our own individual personalities,” Drake told FORBES earlier this year. “The powers that be within this company allow us to be ourselves, as opposed to trying to control what’s going on.”