Hip-Hop Cash Princes 2014: The Top Ten
Photo: Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images
Seven years ago, Forbes released its inaugural Hip-Hop Cash Kings list, the first-ever ranking of the genre’s top earners. The package prompted Jay Z, 50 Cent and Diddy, who occupied the first three slots, to record “I Get Money (The Forbes 1-2-3 Billion-Dollar Remix).” As Diddy observed, there was “a lot of money on this record.”
The aforementioned triumvirate now lives up to its ten-figure moniker, with a combined net worth north of $1 billion. But who’s next? A new generation of up-and-coming artists is finding its own path to financial success. And this year, for the first time, we’ve given them a name: the Hip-Hop Cash Princes.
These 10 artists are the rising stars with the best chance of vaulting to the next level of commercial viability—and they’re the ones most likely to make the leap to the Cash Kings list in the near future. Only artists under the age of 30 are eligible to be crowned Cash Princes.
To assemble the list, we turned to judges Bryan "Birdman" Williams, cofounder of Cash Money Records and a veteran Cash King himself; Fab 5 Freddy, a hip-hop pioneer and longtime host of Yo! MTV Raps; and Kevin Liles, founder of KWL Enterprises and former president of Def Jam Recordings. They joined Natalie Robehmed, a Forbes reporter and former DJ for WBAR, and yours truly in voting on the Top 10.
A$AP Rocky (Age: 25)
A$AP Mob’s ringleader has been riding the success of 2012’s "Long.Live.A$ap," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling over 400,000 copies to date. He is also DKNY’s latest poster boy, appearing in a recent commercial. It’s no wonder "Long.Live.A$AP"’s single “Fashion Killa” name drops 27 brands.
“Fashion is all around us,” Rocky told Forbes in a recent interview. “As a kid, I was just always into it.”
Azealia Banks (Age: 22)
The only female on the Cash Princes list has yet to release an album, but has already toured extensively. Between June 2012 and June 2013—the scoring period for our Cash Kings list—Banks pulled in over $1 million before management and lawyer fees, mostly through live shows. Her EP has sold about 32,000 copies in the U.S.
Banks tells Forbes: "Feminine strength is the most superior strength and that’s why female rappers are more exciting because it’s like, 'Oh shit, a girl's doing something a man can do and she’s stronger and better and feminine and beautiful, too.'"
Big Sean (Age: 25)
Three years after Big Sean’s debut album pronounced him as such, the diminutive rapper is indeed finally famous. Several high-profile singles including the Nicki Minaj track “Dance” and Kanye West’s “Clique” brought his voice to radio; his 2013 sophomore effort "Hall of Fame" landed at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart.
The Detroit native has since launched a line of custom Adidas sneakers and announced his engagement to "Glee" actress Naya Rivera. “I believe this city can turn around,” Sean told Forbes. “I do feel a little responsibility but I don’t let that alter who I am.”
Chance the Rapper (Age: 20)
Chicago newcomer Chancelor Bennett’s 2013 free mixtape, "Acid Rap," notched over 500,000 downloads and catapulted him to critical acclaim. Following unauthorized sales on iTunes and Amazon, the 13-track record even landed on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album chart—a rare feat for a bootleg.