The Rap Industry is such an intriguing one because it’s full of so many rags to riches stories. There are so many rappers who started out with nothing and then went on to achieve major success and amass huge amounts of wealth. For some of these wealthy rappers, it’s been a slow and steady climb, and for others, it happened quite quickly. Here is a list of rappers that came up with million dollar ideas and career transformations that completely changed the trajectory of their lives.
Dr. Dre – Beats by Dre
Even though Dr. Dre already earned tons of cash in the music career with his own exploits as a rapper (with NWA), as a solo-artist, as the founder of Aftermath Records, and also as the visionary who recognized the talent in Eminem and set the Detroit emcee on his way to becoming a global superstar. However Dre took his money earing to another level when he founded the headphone company Beats by Dre in 2008. It was a collaborative company with Interscope Records founder Jimmy Iovine, a personality with as much stature in the music industry as Dre. The goal was to create superior headphones that allow listeners to enjoy music as if they were in the studio recording with the artist. It was an instant success. In about two years, sales were soaring with revenues in the millions. Global company HTC bought a chunk of the company in 2011 for $350 million. The Beats by Dre company is now expanding into the unchartered world of digital music streaming. Judging from their prior success, they might just smash this new chapter out of the park as well. Dre Dre has an estimated net worth of $350 million.
50. Cent – Vitamin Water
50 Cent burst on the global scene in 2003 with his album Get Rich or Die Trying. The album was released on Shady/Aftermath records co-owned by Dr. Dre and Eminem. It was an instant hit spurred by the huge Dr.Dre produced single “In The Club” and it went on to sell about 15 million copies worldwide. After that success, 50 Cent capitalized on a slew of lucrative endorsement deals and business ventures – including a clothing line, ringtone company and more. But it was his investment and involvement with a company called Glaceau, a company that produced a drink called Vitamin Water that really projected him to mogul status. Together, they launched a drink called Formula 50 that completely blew up. The success was so substantial that in 2007, Coca-Cola purchased Glaceau for a whopping $4.1 billion dollars in cash. With 50 Cent’s investment, after all was said and done, he walked away with a cool $100 million. 50 Cent is scheduled to drop a new album Animal Ambition this summer, but he could choose to not record another song and he’d still be set for life. 50 Cent has an estimated net worth of $265 million.
Ice Cube – Movies
O’Shea Jackson aka Ice Cube made decent money from his first career as a rapper. He first hit the scene with the Compton, Los Angeles collective N.W.A., but he left the group in 1989 to pursue a solo career. As his career advanced, he was cast by director John Singleton in the raw, inner-city drama Boyz n the Hood. However things really turned around for him when in 1995, after being prompted by the aforementioned film director (Singleton), he decided to write the screenplay and star in a film named Friday. The movie also starred upcoming comedian Chris Tucker, and turned out to be a breakthrough success. It was made using a budget of $3.5 million and went on to make $28 million worldwide. Since then, he has gone on to star in movies like Barbershop, Three Kings and successful comedies like Are We There Yet? Cube continues to be a successful actor and musician and his estimated net worth is around $140 million.
Sean Combs – Sean John & Ciroc
Sean “P-Diddy” Combs is the richest personality in Hip-Hop. He has a personal net worth of $580 million. The thing about Puffy that most people may not truly know is that he’s a fearless and extremely confident entrepreneur. He’s the kind of bold personality that will try anything as long as there’s a legal dollar to be made. After being a major success in the fashion industry, he tried his hand at fashion in 1998 and scored really big with his Sean John fashion brand. Itis still carried in malls all over America to this day. In the year 2000, he was awarded Menswear Fashion Designer of the year by the CFDA. One of his more recent ventures was an amazing success too. He partnered with high-end vodka brand Ciroc in 2007 to become the face of the brand in exchange for a share of the profits. The project took off and Ciroc is currently one of the foremost vodkas in the country. There’s no stopping in sight for Sean Combs. Just last year, he launched a new music cable called Revolt TV, which aims to be the MTV of the present youth generation. With Diddy, we can all agree that the money registers around him will never stop ringing.
Jay-Z – Becoming a Business Titan
Even though Jay-Z is an absolutely exemplary rapper, he realized quickly in his career that just being a musician wasn’t going to earn him the riches he sought in life. So at the height of his popularity in the raping career, he launched Roc-a-wear clothing in 1999 – and at one point, the brand was earning over $700 million dollars annually. In 2006, Jay-Z took sole control of the clothing brand after a falling out with his business partner Dame Dash. Since then Jay-Z has become an unstoppable and extremely shrewd business mogul. He has a successful chain of upscale sports clubs called 40/40. He invested and eventually sold his share in the Brooklyn Nets NBA franchise, he has a high-powered management agency named Roc Nation which handles the careers of successful musicians (Shakira, Rihanna), producers (DJ Mustard) and athletes (Kevin Durant, CC Sabathia, Victor Cruz) – and of course, who could forget his recent deal with Samsung for his latest album when the mobile company purchased a million copies of the album even before it dropped. With Jay-Z, there is nothing like having just one million dollar idea in a lifetime – he has one every morning. Jay Z has an estimated net worth of $500 million.
Will Smith – Cashing In on His Likability
Similar to Ice Cube, Will Smith also made the transition from being a rapper to becoming a major force in Hollywood. He first made waves on the screen as the young and handsome Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Even then, it was obvious that there was an easy charm and appeal to his demeanor that would most likely take him all the way to the top. However, it was blockbuster movies like Bad Boys, Independence Day and Men In Black that really launched him into the next stratosphere. Presently Will Smith has a net worth of over 200 million dollars, and it all started when he decided to make the transition from Fresh Prince (the rapper) to Will Smith (the actor).
Kanye West – Taking Intelligent, Insightful Hip-Hop Mainstream
When Kanye West first entered the rap industry as a rapper, he was taking a unique path and talking about issues that were never really spoken about in Hip-Hop. All the other rappers were talking about how rough and tough they were and how much money they had. Kanye West came in with singles like “Through the Wire” – a song on which he spoke about the near-fatal car accident that almost took his life. On other songs like “Jesus Walks” he spoke about religion (but not in a preachy way) and on “All Falls Down”, he explained the plight of young black women in the inner-city. It was a different and courageous approach and it worked. His 2004 album “College Dropout” was a super-smash and Mr. West continues to be a relevant, global superstar to this day.
Wiz Khalifa – Embracing His Inner Hippie
26 year-old rapper Wiz Khalifa is worth $20 million dollars, and a huge reason for his popularity was his decision to embrace a marketing strategy that most rappers would never dream of. In essence, what Wiz Khalifa has turned into during the last few years is the hip-hop version of Willie Nelson. When he first debuted on the scene around 2005, he was a regular rapper talking about the usual Hip-Hop subject matters. But as the years went by, he embraced his inner hippie and became an absolute proponent of the marijuana lifestyle. He grew his hair out, constantly rapped about “peace and love” and converted himself into the good time guy of the rap industry. The experiment worked and grew him a huge following of weed-loving fans both stateside and internationally. And yes – every time you see him, he may be smoking a joint, but when the high fades away, just know he’s still laughing himself to the bank.