After Forbes released the controversial Top Bankable Artists In Africa list, they have gone ahead to release one for American Hip Hop artists which hasn’t received much backlash though. Back to the matter, they reported that, all in all, hip-hop’s top 20 earned a combined $343 million. They said that the Cash Kings list charts pretax earnings for all living artists whose work is primarily classified as hip-hop or rap. To form the list, they 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.
Here is the brief breakdown of the list.
20. Questlove ($6 million, tie)
The venerable Roots frontman makes his Cash Kings debut, boosted by his roles as a drummer, producer, professor, author, and—most of all—about 200 DJ gigs from Vegas to New York.
20. Young Jeezy ($6 million, tie)
The Atlanta-bred rapper hasn’t released an album since 2011’s TM:103 Hustlerz Ambition, but his clothing line and a handful of tour dates were enough to secure his spot on this year’s list.
20. Mac Miller ($6 million, tie)
Though the 21-year old rapper’s new album,Watching Movies With the Sound Off, came out after the end of this year’s scoring period, Miller makes the list on the strength of ticket and merchandise sales from more than 50 live shows.
20. Rick Ross ($6 million, tie)
The rotund rapper didn’t tour quite as much over the past year as he did in others, but still makes the list thanks to his Maybach Music Group and recent album God Forgives, I Don’t, which earned a gold certification from the RIAA.
20. Lil Jon ($6 million, tie)
Though he may never match the viral success that came with his work on Usher’s smash single “Yeah!” in 2004, the rapper-producer has reinvented himself as a DJ, playing over 100 shows in the past year alone.
19. 50 Cent ($7 million)
The sale of his VitaminWater stake made him hip-hop’s top earner in 2008, along with proceeds from clothing, video games, books and records. These days, his entrepreneurial focus is on his SMS headphone line and SK Energy beverage.
18. Tech N9ne ($7.5 million)
Kansas City isn’t known for hip-hop, but Tech N9ne is putting the Midwest on the rap map. His empire includes label Strange Music as well as his own recording studio, merch company and touring infrastructure.
17. Swizz Beatz ($8.5 million)
The superproducer may not be quite as well known as his wife, Alicia Keys, but the Cash Kings mainstay returns to the list on the strength of a hefty production catalogue and deals with Reebok, Monster and Lotus.
14. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ($9 million, tie)
The Seattle rapper-producer combo appears on the Cash Kings list for the first time thanks to The Heist, which has sold over 1 million copies in the U.S. and spawned hit singles including frugality anthem “Thrift Shop” and marriage equality ode “Same Love.”
14. Pharrell Williams ($9 million, tie)
The singer-producer returned to the top of the charts on “Get Lucky,” his smash collaboration with electronic duo Daft Punk; he also boasts clothing lines, a YouTube show and an extensive production catalogue.
14. Kendrick Lamar ($9 million, tie)
Dr. Dre’s latest protégé makes his Cash Kings debut after releasing smash hit Good Kid, m.A.A.d City and playing over 100 shows in the past year.
12. Eminem ($10 million, tie)
Though he rarely tours and doesn’t have an entrepreneurial résumé that stacks up with most of his peers, Eminem continues to earn big from his lengthy list of hits—he sold more albums last decade than any artist in any genre.
12. Snoop Lion ($10 million, tie)
The artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg has been cashing in on his rebirth as a reggae artists, playing over 85 shows during our scoring period to go with a handful of endorsements and healthy back catalogue sales.
11. Drake ($10.5 million)
With relatively little touring and no new album last year, the former Degrassi star falls from the top ten—but with his third studio album Nothing Was the Same out this month, Drake looks poised to move up on next year’s list.
10. Pitbull ($11 million)
Not even a brief exile to Alaska—the result of a fan vote to send Pitbull to any Wal-Mart in the U.S.—could stop Mr. International from earning double-digit millions. He cashed in on new album Global Warming, constant touring and endorsements with the likes of Kodak and Dr. Pepper.
9. Ludacris ($12 million)
Though his new album Ludaversal was delayed once again, the self proclaimed “Mouth of the South” continues to cash in on live shows, Soul by Ludacris headphones, Conjure cognac and roles in films like Fast & Furious 6.
8. Wiz Khalifa ($14 million)
The Pittsburgh native has been raking in cash ever since bursting onto the mainstream scene with his hometown ode “Black and Yellow,” the top single from his album Rolling Papers. His follow-up,O.N.I.F.C.—and more than 75 shows over the past year—keep him on the list.
7. Lil Wayne ($16 million)
The diminutive rapper played only a handful of shows this year and made headlines for health scares, but still cashed in on his new album I Am Not A Human Being II, clothing line Trukfit and his Young Money label.
6. Kanye West ($20 million)
He may be one of rap’s biggest names, but he falls just short of the top five this year. New album Yeezus was released shortly after the end of our scoring period, though, and a lucrative tour this fall should vault him back toward the top of next year’s list.
5. Birdman ($21 million)
The Cash Money chief continues to live up to the name of his record label, whose lineup boasts three other artists on this list: Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Drake. Birdman’s empire also includes clothing, vodka and publishing.
4. Nicki Minaj ($29 million)
Two years after becoming the first female artist to make the Hip-Hop Cash Kings list, Minaj is nearing the top thanks to income from touring, steady music sales, a lucrative American Idol gig and endorsements with Pepsi and others. For more, check out
3. Dr. Dre ($40 million)
Last year’s Cash King slips two spots, 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 he founded with Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine to include a long-awaited streaming music service.
2. Jay Z ($43 million)
Lost his hyphen but gained double-digit millions from lucrative live shows, Armand de Brignac champagne, D’Ussé cognac, Roc Nation label/management firm and other ventures. New album Magna Carta … Holy Grail went platinum before its July launch thanks to a $5 million investment from Samsung that fell just outside our scoring period
1. Diddy ($50 million)
Hip-hop’s net worth king claims his first annual earnings crown thanks mostly to the success of Ciroc vodka. Other ingredients in his cash cocktail: record label Bad Boy, clothing line Sean John and, soon, cable channel Revolt.
What do you think of this list? Did your favourite rapper make the list?
King A-Maz – has written 519 posts on this site.
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