It’s lonely at the top, goes the old saying–and Diddy has given the proverb a modern slant. “The only one that’s topping Forbes, I’m gettin’ lonely,” he rapped on his 2014 track “Big Homie.”
The same holds true today: Diddy pulled in $62 million over the past year, earning the top spot on our Hip-Hop Cash Kings list for the second consecutive year; take outDr. Dre’s Beats paydays, and Diddy would be celebrating his fifth cash crown in a row. Though he doesn’t earn much from music these days, he makes up for it with his outrageously lucrative Ciroc vodka deal and other non-musical ventures. Diddy can’t shake the stage entirely: his Bad Boy Reunion Tour runs through the fall.
Jay Z ranks second with earnings of $53.5 million. He didn’t play many shows or release a new album during the past 12 months, but continued to cash in on his Roc Nation entertainment company, Armand de Brignac champagne, D’Ussé cognac and other ventures. Dre rounds out the top three with a $41 million haul. It’s been two years since he scored the highest single-year payday in history for any living celebrity–$620 million, mostly from Apple's AAPL +0.65% $3 billion Beats buyout–but he continues to pocket cash from the deal and from biopic Straight Outta Compton.
Overall, it’s been a banner year for the business of hip-hop. The world’s 20 highest-paid acts pulled in more than $450 million over the past 12 months, the highest total since 2014 and third-highest in the Cash Kings list’s ten-year history. The only two years with a higher aggregate: 2008 and 2014, fueled by nine-figure windfalls for 50 Cent and Dre, respectively.
A new generation is challenging those veteran Cash Kings for financial supremacy, led by the likes of Drake and Wiz Khalifa. The former claims the No. 4 spot with earnings of $38.5 million–fueled by the best music sales of any musician not named Adele–thanks to new album Views. He padded his total with live shows and checks from Apple, Sprite and Nike; more may be on the way with his new Virginia Black whiskey. Khalifa tallied $24 million to earn the No. 5 rank, boosted by 70 shows and a healthy six-figure nightly average gross during our scoring period.
There are even fresher faces on the list: A$AP Rocky (No. 13, $14.5 million) parlayed lucrative live gigs and a growing array of fashion ventures into his Cash Kings debut, while DJ Khaled (No. 12, $15 million) and Swizz Beatz (No. 19, $10.5 million) returned to the list after brief absences. Khaled made a mint on deals with Apple, T-Mobile and Zappos; Swizz inked a multi-year, multimillion dollar deal to become Barcardi’s global creative director.
“We’re challenging all of our brands to get creative and get disruptive,” he told FORBES in a wide-ranging interview touching on his new gig, his recent experiences at Harvard Business School and his vision for the art world. “Let’s not just pay people to hold drinks in their hands.”
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Hip-Hop Cash Kings list, and the numbers generated over that period are staggering. The top 20 acts pulled in $4.5 billion over the past decade, an average of $22.5 million per act per year. Along the way, FORBES’ pioneering coverage of the business of hip-hop has earned it more than 200 lyrical mentions since 2007 according to Genius, up from 20 in the decades before.
To formulate our list, we consider pretax income from touring, record sales, streaming, publishing, merchandise sales, endorsements and other business ventures. Management, agent and attorney fees are not deducted. Earnings are calculated from June 2015 to June 2016 and based on data from Nielsen SoundScan, Pollstar, Bandsintown, the RIAA and from interviews with managers, lawyers, executives and a handful of the artists themselves.
Not all the shifts that have occurred in the hip-hop world in recent years are universally welcomed, however.
“I’ve seen so many changes happen throughout once the business got involved,” says Curtis “Grandmaster Caz” Fisher, a founding father of hip-hop who aims to keep the old school flame alive by serving as a guide for Hush Tours in the genre’s Bronx birthplace. “What’s going on today is just today’s generation of what they feel hip-hop is … it belongs to the world.”
Increasingly, though, the outside world is fascinated by the early years of hip-hop, as exemplified by the success of shows like The Get Down. There’s a Universal Hip-Hop Museum in the works in the Bronx. And even Caz is cashing on the boom: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (No. 14, $14 million) featured him, along with fellow pioneers Melle Mel and Kool Moe Dee, on smash single “Downtown.” The record gave Caz the first platinum plaque of his four-decade career.
“To me it means everything when somebody like Macklemore came along,” says Caz. “Respect for where you come from or what this culture is, is something that has to be inside of a person.”