Forbes released its 2014 list of Hip-Hop “Cash Kings,” showcasing twenty artists who are the top earners of the rap and hip-hop world. If the crown goes to the top earner, then Dr. Dre is wearing a solid gold crown with a pre-tax income of $620 million, far outstripping the earnings of all the other performers on the list. The other nine top earners, all male, totaled $427 million between them. That is a $1.47 billion combined total for everyone in the Top Ten.
Artists Jay Z and P. Diddy, who tied for the number two spot, both earned $60 million. Jay Z’s Roc Nation ventures earned well this year with an extensive tour schedule, his D’Usse cognac endorsement and Roc Nation Sports. Jay Z also had an agreement with Samsung to buy one million copies of his album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, making his record go platinum before it ever released. To earn his number two spot, Diddy helped launch a network, Revolt TV, and had success with endorsements like Blue Flame marketing, Ciroc vodka, DeLeon tequila and Sean John Clothing.
Drake made the number four spot with $33 million by selling four million copies of his album, Nothing Was the Same, a lucrative tour and an endorsement deal from Nike’s Jordan line. Number five, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, hair from Seattle. The duo earned $32 million through the year with a push from the Grammy Awards where they nabbed four of their seven nominations, including Best Rap Album and Best New Artist. Their income has more than tripled since last year.
Kanye West holds the number six spot with $30 million dollars. Many feel that Kanye’s marriage to Kim Kardashian helped keep his name in the headlines, which seems to have translated into millions during his Yeezus tour. His income increased by 50 percent between 2013 and 2014’s list.
The YMCMB combo of Young Money Entertainment and Cash Money Records has done well for several of the artists on this list. Birdman, co-founder of Cash Money ranked number seven on the list with $24 million. Lil’ Wayne held the number eight spot with $23 million, doubling his earnings from the prior year. Fifty-six shows translated to a lot of dollars for this artist.
Rounding out the Top Ten list were Pharrell Williams at number nine with $22 million and Eminem in the number ten spot with $18 million. Eminem tours with Rihanna next year, so it is likely he will have an earning bump in 2015. Surprisingly, Nicki Minaj was the only female hip-hop artist to make the Cash Kings list. With endorsement contracts from Pepsi, Mac cosmetics and OPI, Minaj raked in $14 million in 2014, ranking number eleven.
Why was Dr. Dre’s income so far ahead of his fellow Top Ten hip-hop artists? Dre co-founded Beats Audio with Jimmy Iovine, which was bought out by Apple for $3 billion dollars earlier this year. Although Dr. Dre’s tax bill will total nine figures, his take-home paycheck from the deal was still sizable, taking him close to the realm of “billionaire” – a first for a hip-hop artist.
Dre has come a long way from his roots with N.W.A and Death Row. The fans who hoped Dr. Dre would finally finish his long-awaited Detox album are doomed to disappointment. Work on the album started back in 2001 and the original release was planned for 2008, but tabled. Beginning in 2009 tracks from the album, such as Topless featuring artists Nas and T.I., leaked to the public. Although Dre released Kush and I Need a Doctor as successful singles, several more tracks were leaked and the project was shelved. Dr. Dre insider, Dawaun Parker revealed in a recent interview with Jeff Weiss that Detox will remain permanently in Dre’s archives, although he gave broad hints that Dre “is working on music, just not that music.”
Hip-hop is earning big money these days, particularly with the endorsement contracts these artists are signing.The lowest earner on the Top Twenty list was $7 million. Forbes compiles the list from the pre-tax earnings of hip-hop and rap living artists from June to June of each year. This year’s top earnings were compiled from the publishing, endorsements, record sales, touring and merchandise of each artist.
By Jenny Hansen