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The Forbes Five: Hip-Hop's Wealthiest Artists 2017

Forbes logo Forbes 5/10/2017 Zack O'Malley Greenburg, Forbes Staff

© Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Diddy keeps his cash crown — for now. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for ...

The only thing more predictable than a Diddy name change? His place atop our annual list of the wealthiest hip-hop artists. But the man formally known as Sean Combs now has some real competition.

Jay Z’s fortune has jumped 30% in the past year after a $200 million investment from Sprint reportedly put the valuation of his music-streaming service, Tidal, at $600 million, more than 10 times what he paid for the company two years ago.

Which rapper will hit billionaire status first? Hard to say. Diddy has a lucrative Cîroc vodka deal with Diageo, while Jay Z augments his portfolio with a champagne brand, Armand de Brignac, and a growing entertainment company, Roc Nation. FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2016 file photo, Jay Z performs during a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Cleveland. The Meadows Music and Arts Festival announced May 8, 2017, that Jay Z would headline the second edition of the New York concert in September. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) © The Associated Press Jay Z

Jay Z tops Andre “Dr. Dre” Young in the rankings for the first time since 2014, the year the superproducer sold Beats to Apple for $3 billion—and promptly boasted about his improved perch on our list in a grainy YouTube video.

“They need to update the Forbes list,” pal Tyrese Gibson opined, prompting Dre to add: “In a big way. Understand that!”

Dre hasn’t quite achieved the billionaire status he initially claimed, but his cut gave him the largest single-year payday ever recorded by a living musician; his fortune has since swelled to $740 million thanks to savvy investments. Days after the Beats deal was announced, Dre scooped up a 14,000 square foot Los Angeles mansion for $40 million; according to government records, it’s already worth nearly 20% more than he paid.

In order to complete the Forbes Five list, we follow the same procedures used to calculate our list of the world’s billionaires: looking at past earnings, valuing current holdings, leafing through financial documents and talking to analysts, attorneys, managers, other industry players and even some of the moguls themselves to find the details.

There’s a long drop between the top three and the rest of the list. Bryan “Birdman” Williams ranks fourth with $110 million. Along with his brother, Ronald “Slim” Williams, Birdman co-owns Cash Money Records, home to three of the music world’s biggest stars: Drake, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. All three have been rumored to be leaving the label in recent years, but so far their record deals have kept them in place—and Cash Money’s coffers full.

“As a child, I always felt if I could make $1 million, I could make $100 million,” Birdman once told FORBES. “If I could get $100 million, I’m just nine steps away from being a billionaire. And that’s the goal.”

Rounding out the Forbes Five is Aubrey “Drake” Graham at $90 million. Last year’s Views became the first album to top 1 billion spins on Apple Music and helped fuel a grueling tour that took the Toronto native from Atlanta to Amsterdam, grossing north of $1 million per night along the way. His deals with Apple, Nike and Sprite should keep the cash coming.

And at just 30 years of age, he’s young enough to be the son of any of his fellow listmembers.

The first three paragraphs of this story appear in the latest issue of FORBES. Additional reporting by Natalie Robehmed.

 

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