Almost every rapper alive has boasted that they “Run This Town” at some point, yet no one can knock JAY-Z’s hustle. Despite forking out $26 million for an East Hampton mansion last year, Hova has just been crowned as the wealthiest man in hip-hop. Together with Beyoncé, who was recently named 2017’s highest paid woman in music, there’s no question that this real life Bonnie & Clyde are no longer living that “Hard Knock Life.”
However, does this all mean that JAY-Z will become hip-hop’s first billionaire? The self proclaimed “American Gangster” is remarkably close to hitting that milestone with an estimated net worth of $900 million, but Diddy and Dr Dre are close behind.
Using the Forbes rankings as guidance, join us as we figure out who will win the race to become hip-hop’s first billionaire beyond all reasonable doubt.
1. JAY-Z ($900 million)
The story of JAY-Z is one of the rise from poverty to wealth – chronicled across the span of 22 years and 13 solo albums – so it’s rather fitting that he’s now managed to top the Forbes list of richest hip-hop stars. As Hova himself said on the remix for “Diamonds From Sierra Leone”: “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man”, and he speaks the truth. Beyond “Big Pimpin’” and “Money, Cash, Hoes”, JAY-Z has created an empire around himself that has even inspired a financial self-help book titled Wake Up Call: Financial Inspiration Learned from 4:44.
On “Illest Motherfucker Alive”, JAY-Z brags about the Warhol masterpieces that he keeps in his bathroom, but how did he come to afford such luxuries? In the past, Jigga sold the Rocawear clothing brand for $204 million and made a $150 million deal with Live Nation, all alongside investments in the New Jersey Nets, ad firm Translation and cosmetic company Carol’s Daughter. On top of that, JAY-Z holds a nine-figure ownership stake in Roc Nation and TIDAL that continues to pull in revenue. This is all impressive, but Forbes would argue what pushed the rap mogul up to the number one slot on their list is his interests in Armand de Brignac champagne and D’Ussé cognac, both of which continue to rise.
JAY-Z is currently in the lead to become hip-hop’s first billionaire, but he better watch the throne closely. After all, Diddy isn’t far behind thanks to his current net worth of $825 million and – according to public records – Hova’s new $88 million Bel Air mansion comes with a hefty mortgage of $52.8 million. The famed rapper also enjoys spending millions on his car collection, but from the moment that they’re bought, cars become a depreciating asset, so this hobby could cost JAY big time in the long run.
2. Diddy ($825 million)
Diddy may change his name more often than he releases an album these days, but the one thing that doesn’t change is his position as one of hip-hop’s richest figures. JAY-Z’s ascension to the top of the Forbes list might sting a bit though, as Diddy previously held the lead spot for seven consecutive years thanks to the success of his various businesses and the steady growth of his investments with DeLeón tequila, not to mention his Bad Boy record label.
Sean Combs may have lost out to JAY-Z in the short term here, but that $75 million gap may soon shrink if DeLeón tequila continues to grow at the rate it has so far. It would also be foolish to underestimate Diddy’s position in the race as he’s always proven himself to be a successful businessman not just in hip-hop, but in the music industry as a whole, often prioritizing this above even his own artistry. Diddy once told Forbes that “I am a bit of a dreamer – but also practical about what is required to be successful,” and it’s this drive that could push him to become the first billionaire in the hip-hop.
Given the pros listed above, the question isn’t whether Diddy will ever reach that billion mark but when he’ll reach it. However, despite topping the Forbes list for the better part of a decade, there’s now a strong chance that JAY-Z could beat everyone’s favorite Bad Boy to the punch.
3. Dr. Dre ($770 million)
Dr. Dre has only released three solo albums since The Chronic debuted in 1992, but there’s no way anyone could forget about Dre. Despite mistakenly anointing himself hip-hop’s first billionaire following Apple’s historic $3 billion buy-out of Beats in 2014, Andre Romelle Young still has a chance at reclaiming that top spot thanks to the continued success of Beats and his own label, Aftermath Entertainment.
Aside from Dre’s astute business decisions, the hip-hop mogul also continues to earn revenue as both a performer and producer too, something which he realized would be vital way back when he helmed Snoop Dogg’s first album just a year after his own. Described by Rolling Stone as “the single most influential producer in hip-hop history”, Dre has worked with a number of aspiring artists, most notably Eminem, who’s now also a contender in the race to become hip-hop’s first billionaire. On top of all that, Forbes reports that the legendary producer will receive more Apple stock later this year worth over $100 million – and if the shares are on his side, then Dre could certainly give JAY-Z and Diddy a run for their money.
While other artists on this list may be held back from billionaire status thanks to the ever changing value of shares or high-price mortgages, it seems like the only thing preventing Dre from winning this race is himself. Back in 2014, the multiple Grammy Award-winning rapper told Esquire that he often turns down potential investors because he no longer needs the money. So it turns out that Dre’s biggest struggle is a too many G’s thang.
4. Drake ($100 million tied)
Drake may have started from the bottom, but he’s achieved an astonishing amount in such a short space of time. As the youngest artist in the race to become hip-hop’s first billionaire, Drake is a contender now thanks to ongoing deals with Apple, Nike and Sprite. None of this would have been possible though without Drake’s grueling work schedule. Just recently, Views became the first album to ever top one billion spins on Apple Music and Drake’s most recent tour earned total grosses of $250 million per night.
Drake made the headlines early on his career, hitting milestone after milestone on the Billboard charts, and it’s this motivation that could push him all the way. Back in 2013, the young star told Forbes that appearing on their rich list is his biggest goal every year, “other than making good music”. Now that he’s finally managed this, the next step for Drake is to hit the billion dollar mark, something which his equity stake in Virginia Black whiskey and various estates in California and his native Canada could help him achieve one day.
In previous years, Birdman held a spot in the top five richest hip-hop stars thanks to his label, Cash Money Records, which Drake also belongs to. If Drizzy continues to give away money like he did in the video for “God’s Plan”, then there’s a chance that Birdman could reclaim his spot next time around, although his father reassures us that Drake isn’t mis-managing his funds.
5. Eminem ($100 million tied)
Drake and Eminem both tie on this list with a net worth of $100 million, and (also like Drake) Eminem isn’t known as a businessman. However, what sets Slim Shady apart from the other contenders on this list is that he’s the greatest-selling rapper of all time. During the 2000s, he sold more albums than any other artist in any genre of music. Eminem’s latest record, Revival, was fortuitously named, securing Marshall Mathers a place in the top five richest hip-hop stars of the year.
Slim Shady has come a long way since his days in a Detroit trailer park. Aside from all the records he’s broken over the years, it’s Eminem’s humble origins that have become integral to his success. Never afraid to clean out his closet in public, the rags to riches appeal of Eminem culminated with the release of 8 Mile, a movie based on Marshall’s life. The film showcased his determination more than ever before, and this is exactly why the self-proclaimed Rap God will keep going till’ he collapses, ensuring that Eminem will continue to climb the Forbes list in the years to come.
After almost 20 years in the business, Eminem recently became the second highest-selling singles artist in the States, hot on the trails of his “Monster” partner Rihanna, so it looks like Dr Dre’s protege isn’t going away anytime soon. The only thing working against the rapper is his relative lack of successful business ventures, something which could see him slip out of the running next time round if Birdman’s fortunes begin looking up.
So – Who Will Become Hip-Hop’s First Billionaire?
Drake and Eminem both impress by landing a spot in the top five thanks largely to the success of their music, but it’s really a three way race between JAY-Z, Diddy and Dre at this point. Any one of these three rap icons could become the first hip-hop billionaire, but if JAY-Z continues the kind of financial growth we’ve seen from him in the past 12 months, then it looks like he’s the one with the blueprint for success. It won’t be long until Diddy and Dre catch up though and we couldn’t be more excited. It’s like Hova once said: “”What’s better than one billionaire? Two.”
For more of our features, read why Drake’s “God’s Plan” video is far more than just a PR stunt right here.
- Words: David Opie
- Main & Featured Image: Denise Truscello / WireImage / Getty Images