1. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter – $63 Million
Says he’s not a businessman; he’s a business, man–and it’s not idle boasting. Rapper-turned-mogul retains his crown as hip-hop’s cash king thanks to a new album and investments in 40/40 nightclub chain, Broadway show “Fela!” and New Jersey Nets basketball team. Biggest boost comes from Blueprint 3 Tour, which grossed over $1 million per concert this year. Still makes less than wife Beyoncé.
2. Sean “Diddy” Combs – $30Million
Ageless hip-hop impresario has changed name from Puff Daddy to P. Diddy to Diddy. Now, he occasionally goes by “Ciroc Obama,” after his lucrative vodka joint venture with Diageo. Still shills Sean John clothing, Bad Boy Records, and more; released Last Train to Paris, his first album since 2006. Acting career on the rise after appearance in 2010 flick Get Him to the Greek, where he plays a record executive.
3. Aliuane “Akon” Thiam – $21Million
Senegalese-American hip-hop singer/songwriter/producer has been profiting from a range of business ventures this year. There’s his Konvict Clothing, his Pepsi soccer ad campaign and Kon Live, his Interscope-backed imprint that’s home to Lady Gaga and others. Still has time for traditional musical ventures, including an international tour and a new album, Stadium Music.
4. Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Carter – $20Milllion
Not even jail could stop Lil Wayne from cracking the top five on our list. Sentenced in March to a year in the pen for weapons possession, the rapper managed to earn his hefty total from new album Rebirth, proceeds from guest appearances and a healthy dose of touring, where he grossed over $500,000 per show. Already making plans for a new album, Tha Carter IV, upon his release.
5. Andre “Dr. Dre” Young – $17Million
Legendary rapper-producer is also one of hip-hop’s savviest–unlike many who sell away the rights to their songs, Dr. Dre hangs on to most of his. Still collects royalties on multiplatinum albums like 1992 classic The Chronic, which sold nearly 10 million copies worldwide. Also rakes in cash from his headphone line Beats by Dre, a partnership with Interscope Records. Served as executive producer for Eminem’s “Recovery,” which sold over 1 million U.S. copies in its first two weeks; solo album Detox is slated for release this fall.
6. Christopher “Ludacris” Bridges – $16Million
Self-proclaimed “Mouth of the South” is becoming one the most diversified artists in the business. Has sold over 20 million albums, won three Grammy awards and appeared in two Oscar-winning films. Over the past year, inked endorsement deals with Tag body spray and Trojan Magnum condoms in addition to touring and releasing new album, Battle of the Sexes. Also partnered with spirits producer Birkedal Hartmann to create a cognac called Conjure.
7. Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broadus – $15Million
Lanky rapper parlayed pimpish image into mainstream fame; once the embodiment of West Coast gangster rap, he revealed a softer side in his reality-TV show Father Hood and variety show Dogg After Dark. Added to acting résumé by playing himself in Sacha Baron Cohen flick Bruno and soap opera One Life to Live. Though sales of new album Malice N Wonderland have been disappointing–less than 300,000 copies to date–a lucrative tour earned him $10 million, by our estimates.
8. Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley – $14Million
Sales of solo album Shock Value II disappointed last December, but corpulent super-producer continues to churn out tracks at a frenetic pace, including songs for Jay-Z, Drake and Shakira in the past year. Also appeared on ABC show FlashForward and will be featured in upcoming videogame “DJ Hero 2.” Continues to crank out hits from his 5,000-square-foot studio in Virginia Beach.
9. Pharrell Williams – $13Million
Versatile star made his name penning hits for rappers and pop artists alike as part of popular production duo The Neptunes. Now fronts funk-rock band N*E*R*D, which is in the midst of an ambitious international tour in advance of upcoming album, Nothing. Once named the world’s best-dressed man by Esquire, Williams designs sunglasses for Louis Vuitton and owns apparel lines Ice Cream and Billionaire Boys Club. Worked with famed German composer Hans Zimmer to create soundtrack for animated flick Despicable Me.
10. Kanye West – $12Million
Hip-hop star whose first album was called The College Dropout basically dropped out in the wake of his well-publicized outburst during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 Video Music Awards. He continues to produce hits, though, including a handful of songs for Jay-Z’s “Blueprint 3,” and will likely approach last year’s $25 million with a new album and world tour in the offing.
11. Aubrey “Drake” Graham – $10Million
Highest-earning newcomer on the list caked up thanks to new record deal, advertising pact with Sprite and agreement with Virgin America that plasters his likeness onto the sides of airplanes. Another good decision: recruiting Lil Wayne and Jay-Z to appear on his debut album, Thank Me Later, which sold 447,000 copies in its first week.
12. Clifford “T.I.” Harris – $9Million (tie)
The South’s answer to Jay-Z cofounded Grand Hustle Records in 2001 to distribute his mix tapes. Became a cross-platform star–appeared in 2007 flick American Gangster alongside Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington, launched clothing line Akoo in 2008. Career interrupted by one-year jail stint for gun charges last year, got out in March. Didn’t skip a beat: recently inked endorsement deal with Remy Martin and recorded new album King Uncaged, due out this fall.
12. Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean – $9Million (tie)
Penned catchy “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” for DMX at age 16; has piled up a massive production catalog in following decade, working with artists from Beyoncé to Lil Wayne. Latest hit: “On to the Next One” for Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3. Avid aesthete collects Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings, cars. Tied the knot with singer Alicia Keys this summer; the couple is expecting a child this fall.
14. Marshall “Eminem” Mathers – $8Million (tie)
Controversial rhymester has sold over 32 million records since 2000, more than The Beatles (30 million), Toby Keith (25 million), Britney Spears (23 million)–or any other artist. Latest effort, Recovery, moved a whopping 741,000 units in its first week and went platinum after its second week. Rapper is still a relative pauper compared to peers due to lack of outside business ventures and touring; plans to remedy that with upcoming “Home and Home” concert series with Jay-Z this fall.
14. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson – $8Million (tie)
Fortunes have fallen since his $150 million bonanza in 2008, fueled by a $100 million windfall from the sale of VitaminWater parent Glaceau. Latest album, Before I Self Destruct, barely sold 500,000 copies, and the rapper has stayed out of the limelight while loosing 25% of his body weight for the upcoming film Things Fall Apart. Beefed up for a role in the movie Twelve, based on the novel by Nick McDonell. Burgeoning acting career and upcoming tour should push Fifty back toward the top of this list this 2011.
14. Jay “Young Jeezy” Jenkins – $8Million (tie)
Prescient rapper released album The Recession in September 2008, earned Grammy nomination. Feuded with Bill O’Reilly over his performance at concert celebrating Obama’s inauguration. Spent past year adding to extensive list of guest appearances, including songs with Rihanna and Jay-Z; banked about $5 million by touring with the latter. New album TM 103 due out this fall.
17. Lonnie “Common” Lynn Jr. – $7Million
Chicago native is hip-hop’s social conscience, supporting PETA and speaking out against use of homophobic rap lyrics. Still finds time to shill Lincoln Navigator and Microsoft Zune. Substantial film experience includes roles in Smokin’ Aces (2007) and Wanted (2008); added to résumé this year with Date Night and Just Wright, where he starred alongside Queen Latifah. New album, The Believer, due out later this year.
18. DeAndre “Soulja Boy” Way – $6Million (tie)
The 20-year-old rocketed to fame in 2007 after the release of “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” originally self-published on the Internet. Song spent seven weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100 charts; just shy of his 17th birthday, Way became youngest artist to write, perform and produce a No. 1 song in nearly 20 years. Thanks to rigorous touring schedule and record-setting ringtone download totals, he makes his Cash Kings debut this year; his next album, DeAndre’s Way, is due out this fall.
18. Faheem “T-Pain” Najm – $6Million (tie)
Florida-born rapper helped bring AutoTune to the forefront of hip-hop, then held mock memorial service for the pitch correction effect after Jay-Z released the song “Death of AutoTune” in 2009. No matter: T-Pain has stayed relevant with appearance on Grammy-nominated Saturday Night Live short “I’m On A Boat,” new iPhone app dubbed “I Am T-Pain,” and film roles including the upcoming Lottery Ticket. Meanwhile, release of new album rEVOLVEr continues to be pushed back, now set for 2011.
20. Jonathan “Lil Jon” Smith – $5Million (tie)
Outlandish rapper/producer first gained mainstream fame for his trademark growls of “OK” and “what” in the 2004 hit “Yeah.” Since then, he’s diversified from music with beverages including Crunk!!! Energy Drink and Little Jonathan wines, as well as endorsement deals with Oakley sunglasses and others. For those missing his old-school ululations, new album Crunk Rock offers plenty.
20. Radric “Gucci Mane” Davis – $5Million (tie)
Dropped The State vs. Radric Davis in December 2009 and promptly headed to jail to serve sentence for a previous parole violation. Released in May, Gucci makes the list despite his penal hiatus thanks in part to a spate of lucrative guest appearances with the likes of Black Eyed Peas, Mario and Mariah Carey. New album tentatively scheduled for release this fall.
20. William “Rick Ross” Roberts – $5Million (tie)
Not to be confused with Bruce Springsteen or the late George Steinbrenner, this self-styled Boss is making his second Cash Kings list appearance. Beefy rapper took Rick Ross moniker from former drug trafficker Ricky Ross, who has been suing unsuccessfully for copyright infringement. Even so, rap’s Ross forged ahead with new album Teflon Don, released in July.