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.
Of course, Diddy was once very relevant in hip-hop, and his Bad Boy Records still has major artists like Machine Gun Kelly on its roster. But Diddy also does great outside of music, with ventures such as the vodka brand Ciroc and clothing line Sean John making him a very wealthy man.
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.
Aside from his own songs, Scott produces and writes music for other artists, a service he does not offer for free. He’s also collaborating with Nike to design new shoes and reportedly takes in obscene amounts of cash for sponsored social media posts.
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.
Eminem also makes money from his record label, Shady Records, proving once again that it pays more to sign artists than to be the one doing the signing. Eminem’s clout in hip-hop will ensure that he stays paid for quite some time.
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
Even so. Khaled deserves credit for becoming a brand in and of himself, no matter how murky the origins of that fame might be. He has sponsorship deals with Apple, T-Mobile and many other companies, and his live shows are among the most lucrative in hip-hop.
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.
Lamar wrote original songs for the hit movie Black Panther and often makes guest appearances on other rappers’ albums for which he surely charges a hefty appearance fee. He also appeared on the show Power and is sponsored by Nike.
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.
Their albums Culture and Culture II were massively popular when they were released in 2017 and 2018, and their streaming success was no small part of the group’s 2019 revenue. Culture III is set to arrive in 2020, so expect more revenue for Migos when it drops.
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.
Gambino is also a highly-paid ghostwriter, and it’s always difficult to pinpoint how much ghostwriting accounts for any artist’s revenues — it is ghostwriting, after all. Apparently Gambino’s endorsement of presidential candidate Andrew Yang hasn’t stymied his popularity, either.
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.
Cole signed an endorsement deal with PUMA in 2019 that surely netted him a few bucks, and his streaming numbers mark him as one of the most popular rappers in the game today.
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.
Nicki has managed to achieve crossover appeal, and it’s paid off. She holds endorsement deals with Mattel, Nokia, Pepsi and MAC Cosmetics, and she has a clothing line in KMart.
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.
Cardi B has appeared not just on top of the music charts, but also in commercials for the likes of Pepsi and other major international brands. Endorsements are where the real money lies, and it seems as though Cardi has figured that out.
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!”
The answer is simple: Swizz Beatz does most of his money-making behind the scenes. His is a producer first and foremost, and a prolific one at that. Could he rack up an estimated $34 million in annual earnings if he wasn’t prolific? Probably not, but he is, and so he did.
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.
$31 million isn’t a bad way to bounce back from incarceration. Mill wasted no time releasing the album Championships in 2018, and the album has not only made Meek relevant in rap, but filthy rich.
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.
All of those rights, along with Birdman’s other business ventures, solo albums and Big Tymers royalties add up to approximately $29 million in earnings in 2019. No wonder it’s called Cash Money.
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.
The Atlanta native continues to churn out massively popular, if increasingly darker, albums year after year. Future’s 2019 release The Wizrd was a genre-bending experience released under the rapper’s alternate name, Future Hndrxx. The album was 20 tracks long.
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.
Nas also claims plenty of revenue outside of music with endorsements from Hennessy, Moet and Chandon, Sprite and many others. He has also invested in successful companies such as Coinbase and Bevel.
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.
Khalifa has a lucrative endorsement deal with Converse, and his social media presence, especially on YouTube, is thought to be the source of much of his income. He also sells lots of merch, much of it cannabis-oriented.
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.
He’s branched out by sponsoring, among other things, blockchain coding competitions. Pitbull also has his own vodka company (of course he does) and his own clothing line (again, of course), and he continues to venture where most artists wouldn’t to great effect.
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.
Rev Run has an estimated net worth of $70 million, which he has added to through his television show Run’s House and a slew of investments. He is all about promoting his children’s careers, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that the Rev remains paid.
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.
Dre is an undisputed member of hip-hop royalty alongside greats like Jay-Z and Diddy, and his role in Interscope records means that he takes a cut of earnings from other artists as well. Oh, and Beats By Dre …
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.
Wayne was always a rapper first and not so much a mogul like Birdman, but he has tried his hand at clothing with the skateboarder-aimed Trukfit. Wayne also has endorsements from the likes of Pepsi and Mountain Dew.
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.
Snoop Dogg’s net worth is estimated to fall somewhere around the $135 million mark, and it’s the result of successful albums (Doggystyle, among others), appearances in films (Training Day and Starsky & Hutch) and calculated investments, namely in the cannabis sector.
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.
That toeing-of-the-line between gangster rap culture and the high-dollar paychecks that could be reaped from indulging his Hollywood side has allowed Cube to play both sides of the fence. He’s now invested in the Big 3 basketball league, and it’s all helped him amount a net worth of $160 million.
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.
He now has a net worth of $150 million and is no longer making music with The Neptunes. But even with his funky top hats, Pharrell is not afraid to hop behind the producer’s board from time to time.
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.
Slim’s ability to remain out-of-the-spotlight despite amassing an estimated net worth of $170 million is actually impressive. Some people really are in the rap game for the money and not the fame, and that appears to be the case with Slim Williams.
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.
Master P’s creation of No Limit Records marked the beginning of his status as a cash cow. No Limit sold over 80 million records, helping launch the careers of rappers like Snoop Dogg, Mystikal, Soulja Slim and Master P’s son, Romeo. That helped Master P accrue a net worth of $225 million.
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.
LL is worth an estimated $105 million, and while classic albums like Mama Said Knock You Out surely bring him residual checks, he’s added to his career earnings through acting gigs on NCIS and various films.
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.
Timbaland has piled up money thanks to his prodigious production skills and sky-high fees. His net worth is estimated to be $85 million. While his high-water mark was arguably the early 2000s, a Timbaland beat will still cost you a pretty penny.
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.
After becoming the first artist to reach 50 billion streams in 2018, Drake continues to rack up revenue from insatiable fans playing his songs on repeat. He also has endorsement deals with Nike, Sprite, Burger King and many others. His record label OVO and part ownership of the Toronto Raptors also pad his bottom line.
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.
He has firmly entrenched himself as a force in the sports agency sector, and his live concert business Live Nation signed a lucrative contract to handle the Super Bowl halftime show for the foreseeable future. Jay-Z is a household name, a rare status for hip-hop artists.
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.
Whether it’s his latest iteration of Yeezy sneakers, the many income avenues he’s created through his marriage to Kim Kardashian or his increasing popularity in the Christian community, Kanye the money rolling in from all sides. To many people’s surprise, getting political may have only increased Kanye’s earning power.