The Forbes Five: Who Are Hip-Hop’s Wealthiest Artists?

April 20, 2012

Africa, Business, Did you know?

The Forbes Five: Who Are Hip-Hop’s Wealthiest Artists?
1. Sean “Diddy” Combs ($550 million)
2. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter ($460 million)
3. Andre “Dr. Dre” Young ($260 million)
4. Bryan “Birdman” Williams ($125 million)
5. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson ($110 million)
The Forbes Five: Hip-Hop’s Wealthiest Artists 2012
Zack O’Malley Greenburg
Back in 2007, Jay-Z, Diddy and 50 Cent released “I Get Money (The Forbes 1-2-3 Billionaire Remix).” The song was a celebration of the artists’ inclusion atop the first-ever Forbes Hip-Hop Cash Kings list, now an annual package on the genre’s top-earning artists. It seems fitting that those same three artists find themselves in an even more exclusive group—the Forbes Five, a short list of hip-hop’s wealthiest moguls.
Indeed, the original
Indeed, the original trio boasts a combined net worth well over a billion dollars, rendering their lyrical prognostications accurate. They’re joined by Dr. Dre, flush with cash from his Beats headphone line, and Cash Money Records cofounder Bryan “Birdman” Williams.
“One of my motivations in life is to be a billionaire,” said Birdman in a telephone interview with FORBES. “We’re going to keep working hard until we get our brand to be as big as possible. That’s the goal in life, that’s what I live for.” 
Diddy is the closest to becoming a billionair, leading the pack with a net worth of $550 million. The Bad Boy Records founder has remained a mainstream mainstay for 15 years thanks to his knack for self-promotion. Lately, he’s been channeling that energy toward Diageo-backed Ciroc vodka, much to the benefit of his bank account: he receives double-digit millions annually as a share of profits. Sales of the spirit spiked 122% last year in the wake of strong demand for new flavor Ciroc Peach; he is entitled to a nine-figure chunk of cash if the brand is ever sold.
Diddy also boasts stakes in clothing lines Sean John and Enyce, marketing firm Blue Flame, record label Bad Boy and a handful of tech startups. But it’s his deal with Comcast to launch cable channel Revolt in 2013 that could push him into billionaire territory. He’ll own the channel outright, and based on projected viewership totals, its value could soar into the low-to-mid nine figures within the next few years.
Next up is Jay-Z at $460 million. Unlike his fellow Forbes Five members, Jay-Z still churns out music and goes on tour—most recently with pal Kanye West—adding to his considerable war chest. He sold his Rocawear clothing label for $204 million in 2007 and signed 10-year $150 million deal with Live Nation in 2008, and also holds stakes in the New Jersey Nets, his 40/40 Club chain, ad ad firm Translation, cosmetics company Carol’s Daughter and other businesses. (For more on his rise as a businessman, check out Zack’s Jay-Z biography, Empire State of Mind).
“Who’s going to be hip-hop’s first billionaire is still to be determined,” says Steve Stoute, the advertising guru who founded and co-owns Translation with Jay-Z. “But clearly Jay and Puffy are far and away positioned to surpass that.”
Dr. Dre ranks third with $270 million, doubling from a year ago thanks to a major sale. In August, handset maker HTC paid $300 million to buy a 51% stake in Beats Electronics, the company founded by Dr. Dre and Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine in 2008.
Sources say each owned a third of the company before the deal, placing Dre’s cut at $85 million after taxes. The agreement also values Dre’s remaining stake at $100 million, which could increase rapidly as the company continues to expand.
Birdman clocks in at No. 4 with a fortune of $125 million. He cofounded Cash Money Records with brother Ronald “Slim” Williams two decades ago, inking very favorable $30 million distribution deal with Universal in 1998. The label’s value is increasing with the success of rappers Drake, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne (who shares ownership of sub-label Young Money).
There’s even more on the horizon: Cash Money’s deal with Universal is up this summer, raising the prospect of a bidding war for the right to distribute the label’s releases.
“Right now we are with Universal and we’re just trying to do the best music possible,” Birdman told me. “I’m loyal to my team, and to success. Whoever gives the most benefit to my team, which is first, and to its success, that’s where we’ll end up at.”
Rounding out the Forbes Five is Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson at $110 million. The Queens-born rapper earned $100 million on the sale of his Vitaminwater stake in 2007—and tens of millions more from touring, record sales and clothing—but spent freely on cars and renovations to his mansion, formerly owned by Mike Tyson. Even so, a nice cushion remains from his back catalog, acting gigs and 50 Cent-themed videogames, shoes and books, as well as his new headphone line SMS. Next up: an energy shot called Street King, which promises to feed hungry children—and 50’s bank account.
Still, there’s no guarantee that hip-hop’s first billionaire will come from this group of five.
“As much as it’s easy to say it’ll be Diddy or Jay, you don’t necessarily know, given what a guy like Kanye or is capable of doing,” says Stoute. “In a world where people are creating applications that sell for a billion dollars, you never know who’s going to come out of left field.”

Forbes Five vs. Hip-Hop Cash Kings: What’s The Difference?

Zack O’Malley Greenburg
Five years ago FORBES released its first-ever Hip-Hop Cash Kings list, and a slew of lyrical mentions followed. In 2007, Jay-Z, Diddy and 50 Cent released “I Get Money (The Forbes 1-2-3 Billion Dollar Remix).” Akon followed with “Forbes Cash King” in 2009; the following year, Bruno Mars and Travie McCoy released “Billionaire.” According to, the name “Forbes” has now shown up in 39 different songs.
More than a quarter of these songs refer to the “Forbes list.” But as we’ve ramped up our coverage of the business of hip-hop, we’ve developed a number of different offerings. The most prominent remains the Cash Kings list, an annual accounting of hip-hop’s top earners. Edited by yours truly, this special package runs every July/August and features interviews, stories and videos with the rappers and producers who’ve pulled the most money in the past year.
Starting last year, we added another: The Forbes Five. It’s similar in many ways to the Cash Kings list–same editor, same access–but comes out every March/April and measures net worth instead of annual earnings. It’s also more focused in scope, zooming in on hip-hop’s five wealthiest moguls; Cash Kings ranks the top 20.
So how come our net worth list is so much smaller than our annual earnings list? Because, quite simply, it’s much harder to calculate net worth than annual earnings–and for fortunes under $100 million, it’s next to impossible to do so reliably.
Net worth estimates are driven by valuing private companies and personal cash hordes (both for the Forbes Five and FORBES’ broader Billionaires issue). An evaluation of Birdman’s net worth, for example, is fueled by an estimate of what his company, Cash Money Records is worth; an evaluation of Dr. Dre’s is informed by the $300 million HTC paid for half of Beats Electronics, a company that Dre cofounded and owned roughly one-third of, prior to the big deal. But those sorts of transactions aren’t so common once you make your way down the list, clouding the picture considerably.
Annual earnings, on the other hand, are slightly more transparent. Ticket sales data can be found through services like Pollstar; record sales through Nielsen SoundScan and the RIAA. In most cases, record labels will provide that sort of data as well. Since those income sources make up the bulk of most artists’ earnings, it’s possible to come up with accurate annual earnings estimates for those further down the list than it is with net worth.
To sum up the process of tracking fortunes and earnings, one could put it this way: Less money, more problems.
For both the Forbes Five and Cash Kings, we consider only performers (which is why hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons isn’t on this list) whose work is primarily classified as hip-hop or rap. In order to form the Forbes Five list, now in its second year, we follow the same procedures we use to calculate the list of the world’s billionaires—valuing current holdings, looking at past earnings, leafing through financial documents and talking to a bevy of analysts, attorneys, managers and other industry players to find the nitty-gritty details.
For the Cash Kings list, we look at pretax annual earnings from record sales, digital downloads, films, merchandise sales, endorsements, books and other ventures; management, agent and attorney fees are not deducted. As with the Forbes Five, this data is supported by interviews with numerous lawyers, media buyers, managers and many of the artists themselves.
Forbes: World’s Wealthiest Africans/Blacks 
Rank (#) Forbes world ranking as of March 2012
1 (61)  Mohammed Al Amoudi $12.5 B Saudi Arabia (native of  Ethiopia)
2 (76)  Aliko Dangote $11.2 B Nigeria
3 (248)  Mike Adenuga $4.3 B Nigeria
4 (442)  Patrice Motsepe $2.7 B South Africa
4 (442)  Oprah Winfrey $2.7 B  United States
5 (1075)  Mohammed Ibrahim $1.1 B  United Kingdom
Michael Lee-Chin $1.73 billion as of October 2011 reported in Canadian Business “The Rich 100”
The Jamaican Star Reported “Michael Lee-Chin falls off Forbes rich list”
Forbes: World’s Wealthiest 
Rank (#) as of March 2012
1  Carlos Slim Helu & family $69 B Mexico
2  Bill Gates $61 B United States
3  Warren Buffett $44 B United States
4  Bernard Arnault $41 B France
5  Amancio Ortega $37.5 B Spain
6  Larry Ellison $36 B  United States
7  Eike Batista $30 B  Brazil
8  Stefan Persson $26 B  Sweden
9  Li Ka-shing $25.5 B  Hong Kong
10   Karl Albrecht $25.4 B Germany
Who might be the wealthiest African Americans? 
Oprah Winfrey
Net worth $2.7 billion as of March 2012
Education: BA in Speech and Drama, Tennessee State University
Sean “Diddy” Combs
Net Worth $550 as of March 2012
Education: attended Howard University
Robert L. Johnson
Estimated net worth $550 million as of May 2009
In 2001, Johnson became the first African American billionaire, and the first black person to be listed on any of Forbes world’s rich list
Education: BA in History, University of Illinois
Master’s International Affairs, Princeton University
Tiger Woods
Net Worth $500 million as of September 2010
Education: Stanford University
Michael Jordan
Net Worth $500 million as of September 2010
Education: Cultural Geography, University of North Carolina at Chapel
Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr.
Net worth $500 as of May 2009
Education: Communications Studies, Michigan State University
Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter
Net Worth $460 million as of April 2012″
Education: attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School
and Trenton Central High School in Trenton, NJ
William Henry Cosby, Jr.
Net Worth $450 million as of May 2009
Education:  BA/MA, Temple University
Ed.D. University of Massachusetts
Sheila C. Johnson
Net Worth $400 million as of May 2009
Education: BA in Music performance and Education, University of Illinois
Tyler Perry
Net Worth $350 million as of September 2010
Education: earned a GED
R. Donahue Peebles
Net worth $350 million as of May 2009
Education: attended Rutgers University
Berry Gordy, Jr.
Net worth $325 as of May 2009
Education: dropped out of high school in the 11th grade
Quintin Primo III
Net Worth $300 million as of May 2009
Education:  B.S. Finance, Indiana University 
M.B.A., Harvard University
Beyonce G. Knowles
Net Worth $300 million as of May 2010
Education: attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and Alief Elsik High School, Houston
Don King
Net Worth $280 million as of May 2009
Education: attended Kent State University
Andre “Dr. Dre” Young
Net Worth $260 million as of April 2012
Education: Fremont High School, Los Angeles
Janice Bryant Howroyd & family
Net worth $250 as of may 2009
Education: BA in English, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
Herman J. Russell
Net worth $200 million as of May 2009
Education: B.S. Building Construction, Tuskegee University  
Ulysses L. Bridgeman, Jr.
Net worth $200 million as of May 2009
Education: BS Psychology, University of Louisville
The wealthiest African Americans in 1962 as listed in EBONY magazine
$250,000 in 1962 would be worth $1,898,940 today
$1 million in 1962 would be worth $7,595,761 today

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