Touring and selling albums has become a small component of the hip hop artist’s repertoire today. A growing number of rapper-cum-entrepreneurs have parlayed their fame into lucrative entertainment empires, mastering the arts of branding and cross-promotion. They have established licensing deals for everything from booze to books, begun their own record labels and clothing lines, and have even set up their own restaurants and bars. The most successful of these ‘hip-hopreneurs’ run their own labels and take cuts from the artists with whom they sign. The artists themselves aren’t the only ones cashing in, with the rapid corporatisation of the industry seeing a growing number of endorsement deals take place in the last five years.

“I never got into it for the music. I got into it for the business”, 50 Cent told Forbes in 2005.

2006 saw southern rapper Chamillionaire sign a deal with Energizer ($11 million), the Game ink a contract with Skechers sneakers ($11 million), and the appointing of Jay-Z as Co-Brand Director for Budweiser Select.

Producing beats and tracks for other artists has also proved a profitable avenue, with the following accalimed producers making these amounts in 2006:

Timbaland: $21 million

Scott Storch: $17 million

Producer Scott Storch lays claim to owning what has been dubbed the most powerful and most expensive car on earth, the Bugatti Veyron. Only 60 Bugatti Veyrons, which sell for about $1.5 million apiece, were manufactured last year.

Pharrell Williams: $17 million

Producer and artist Pharrell Williams is the proud owner of a rare Ferrari Enzo (estimated cost: $652,000).


The Ferrari Enzo

Some hip hop artists however, earn their crust from featuring as cameos on other artists’ tracks, with Snoop Dogg ($17million) being one of the dearer and more sought-after names, appearing on singles from artists like AkonMariah Carey and the Pussycat Dolls.

Here’s a look at a few of the biggest hip hop cash kings in the industry today…

puff daddy

Sean “Diddy” Combs 

As number one on Forbes Five most wealthy Hip hop artists list, hip hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs has amassed a fortune of $475 million, closely followed by Jay-Z, who has an estimated wealth of $450 million. Diddy’s empire is vast and eclectic, and is throned by his joint-venture with Diageo for the popular vodka Ciroc. His other endeavours include Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, an enterprise responsible for TV series like MTV’s Making the Band franchise, the Sean John clothing line, the bestselling Unforgivable cologne and two restaurants called Justin’s in New York and Atlanta, named after one of his sons.


Shawn Carter, AKA Jay-Z, seems to be a juggernaut in the hip hop industry, showing no signs of slowing down with an estimated net worth of $450 million. Presiding over Def Jam Recordings, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records and the owner of the 40/40 Club sports bar franchise, he also has a stake in the New Jersey Nets and has sold 50 million albums worldwide. In March of 2006, Jay-Z sold his Rocawear apparel label to Iconix for $204 million. It is estimated he pocketed a quarter of that, after taxes and other financial commitments. He also has blue-chip endorsement deals with Budweiser, Hewlett-Packard and General Motors. Performance-wise, Jay Z receives $1,000,000 per show as part of a $150 million deal made with concert promoter Live Nation, and if that isn’t enough, his superstar wife Beyoncé amassed $87 million over the past 12 months. He recently gave an interview alongside Warren Buffet. Check some of it out below-

Jay also just launched a new website which you can check out here-


Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson

In 2007 , Coca-cola bought 50 Cent’s Vitamin Water “Formula 50” as part of the drinks company Glaceau, leaving 50 with $100 million after tax. 50’s portfolio also includes the popular G-Unit clothing line and record label, plus films, videogames and a slew of platinum albums.

As 50 Cent says of lesser entrepreneurs, “They’re trying to buy some Gucci, I’m trying to buy the mall”.

Some other heavy yielders of 2010 and their crops:

Akon: $21 million

Akon has Konvict Clothing label, a lucrative World Cup soccer ad campaign for Pepsi, and Kon Live, his Interscope-backed imprint that’s home to Lady Gaga and others.

Lil Wayne: $20 million

cash money

Ludacris: $16 million

Ludacris now seems to feature more on the big screen than in hip hop tracks. But that aside, he just started up a new cognac, Conjure.

Kanye West: $12 million

Drake: $9 million

Drake came into a new record deal, established an advertising contract with Sprite, and made an agreement with Virgin America which will soon see him plastered down the sides of 747s.

Dr Dre is worth $125 million, stemming from his own career and record label which has helped to launch those of Snoop Dogg and Eminem, to name a few.


Cash Money Records co-founder Bryan “Birdman” Williams is worth $100 million. His brother is in fact the co-founder so the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

cash money records

In early 2010 Birdman formed an oil and gas exploration company, Bronald Oil and Gas, LLC. The company was a joint venture founded by Birdman and his brother Slim, and the name was a combination of the brothers’ first names, Bryan and Ronald. Evidence of the company’s actual business operations was scant, limited mostly to a website and the appearance of a “pumpjack” tattoo on the side of Birdman’s head. The website indicated that the company’s strategy would be to first develop existing land holdings and seek out new oil and gas leases. In February of 2010, Birdman told Ozone Magazine that he had been in the oil business for “4 or 5 years” and was “making good money off that”. However, by March of 2010, Birdman had almost completely covered the pumpjack tattoo, which sparked speculation that the Bronald Oil project had stalled. As of March 2011, the Bronald Oil website was still operational, but had not been updated since its launch.