These Rappers Are Rich as Hell
Hip-hop is booming, and depending on who you ask, it’s even overtaken rock as the most important musical genre. With that success has come a whole lot of money for the best rappers in the game. These artists are at the top of the earnings rankings in the hip-hop game. They've leveraged music to become moguls.
Can you name the last song you heard that had Diddy in it? How about the last one where Diddy was the primary artist? It might take you a while, and that's a testament to the fact that you don't have to be musically relevant to be a hip-hop mogul.
People love Travis Scott, and it’s easy to tell by looking at his 2019 earnings. Scott took in a reported $65 million from his Astroworld: Wish You Were Here tour, and he has a long career ahead of him to make more money.
Eminem is 47, which is generally far, far past prime for most rappers. Nobody can mistake Eminem's recent releases for classics like Eminem Show and The Slim Shady LP, but whenever Eminem drops an album, people stream it. Lots of people stream it.
DJ Khaled reportedly made $59 million in 2019 alone, and yet it still remains unclear precisely what DJ Khaled does. Is he a producer? A songwriter? He's certainly not doing the rapping, yet he does bring together talent from all over the hip-hop scene
Kendrick Lamar managed to rake in $38.5 million in 2019 even though he hadn’t put out an album since 2017’s DAMN. The Compton-born actor’s popularity is so great that nothing can stop the profits from pouring in.
Migos is a collective of three artists, but it’s still impressive that any hip-hop group was able to rake in a reported $53 million in a single calendar year. That’s what Migos did in 2019, and the continued stardom of its two most-known members, Quavo and Offset, seemingly ensure continued success.
Childish Gambino is becoming more popular by the year, with the success of his music and television show Atlanta propelling him further into the mainstream. Gambino dropped the album Summer Pack in 2018, and though it was far from a smash hit, it earned him (that’s right, Atlanta fans) $51.5 million.
J. Cole rose through the hip-hop ranks with mixtapes like Cole World and The Warmup, and his star has only grown brighter since he caught the eye of his idol, Jay-Z, and eventually signed to the Roc Nation music label. Although J. Cole's album KOD dropped in 2018, he took home a reported $45.5 million in 2019.
While other rappers have taken their shots at the queen, Nicki Minaj remains the top female rapper of 2019, bringing in a reported sum of $42.5 million last year. Barbie is still going strong, as her 2018 album Queen not only defined her status in the rap game but kept the streaming revenue flowing.
Cardi B is nipping on Nicki Minaj's heels for the title of highest-paid lady in rap. With a reported $41 million in revenue in 2019 alone, Cardi B is a force to be reckoned with. The brash and unapologetic former exotic dancer’s following is strong.
Of all the members of this list, perhaps none stands out more than Swizz Beatz. "How could Swizz Beatz be one of the highest-earning rappers?" you’re probably asking. "There must be some mistake!"
Meek Mill has come a long way. Mill was released from prison on April 24th, 2018, and he went on to bring in $31 million in 2019 alone. There was no guarantee that Mill would be released any time soon, but a 12-year legal battle finally ended in 2018, and he's rich again.
Birdman is another hip-hop mogul who earns most of his money from behind-the-scenes ventures. As head of Cash Money Records, he’s still making money from Lil Wayne's discography, which is deep and high-selling. He also holds the rights to some of the most successful albums made by Drake, Nicki Minaj and Young Thug.
Future remains the loudest voice in lean rap, and it appears that lean rap is still very much relevant. That is, if you gauge the genre's popularity by Future's reported 2019 income of $28.6 million.
Nas is 46 years old and is in any real rap fan's pantheon of greatest lyricists. His classic albums Illmatic, It Was Written and God's Son surely still bring him major dough through streaming platforms and album sales, and he continues to churn out bangers with more recent albums like Life Is Good and Street's Disciple.
Wiz Khalifa came onto the rap scene in the early 2000s, with the 2006 album Show and Prove solidifying him as a mainstream force in hip-hop. Even with strong early returns, it’s amazing that Wiz Khalifa raked in $27 million in 2019, more than a decade after his debut album.
Shout out to Mr. Worldwide for being an absolute hustler. With all due respect to Pitbull, sheer lyrical talent is not the reason he made a reported $26 million in 2019. Though he did release an album called Libertad 548 that year, it’s Pitbull's extra-musical ventures that make him such a money machine.
Joseph Simmons, aka Rev Run of Run DMC, continues to be among the wealthiest rappers in the world. Though he is certifiably in the retirement stage of his rap career, the Run DMC checks keep rolling in.
While it’s hard to piece together Dr. Dre’s recent income, his $770 million net worth suggests he’s probably not going to have to live on the streets anytime soon. In fact, he has enough money that he was able to donate $10 million dollars for the construction of a new performing arts center for Compton High School in 2017.
Lil Wayne was once widely considered to be the best rapper alive, and while nobody (aside from himself, perhaps) makes that claim today, Weezy does remain among the richest men in hip-hop. Lil Wayne's net worth is usually pegged somewhere between $120 million and $160 million, making him one of the earning titans in rap.
Snoop Dogg is one of the most recognizable rappers in the cultural mainstream, and it pays to be known. He has forged quite the unlikely friendship with Martha Stewart, introducing himself to an audience demographic that probably never suspected they'd become familiar with the ways of Mr. Dogg.
Ice Cube was once mocked for his willingness to veer outside of the hip-hop lane in order to make money. Forays into Hollywood resulted in both the good (Barbershop, Friday) and the mockable (Are We There Yet?), but Cube claimed to be sticking to his g-card the entire time.
Pharrell is now a bonafide pop star and mainstream celebrity thanks to songs like Happy, but he was once known as one of the trendiest, most cutting-edge people in hip-hop. As the lead producer and vocalist for the rap group The Neptunes, Pharrell embodied cool.
Ronald "Slim" Williams
If you haven't heard the name Ronald "Slim" Williams, you're not alone. Slim is the much-taller brother of Brian "Birdman" Williams, who is also on this list. Together the brothers founded Cash Money Records, the wildly-successful music label that launched the careers of Drake, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Young Thug.
Only the older generation of hip-hop fans know about Master P the musician. The man who released the jam Make 'Em Say Uhh in 1997 sparked an independent rap movement in New Orleans that would inspire later moguls like Brian and Slim Williams.
LL Cool J
Some of the members on this list are from the older generation of hip-hop, and for good reason. It takes time to make the kind of money that is generational, and LL Cool J (legal name Todd Smith) is among the titans of hip-hop that parlayed hip-hop success into mainstream appeal.
Timbaland is one of the first mega producers in hip-hop. It’s typically the artist that draws audiences to a track, but Timbaland was one of the earliest of a still-rare breed of producer that attracts listeners regardless of the artist. Legends like DJ Premier and Dr. Dre were precursors and contemporaries of Timbaland.
Drake took in $110 million in revenue in 2019, a hefty sum for someone who didn't even release an original album that year. Drake released two albums largely composed of recycled hits, and they sold well because … well, he's Drake.
The artist formerly known as Jigga made a reported $119 million in 2019, making him the second-highest earning man in the rap game. Jay-Z, like his partner in music Kanye West, has made a skillful pivot into non-musical professional fields, further increasing his earning power in the process.
Kanye West made a reported $220 million in 2019 alone, making him the highest-earning person in all of hip-hop. 'Ye is no longer just a hip-hop artist, however, as he has achieved a level of celebrity status that most musicians only dream of.