Sorry, Jay-Z: Hip-Hop Has a New Top Moneymaker

Mr. Beyonce Knowles made $37 million last year, but now he's been eclipsed by a rapper who raked in three times as much.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Getty Images

Dr. Dre performs during Day 3 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival held at the Empire Polo Club on April 15, 2012 in Indio, California.

Move over Jay-Z, Dr. Dre is now the richest man in hip-hop.

Forbes just published its list of the top earners in hip-hop, and Dre has ousted Jay as the No. 1 cash king. Last year, Jay-Z topped the list with $37 million, but this year, Dre’s pretax earnings of $110 million dramatically eclipsed everyone else in hip-hop, securing him the No. 1 spot.

Dre’s money doesn’t come from his music, though. In fact, the release date of his long-awaited new album, Detox, has been pushed back more than a decade now. Instead, his riches come from his lucrative headphones and speakers company. According to Forbes, Dre’s rise to the top of hip-hop moguldom started when he and Interscope Records chief Jimmy Iovine were walking along the beach pondering whether Dre should launch his own shoe line. “[Forget] sneakers,” said Iovine. “Let’s sell speakers!” Six years later, Dre is making more money than anyone else in the business, all thanks to Beats by Dre. Last year, according to Forbes, Dre collected $100 million when the company sold a 51% stake in the business to Taiwan-based smart-phone maker HTC.

(MORE: How Many of Jay-Z’s Songs Contain the Word Bitch?)

Indeed, most of the top earners in hip-hop seem to be making their money outside of the recording studio. Sean Combs, a.k.a. Diddy, ranked No. 2 on Forbes list with $45 million in earnings, thanks to his share of profits from Diageo’s Ciroc vodka. And last year’s top rapper, Jay-Z, raked in $38 million from his ownership stakes in cosmetics company Carol’s Daughter, the Brooklyn Nets basketball team and a venture with Duracell. Jay-Z is one of the few who also actually made money from his music — specifically, Watch the Throne, his 2011 collaboration with Kanye West. (Watch the Throne and the ensuing concert tour helped push West up the list as well; he came in fourth with $35 million.)

Rounding out the top five is Lil Wayne, who brought in $27 million on sales of his latest album, Tha Carter IV, along with profits from his clothing line Trukfit and a partnership with Pepsi’s Mountain Dew.

(MORE: Dr. Dre Announces Detox Is His Final Album)

Drake (No. 6) banked $20.5 million last year, while labelmate Nicki Minaj (No. 8), earned $15.5 million through a combination of music, tours and product endorsements. Eminem is one of the few artists to make a living exclusively off his music: he came in at No. 9 on the list, and has sold more albums in the past decade than any other hip-hop artist, according to Forbes. Those royalties, plus an extensive back catalog and sporadic touring, meant Marshall Mathers could still pull in a tidy $15 million last year despite not having a new album to sell. Ludacris was the 10th highest earner in hip-hop, but he could be one of the most diversified: his $12 million comes from multiple revenue streams, including deals with Conjure cognac and headphone line Soul, voiceover work for RadioShack commercials and his salary as an actor, with roles in such films as Fast Five and New Year’s Eve.

In total, Forbes’ top 20 hip-hop earners pulled in $415 million last year, the most since 2008.

To compile the list, Forbes looked at income from touring, record sales, publishing, films, merchandise sales, endorsements and other ventures from May 2011 to May 2012.

MORE: 6 Slightly Ridiculous Celebrity-Endorsed Headphones from CES 2012

MORE: Dr. Dre Wants to Make an Album That Revolves Around the Solar System