Back in 2007, Jay-Z, Diddy and 50 Cent released “I Get Money (The Forbes 1-2-3 Billionaire Remix).” The song was a celebration of the artists’ inclusion atop the first-ever Forbes Hip-Hop Cash Kings list, now an annual package on the genre’s top-earning artists. It seems fitting that those same three artists find themselves in an even more exclusive group—the Forbes Five, a short list of hip-hop’s wealthiest moguls.
Indeed, the original trio boasts a combined net worth well over a billion dollars, rendering their lyrical prognostications accurate. They’re joined by Dr. Dre, flush with cash from his Beats headphone line, and Cash Money Records cofounder Bryan “Birdman” Williams.
“One of my motivations in life is to be a billionaire,” said Birdman in a telephone interview with FORBES. “We’re going to keep working hard until we get our brand to be as big as possible. That’s the goal in life, that’s what I live for.”
Diddy is the closest to becoming a billionaire, leading the pack with a net worth of $550 million. The Bad Boy Records founder has remained a mainstream mainstay for 15 years thanks to his knack for self-promotion. Lately, he’s been channeling that energy toward Diageo-backed Ciroc vodka, much to the benefit of his bank account: he receives double-digit millions annually as a share of profits. Sales of the spirit spiked 122% last year in the wake of strong demand for new flavor Ciroc Peach; he is entitled to a nine-figure chunk of cash if the brand is ever sold.
Diddy also boasts stakes in clothing lines Sean John and Enyce, marketing firm Blue Flame, record label Bad Boy and a handful of tech startups. But it’s his deal with Comcast to launch cable channel Revolt in 2013 that could push him into billionaire territory. He’ll own the channel outright, and based on projected viewership totals, its value could soar into the low-to-mid nine figures within the next few years.
Next up is Jay-Z at $460 million. Unlike his fellow Forbes Five members, Jay-Z still churns out music and goes on tour—most recently with pal Kanye West—adding to his considerable war chest. He sold his Rocawear clothing label for $204 million in 2007 and signed 10-year $150 million deal with Live Nation in 2008, and also holds stakes in the New Jersey Nets, his 40/40 Club chain, ad firm Translation, cosmetics company Carol’s Daughter and other businesses. (For more on his rise as a businessman, check out Zack’s Jay-Z biography, Empire State of Mind).
1. Diddy: $550 Million
2. Jay-Z: $460 Million
3. Dr. Dre: $270 Million
4. Birdman: $125 Million
5. 50 Cent: $100 Million