Top 20 Highest-Paid Hip Hop Artists of 2015

You may, depending on your age, be more familiar with music that he released two decades ago, but Diddy remains the “Cash King” of hip-hop for 2015. This is according to Zack O'Malley Greenburg of Forbes, who claimed in September of 2015 that Diddy earned $60 million over the past year. The days of Sean Combs being involved just in the music industry are, of course, a thing in the past, as the artist now known as Diddy is a brand unto himself. A successful clothing line, advertising relationships and an entertainment television station (Revolt) are just a few of the business endeavors that Diddy has outside of the music that he records and produces.

Second on the list is a man who is a legend of the hip-hop industry but who is also No. 2 in fan popularity among artists from his own home. Jay-Z has, in recent memory, become as known as being the husband as Beyonce as he is for all of the noteworthy accomplishments he has achieved during his career. No disrespect meant to the man, but fans do not get a “King Jay” hashtag trending on websites such as Twitter and Instagram whenever Jay-Z releases new material. “Queen Bey,” however, brings up hundreds of thousands of results on social media on a daily basis even if Beyonce has done nothing in the public eye as of late.

Third on the list is Drake, who found himself rather busy over the past year. When he has not been raking in millions of dollars via successful tour stops, Drake has (allegedly) been winning Twitter battles versus other artists. Dr. Dre, the biggest icon in the eyes of diehard hip-hop fans to crack into the top-five of the highest paid artists for 2015, could be even higher on next year's list due to a movie that was a hit among theater-goers. Last but certainly not least in the top-five is Pharrell, who will seemingly only be on the rise in such lists in the foreseeable future.


19 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: $5.5 Million 


It would be a safe bet to assume that you should not get used to seeing Macklemore and Ryan Lewis this low in the list of the highest-paid hip-hop artists in the world. The duo that had an incredibly popular hit with “Thrift Shop” is at it again with “Downtown,” which began shooting up the charts at the end of the summer of 2015. Chaz Kangas of LA Weekly wrote in early September of this year that the time has come for everybody to stop hating Macklemore. Regardless of the detractors, they cannot say much negative about the amounts of money he and Lewis have brought in over the past several years.

19. T.I.: $6 Million


Say whatever you will about hip-hop artist T.I.. He has not been afraid to keep his musical options open. T.I. moved his music and his Grand Hustle label from Atlantic Records to Columbia Records, but that relationship lasted just two years and resulted in a single album. T.I. talked about his latest decision while speaking with HitsDailyDouble in September of 2015: “Having just exited my deal at Columbia, I was a rogue artist, busting creativity, just waiting to put music in the marketplace, so while I'm sorting out my next situation, I'm blessed enough to be able to control my destiny and put music out as quickly as I want to, and was able to release a TIP album, which I had wanted to do for a long time.”

18 Ludacris: $8 Million 


Ludacris is the first hip-hot artist who his mentioned in this list to have cashed in on the massive movie hit Furious 7. His earnings came from his role of Tej Parker in the Fast and Furious series, a series that could lead up to a total of ten movies when all is said and done. Ludacris, known to be a “car guy,” has a long history of acting in movie and television roles, and he has also continued creating and releasing music. His Ludaversal album, one that was released in March of this year, debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard charts.

17 Tech N9ne: $8.5 Million 


Nobody can dare suggest that Tech N9ne has not put in the necessary work to make the millions of dollars that he brought in over the year. Forbes claims that he played 132 total shows during what the website calls its “scoring period.” How much Tech will financially be affected by a personal decision that he made in 2015 has yet to be determined. Tech, according to TMZ, filed for divorce in September of this year. Maybe the biggest takeaway from that TMZ story is that Tech and his wife had allegedly been separated for a decade. There is something to be said for taking time to make such an important call.

16 Rick Ross: $9 Million 


Touring and making music account for just two aspects of the portfolio had by hip-hop artist Rick Ross. Ross, according to a Forbes story that was published in September 2014, owned 9 different Wingstop franchises at that time. He explained to Forbes why he chose to pursue those opportunities: “I just love Wingstop. As you can see, the energy in here is always fun. It’s always youthful. Not only that, you know they got my favorite lemon pepper wings in the world, so it’s just a natural attraction.” Now, the Internet has to find a way to have a Wingstop/Papa John's joint promotion that lead to commercials starring Ross and National Football League quarterback Peyton Manning.

15 Snoop Dogg: $10 Million 

Snoop Dogg. Snoop Lion. The legend of the hip-hop industry can call himself whatever he wants. Snoop continues to be a huge draw whenever he embarks on tours, but his music career has become just one part of an overall brand. He made news when he publicly backed Hilary Clinton as his candidate of choice for the 2016 presidential election. Snoop makes appearances on sports programming such as ESPN property SportsCenter. The soccer fan has had a relationship with EA Sports and the FIFA video game series. Do not think about crossing Snoop, though, because he is not afraid to hit back in court.

14 J. Cole: $11 Million 


J. Cole promised that the “Internet will shutdown” in September of 2015 when he teased a joint album featuring himself and Kendric Lamar, who is next on the list of the highest-paid hip-hop artists of the past year. Cole did well on his own last year, as his 2014 Forest Hills Drive album sold 354,000 copies in its first week according to Forbes. Other than his music projects, Cole has kept himself busy with the Dreamville Foundation. This foundation has, among other things, served to provide for the urban youth of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Cole's childhood home.

13 Kendrick Lamar: $12 Million 

Natalie Robehmed of Forbes referred to Kendrick Lamar as the “most critically acclaimed rapper in the world right now” in a piece that was published by the website in September 2015. As is pointed out by Robehmed, such acclaim and respect does not always equal historic sales figures. While speaking with Robehmed back in 2013, Lamar explained how the business end of his mind was working at that time: “In the business end, it just shows me: Always be critical and smart about the moves you make. All money ain’t good money.” That you don't see Lamar endorsing all kinds of products shows that he has, to date, been a man of his word.


12 Lil Wayne: $15 Million 


That $15 million that Lil Wayne made over the past year did not come without multiple controversial moments. He was one of three big names, all of which are mentioned in this piece, involved in a huge lawsuit that was made public during the summer months. A business deal gone wrong was said to have played a role in the tour bus of Lil Wayne being shot up in April. Lil Wayne found himself involved in a sex tape scandal in September of 2015. The hip-hop artist will, according to TMZ, take the matter to court if a company chooses to sell that tape.

11 Pitbull: $17 Million 


Asia. North America. Europe. Pitbull has, with his touring schedule, consistently earned the “Mr. Worldwide”/”Mr. International” nicknames associated with the famous artist. He notched a first for himself in the summer of 2015 when his Dale album was No. 1 among Latin titles. Outside of the music world, Pitbull has had numerous endorsement deals over the years. National Football League fans had become accustomed to seeing Pitbull featured in commercials during regular season games. Bud Light, Dr. Pepper and Fiat are just three companies that have used the hip-hop superstar in ads.

10 Birdman: $18 Million 


Birdman continued to bring in millions upon millions of dollars over the past year, but he has been in the news during the second half of 2015 for other matters. He announced his intentions to take on both Jay-Z and Lil Wayne in court back in July of this year (h/t TMZ). Chicago emcee Mikkey Halsted claimed in September of 2015, according to the DJBooth website, that Cash Money Records, co-founded by Birdman, owes him $500,000. Mikkey also hinted that he has other stories about Birdman and Cash Money that could not be told until he received money that he believes is owed to him.

9 Nicki Minaj: $21 Million 

The queen of hip-hop and the only women to crack into the top-ten of the highest-paid hip-hop artists for 2015 had herself a banner year. According to Forbes, Nicki Minaj made 50 percent more than what she raked in during the previous year. Along with her touring, musical releases and her endorsement deals with companies such as Pepsi, Minaj has offered blueprints for how to keep her name in the news when she is not performing in front of audiences. Along with generating large followings on social media websites such as Instagram, Minaj has also been involved with “feuds” with celebrities such as Miley Cyrus.

8 Wiz Khalifa: $21.5 Million 


The 28-year-old who has loved to drop shout-outs to adopted home Pittsburgh had his best year according to the Forbes lists of the highest paid hip-hop artists. Wiz Khalifa can attribute much of his success to the “See You Again” duet that was featured in blockbuster movie Furious 7. His merchandise sales and his touring also helped put Khalifa ahead of other big-names artists such as Pitbull and Nicki Minaj in this list. If the past year has offered any signs of what is to come for the artist, the future should only bring bigger and better days for Khalifa.

7 Kanye West: $22 Million 

Anybody want to bet that Kanye West will notice, financially speaking, that he is not in the top-five of the highest paid hip-hop artists for 2015? Didn't think so. West once again had a noteworthy year, collaborating with Adidas on a new clothing line and making news with his antics at another awards show. Do not forget that the husband of Kim Kardashian has vowed that he has plans to run for president for the 2020 election. Doubters have already tossed this claim aside, but one has to ask: Is West really that much of a drop-off from presidential candidate Donald Trump?

6 Eminem: $31 Million 


Remember when those rumors that Eminem was considering retirement first emerged roughly a decade ago? It turns out that Slim Shady is doing just fine for himself as of 2015, thank you very much. Shawn Setaro of Forbes wrote about the “rebirth” of Eminem in September of 2015, detailing how Eminem has done more than just sign and cash royalty checks during this stage of the hip-hop artist's career. Eminem has had business relationships with companies such as Chrysler and Title Boxing, and he released the soundtrack for the movie Southpaw. Eminem also proved with two successful shows at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey that he can still make millions by drawing crowds to stadiums for shows.

5 Pharrell: $32 Million 

Every artist, whether he wants to admit it or not, yearns to create that one song that will live on for generations long after he has retired from the industry. While he may have another in him down the road, “Happy” is currently that song for Pharrell. “Happy” has become a favorite among younger and older fans who have heard the tune across multiple forms of entertainment, including television commercials. Along with touring and other musical endeavors, Pharrell makes millions of dollars due to appearing on television show The Voice and also from clothing lines.

4 Dr. Dre: $33 Million 


Want to feel even older than you may be at this stage of your life? There is a generation of consumers who know the name Dre because of headphones, but who could not name a single original song that has been produced and released by the iconic performer. The Forbes story reports that the sales of Beats earned Dr. Dre $620 million over the past year. That, according to Forbes, was a historic payday for a musician. Along with the Beats brand, Dr. Dre had a hand in the popular movie Straight Outta Compton, and he wisely released a studio album as that film was gaining international headlines.

3 Drake: $39.5 Million 

The artist known simply as Drake has come a long way since he played the role of Jimmy Brooks on the television series Degrassi. Drake is now a hip-hop artist who is capable of filling stadiums and averaging close to $1 million per show that he plays. Outside of the music industry, Drake has served as a “global ambassador” for National Basketball Association team the Toronto Raptors. Drake was also credited for bringing former Tottenham Hotspur forward Jermain Defoe to Major League Soccer side Toronto FC, a move that did do many favors for the player or for the MLS club.

2 Jay-Z: $56 Million 


Jay-Z was in entertainment headlines earlier this year because of his involvement in a new streaming service. The parent company for the TIDAL service was purchased by Jay-Z in March of 2015, and how well or how poorly this concept is embraced could have impacts on future business decisions. Jay-Z has reminded all that he is far more than just a man behind the scenes these days, as his performances with wife Beyonce made both performers massive amounts of cash. Outside of music, Jay-Z has sports agency Roc Nation Sports in his portfolio. C.C Sabathia, Dez Bryant and Robinson Cano are just three of the superstars who have relationships with Roc Nation.

1 Diddy: $60 Million 

Call him Puff Daddy. Call him Puffy. Refer to him as P. Diddy, Diddy, or any other name that he comes up for himself in the future. Sean Combs is the king of the mountain as it pertains to the highest paid hip-hop artists for 2015, bringing in $60 million during the past year according to the Forbes list. Diddy is reportedly working on a new album of his own, but he would financially be set for life and then some if he walked away from the industry entirely. Clothing line Sean John and a variety of other business relationships has made Diddy royalty beyond the world of hip-hop.


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