Hip-Hop Cash Kings 2018
Hip-hop is now the most-consumed genre in America, and its artists are cashing in accordingly. The 10 highest-paid rap stars earned $405.5 million, easily besting the most prolific moneymakers in country ($304.5 million) and EDM ($260 million). The bench goes even deeper—read on to see the genre’s 20 top earners over the past year.
20. Swizz Beatz ($15 million, tie)
The superproducer is one of many hip-hop cash kings making more outside the studio than in it—thanks, in his case, to a multimillion-dollar pact with Bacardi. “We’re challenging all of our brands to get creative and get disruptive,” he told Forbes shortly after signing his deal. “Let’s not just pay people to hold drinks in their hands.”
20. Russ ($15 million, tie)
After building a loyal following as an independent act known for doing everything himself—from rapping and singing to songwriting and producing to mixing and mastering—Russ signed with Columbia, where his 2017 major label debut, There’s Really A Wolf, went platinum. Now he’s cashing in on the road, playing everywhere from Lollapalooza to the Staples Center.
20. Meek Mill ($15 million, tie)
With the help of vocal support from friends ranging from Jay-Z to billionaire Robert Kraft, the Philadelphia rapper was released from jail, where he’d been doing time for a series of parole violations. He’s made up for lost time, hitting the road and landing deals with the likes of Puma and Amazon en route to a career-high in annual earnings.
19. Logic ($17 million)
Last year’s Everybody gave Logic his first platinum-certified chart-topper, and managed to help scores of vulnerable people at the same time. The day after the release of his suicide prevention anthem—“1-800-273-8255,” named after the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—the organization noted a 27% spike in calls.
18. Lil Wayne ($19 million)
Though he hasn’t released a proper solo album in five years, the diminutive rhymester’s long-awaited Tha Carter V may be closer than some think: he reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with his label this spring. That windfall couples with a couple dozen concerts to give Wayne his biggest payday since 2014.
17. Lil Uzi Vert ($19.5 million)
With more than 3.5 billion streaming spins over the past 12 months, Uzi is the fourth most-consumed artist on our list. But he makes his cash kings debut thanks to the maturation of his touring business, playing 76 shows in our scoring period.
16. Birdman ($20 million)
Despite constant rumors to the contrary, the Cash Money chief continues to fatten his pockets on with the help of a roster of stellar artists—most notably Drake, the most-streamed act on the planet. That may change soon, as the superstar’s new album Scorpion was the last on his deal with Birdman’s label.
15. Travis Scott ($21 million)
The 26-year-old rapper’s Astroworld debuted atop the charts, earning gold certification immediately upon its August release. It was too late to register in our June-to-June scoring period, but Scott had plenty of other income sources to draw on, including a multimillion-dollar pact with Nike.
14. Chance the Rapper ($21.5 million)
Though he hasn’t released a new album since 2016, Chance has stayed active on other fronts. He played more than 30 live shows and even dipped his toe in the media pool, purchasing hometown news outlet Chicagoist in July.
13. Eminem ($23 million)
Michigan’s most famous rapper doesn’t play many gigs—just a dozen over the past 12 months—but when he does, he gets some of the highest nightly fees in the business. New album Kamikaze, which came out too late to be counted for this year’s list, gave Eminem the ninth No. 1 of his career.
12. Migos ($24.5 million)
Hip-hop’s top trio is also one of the hardest-working acts in the business, playing 93 dates during our scoring period while clocking six-figure nightly fees. Migos is one of the most popular streaming acts on Earth, accumulating over 4 billion spins in 12 months—more than anyone on this list besides Drake.
11. DJ Khaled ($27 million)
Another one! The songsmith’s stage name may start with “DJ,” but Khaled’s latest banner year has more to do with marketing than music, cashing in on deals with Apple, Ciroc and Weight Watchers. “You can want a Hyundai, if that’s what you want,” he told Forbes last year. “Me, I want a Rolls-Royce.”
10. Kanye West ($27.5 million)
The controversial superstar didn’t tour at all following last year’s spate of cancellations, and his latest album, Ye, was the first of his career that failed to go platinum. But in between his outbursts of support for Donald Trump, he’s been cashing in on his deal with Adidas to the tune of double-digit millions.
9. Future ($30 million)
The future is now for this hip-hop star, who clocked more than 3 billion streams during our scoring period, augmenting his haul with healthy nightly fees as well as deals with Reebok and StubHub.
8. Pitbull ($32 million)
Mr. Worldwide continues to live up to his nickname, grossing a healthy six figures per tour stop in cities from Miami to Montreal while filling up arenas with co-headliners Enrique Iglesias and Britney Spears.
6. Nas ($35 million, tie)
The rap legend makes his cash kings debut at age 44, thanks largely to his investment in Ring, the virtual doorbell company Amazon bought for $1.1 billion earlier this year. Though Nas didn’t take home quite as much of that as some speculated, he also banked plenty from touring, streaming and a Hennessey endorsement. “There wasn’t a time when [rappers] didn’t think about investing,” Nas told Forbes. “It just so happens that the world is opening up.”
6. Dr. Dre ($35 million, tie)
The superproducer is still collecting compensation from his landmark Apple deal–along with income from his extensive back catalogue, enough to keep him high on our list. Dre is also said to be working on a Marvin Gaye biopic and has reportedly secured the rights to use the legendary singer’s music.
5. J. Cole ($35.5 million)
New album KOD, which topped the charts upon its April 2018 release, helped the rapper score some 2 billion streaming spins over the past 12 months. But it was his tour, approaching seven figures per stop, that gave Cole his highest annual earnings total yet.
4. Drake ($47 million)
Still the world’s most consumed musician of any genre–with some 5 billion streams in the past 12 months–Drake slowed down his touring pace and fell from his career-best No. 2 finish on last year’s list. That should change as he and fellow streaming titans Migos hit the road with their Aubrey and the Three Amigos Tour in the wake of new album Scorpion.
3. Kendrick Lamar ($58 million)
Your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper clocked the highest earnings total of his career while packing arenas from Los Angeles to London on his solo tour and as headliner of TDE: The Championship Tour. He’s also been cashing in on deals with Nike and American Express.
2. Diddy ($64 million)
After topping our list three years in a row, Diddy slips a spot but still makes bank thanks largely to a beverage empire that includes Ciroc vodka, DeLeon tequila and Aquahydrate alkaline water. “I started my business career at age 12, delivering newspapers,” Diddy told Forbes last year. “I’ve always understood that if I give the customers my best and service them differently, whether music, clothing or vodka, I’ll get a return on my hard work.”
1. Jay-Z ($76.5 million)
The multifaceted mogul hit the road in support of his album 4:44 after welcoming twins with wife Beyoncé in 2017. This year, he’s kicking it up a notch with the launch of Everything Is Love, the couple’s first joint album, and stadium tour On The Run II.