Bing Search

Music News

©AP / Sean 'Diddy' Combs
© AP / Sean 'Diddy' Combs
Cash Kings 2013: The world's highest-paid hip-hop artists

By Zack O. Greenburg

Sean "Diddy" Combs hasn't always agreed with Forbes' evaluations of his wealth. "[Screw] the Forbes list," he rapped on a Rick Ross song three years ago. "Let's tell the truth: I ate more."

These days, however, the hip-hop mogul is changing his tune.

"You started learning how to count right, I see," Diddy told Forbes earlier this year, referring to more recent estimates. "Thank God!"

Bing: Which rapper called himself 'the number one rock star on the planet'?

He likely won't find fault with our latest rankings, either: Diddy tops this year's list of hip-hop's top earners, pulling in $50 million over the past 12 months. He's one of rap's most diversified moguls, thanks to his Bad Boy record label, Sean John clothing line and Blue Flame agency. But it's his agreement with Diageo's Ciroc vodka that brings in the bulk of his bucks. Next up: cable channel Revolt, which will debut this fall via Time Warner and Comcast.

Jay Z lost his hyphen this year but gained $43 million -- good enough to earn the second spot on the list. He's been padding his coffers with his lucrative live shows, Armand de Brignac champagne, D'Ussé cognac, Roc Nation label and management firm and a host of other ventures. His new album went platinum before its July launch when Samsung shelled out $5 million to buy 1 million copies.

More from Forbes: In Pictures: Hip-Hop Cash Kings 2013

Dr. Dre rounds out the top three with $40 million. After winning last year's cash crown, he's down two spots because he's no longer boosted by a nine-figure payout for selling part of Beats by Dr. Dre in 2011. But he's still cashing in on the ubiquitous headphones, expanding the company to include a long-awaited streaming music service. He's also made time to mentor other artists on the list, including Kendrick Lamar, who makes his Cash Kings debut with $9 million.

"Definitely one thing [Dre] said is, you can't accept everything for a dollar," Lamar explained. "If it's not right ... if it's not something that you see has longevity in it, you have to pass it up."

When it comes to longevity, it's hard to top Cash Money Records, which has been among hip-hop's top labels for two decades. Its roster includes four names on the list -- crossover star Drake ($10.5 million), rap legend Lil Wayne ($16 million), label cofounder Birdman ($21 million) and fourth-ranked Nicki Minaj, the only lady on the list ($29 million).

"I think we all have our own individual personalities," Drake told Forbes earlier this year. "The powers that be within this company allow us to be ourselves, as opposed to trying to control what's going on."

The Cash Kings list tracks pretax earnings for all living artists whose work is primarily classified as hip-hop or rap. To form the list, we looked at income from touring, record sales, publishing, merchandise sales, endorsements and other ventures. Management, agent and attorney fees are not deducted. Earnings are tabulated from June 2012 to June 2013 and based on data from Pollstar, the Recording Industry Association of America and Nielsen SoundScan, and from interviews with numerous managers, lawyers, record executives and some of the artists themselves.

All in all, hip-hop's top ten earners pulled in $256 million -- that's $15 million more than the ten highest-paid DJs of the ascendant electronic dance-music genre. Some hip-hop stars are actually being boosted by the EDM boom: With estimated earnings of $6 million apiece, rapper/producer Lil Jon returns to the list, and Roots frontman Questlove makes his debut, both boosted by lucrative DJ gigs.

"I'm in the room for, like, all the midlife crisis people that don't want to move on," said Questlove, who also works as a drummer, producer, professor and author. "The first time I tried to do an EDM set, they were like, 'No, no!' I've never been to Vegas before where I was allowed to play break beats and old hip-hop."

There are more fresh faces among this year's Cash Kings -- and perhaps the most celebrated belong to the Seattle-based rapper-producer combo of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Their debut album "The Heist" has sold over 1 million copies in the U.S. and spawned hit singles including marriage equality ode "Same Love" and the frugality anthem, "Thrift Shop"; they may have to rethink the philosophy behind the latter after pulling in $9 million over the past year.

As for Diddy, if he keeps up this pace, it won't be long before he joins an even more prestigious list: The Forbes 400.
"I don't want my career to be defined on [whether or not] I was quote-unquote a billionaire," he said. "But to be honest, I'd be blessed to be a billionaire ... hopefully someday it'll come true and I'll be able to do some good with it."

Additional reporting by Natalie Robehmed.

More from
In Pictures: Hip-Hop Cash Kings 2013
In Pictures: Country Cash Kings Of 2013
In Pictures: 50 Cent's Car Collection
Why Nicki Minaj is the Only Lady on the Cash Kings List

Feb 19, 2014 10:38PM
all hip hop stars are not thugs. i imagine you said that about diddy because he is black. set the record straight, diddy was born into a middle class family who parents were professionals. oh, by the way, all poor people are not thugs.  do not be a hater its unbecoming.
Feb 19, 2014 10:32PM
lets not be too hard on diddy.  it is a known fact that old blue eyes had big time ties to the mob according to the F.B.I
Nov 16, 2013 9:00PM

Diddy  and Jay Z try way too hard... They may be rich, but ask anyone who has an encounter vcwith them.

 LAUGH OF THE CENTURY a while back , DIDDY wanted  to start  anew Vegas Rat Pack. Come on now,,,Diddy couldn't shine Sinatra, Sammy Davis's shoes The mora'l of the story is 1) Diddy take the stick out of your **** , and 2)all the money in the world won't change the fact that you are

known among Las Vegas elite as a two bit thug, who should be in prison for your part in a  murder plot!

Nov 3, 2013 6:45AM
Haters all of you I bet none of you can play a note either and actually putting a Hip Hop track together is very complex but who cares Im just gonna hate what I dont understand or have never spent any time with your all shallow and need some culture
Nov 2, 2013 8:59PM
lot of money for people who hardly sing, never play an instrument. Bet they can't read music and don't know what cords are. Music reminds me of the culture, work why, learn an instrument, why? school, why? money for nothin, you bet, thats the culture
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
more on msn music
Miranda Lambert/Pharrell Williams/Janelle Monae
See highlights from this summers' biggest current tours and festivals
Ed Sheeran: From touring with Taylor to a single with Pharrell, British troubadour navigates to pop's mainstream
Most memorable BET moments: Check out six highlights from the 2014 awards' nearly four hour event
Courtney on Kurt: His widow and Hole front woman reveals Cobain was "desperate" to achieve rock stardom
Prince reigns: The funk-rock-pop wizard reveals another full-length set ready to roll out for fans