The hip-hop music industry is a good way to make money. However, many musicians nowadays know that the money isn’t just with making music anymore; it’s also with scouting for young talent, producing music, and endorsing clothing lines and other products.
So who are the top hip-hop artists who made the most money so far this year from their music and other pursuits?
20 Lil Jon – $6 million
Before Jonathan Smith made it big in rap, he was part of a group called Lil Jon and The East Side Boyz as an international DJ. He later left the group to go solo and released his album Crunk Rock in 2010. When not performing onstage he is also into songwriting, producing and even acting. He has also appeared in two seasons of The Celebrity Apprentice.
19 50 Cent – $7 million
When 50 Cent first hit the streets it was to sell drugs. Fortunately he was able to leave this life behind when Eminem discovered him and signed him up with Interscope Records. He was eventually able to release several albums, the most successful of which was Get Rich or Die Tryin’ which went platinum eight times. 50 Cent has also tried other ventures, becoming a licensed boxing promoter first with TMT Promotions and SMS Promotions.
18 Tech N9ne – $7.5 million
Aaron Dontez Yates took his stage name from the infamous “bad buy gun” the TEC-9 semiautomatic handgun after another rapper credited his fast Chopper-style rapping. Tech N9ne's music is so varied it has been featured in many films like Born 2 Race, Gang Related, Alpha Dog, and video games Madden NFL 2006, Midnight Club: Los Angeles and EA Sports MMA. His music was even used in an AXE body spray ad.
17 Swizz Beatz – $8.5 million
Like many rappers, Kasseem David Dean started his music career as a DJ. At 16 he became known in the music industry after working with rapper DMX. Swizz Beatz has released two albums under his own label Full Surface Records; Swizz Beatz Presents G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories and One Man Band Man. When not busy with his music he is also a creative director, fashion designer and also a painter.
16 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – $9 million
Macklemore (formerly known as Professor Macklemore) and producer Ryan Lewis were able to take their single “Thrift Shop” all the way to no. 1 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. A second single “Can’t Hold Us” also reached no. 1 on the Hot 100 list. It is considered a feat considering they did not have the support of a major record label. Currently, they have jointly been nominated World’s Best Male Artist in the World Music Awards.
15 Pharrell Williams – $9 million
When not performing onstage or writing songs, Pharrell Williams, also known just as Pharrell, produces records with his friend Chad Hugo. Williams has produced numerous hit singles for various musicians and has won four Grammy Awards. He is also the co-founder of the clothing brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream Clothing.
14 Kendrick Lamar – $9 million
Before releasing his first studio album in October 2012, Kendrick Lamar had already gained critical acclaim for his independent album, become a hit on the Internet and worked with Dr. Dre, Drake, Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne. Recently he was also crowned the no. 1 Hottest MC by MTV.
13 Eminem – $10 million
He is best known for hits “Stan”, “The Real Slim Shady” and was once declared the “King of Hip-Hop”, a rare accolade for a white man in a music industry dominated by African-Americans. He also starred in a movie about his own biography 8 Mile and won the Academy Award for best song, becoming the first rap artist to ever win the award. He is currently into producing records, although he has also announced he is set to release a studio album soon.
12 Snoop Lion – $10 million
He has changed his stage name several times now (from Snoop Doggy Dog to Snoop Dogg to Snoop Lion) but fans will always be familiar with his style. Snoop Lion first appeared onstage in 1992 after he was discovered by Dr. Dre and from then on his career has been on the rise. Always a colorful character, he once announced he smokes as much as 80 marijuana sticks a day and says he was actually a real pimp at one time.
11 Drake – $10.5 million
Prior to rapping, Aubrey Drake Graham actually acted in a Canadian TV series Degrassi and was featured in 138 episodes in all. By 24 he had already acted in TV, gone to art school and was ready for something new and started to make music. His songs caught the attention Lil Wayne who invited him to tour with him. They recorded several successful songs and several years and albums later, Drake finally made his own name, being ranked no. 2 in MTV's Hottest MCs and the no.1 Rhythmic artist of 2012.
10 Pitbull – $11 million
Before releasing his first album M.I.A.M.I., Pitbull was first heard in Lil Jon’s album Kings of Crunk. However, it was not until his fifth album Planet Pit that he finally had a song, "Give Me Everything”, reach the Billboard Hot 100. Now Pitbull has become a sensation and is sometimes referred to as “Mr. International”. Pitbull is known for his stylish clothes, as opposed to other rappers who dress flamboyantly or typical rapper attire.
9 Ludacris – $12 million
Christopher Brian Bridges started rapping as early as nine years old. He also worked as a DJ before hitting the bigtime and releasing albums, among them Word of Mouf and The Red Light District. Ludacris is also an actor and has appeared in movies like Max Payne, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Crash, Gamer, Fast Five, New Year's Eve and Fast & Furious 6. He has also won a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Critic’s Choice Award.
8 Wiz Khalifa – $14 million
Born Cameron Jibril Thomas, Wiz Khalifa released his debut album Show and Prove in 2006 before eventually rising to become one of the most familiar figures in hip-hop music today. He is also known for his avid use of marijuana, claiming he spends as much as $10,000 a month on the drug. He recently announced he will be coming up with a new album soon.
7 Lil Wayne – $16 million
There’s nothing little about Lil Wayne. The flamboyant rapper, producer and CEO has been making it big since first signing up with Cash Money Records in 1991 at the age of nine. However, he announced he would retire from the music industry after he turns 35. He has since taken up other interests, including charity work with his non-profit One Family Foundation.
6 Kanye West – $20 million
He gained notoriety for interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech during the 2009 Video Music Awards, but by then Kanye West was already a legend in the music industry with his hits “Love Lockdown” and “Heartless”. Away from the stage he keeps himself busy with his clothing line and new baby North West along with fiance Kim Kardashian.
5 Birdman – $21 million
Known for his hits “I Got That Work” in 2000 and “Hood Rich” in 2002, Bryan Williams also worked with many other rappers to produce many more hits including "Stuntin' Like My Daddy" and "Leather So Soft". Birdman is also the CEO of Cash Money Records, which signed Limp Bizkit, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj.
4 Nicki Minaj – $29 million
Famous for her fast and accented style of rapping, Nicki Minaj is no pushover, holding the record as the first female solo artist to have seven singles simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100. She also has a ton of endorsements to her name including Pepsi, Adidas and Mac Cosmetics.
3 Dr. Dre – $40 million
Andre Rommel Young started his career as a club DJ before he started rapping. Now he is one of the most recognized hip-hop artists in the world. With Jimmy Iovine and Luke Wood, he also founded Beats Electronics, now also one of the most recognized headphones manufacturers in the world.
2 Jay Z – $43 million
He started his career in 1986 but has moved up from selling his CDs from the back of his car to owning his own record and clothing labels. Jay Z is also known for his vocal support of President Barack Obama and has given money to charity, including Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
1 Diddy – $50 million
Sean Combs in real life, Diddy’s debut album in 1997 No Way Out was certified seven times platinum. Since then he has made a name for himself not just as a rapper, but also as an actor, record producer and entrepreneur. His biggest earnings currently come from his share as Ciroc vodka developer and his Enyce clothing line.
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