Forbes Ranks Hip-Hop’s Top 20 Highest Earners: Jay-Z Tops List

By Alexis Stodghill on Aug 18th 2010 5:16PM

Forbes’ list of Hip-Hop’s Top 20 Highest Earners was just released, with names you would expect like Jay-Z and Diddy topping the list. Artists and entrepreneurs like Carter and Combs have been on their game for a while, so having perfected their hustle these multi-million dollar earnings come as no surprise. But some names on this year’s Forbes list of Hip-Hop’s Top 20 Highest Earners are new and even shocking:

1. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter – $63 Million

2. Sean “Diddy” Combs – $30M

3. Aliuane “Akon” Thiam – $21M

4. Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Carter – $20M

5. Andre “Dr. Dre” Young – $17M

6. Christopher “Ludacris” Bridges – $16M

7. Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broadus – $15M

8. Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley – $14M

9. Pharrell Williams – $13M

10. Kanye West – $12M

11. Aubrey “Drake” Graham – $10M

12. Clifford “T.I.” Harris – $9M (tie)

12. Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean – $9M (tie)

14. Marshall “Eminem” Mathers – $8M (tie)

14. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson – $8M (tie)

14. Jay “Young Jeezy” Jenkins – $8M (tie)

17. Lonnie “Common” Lynn Jr. – $7M

18. DeAndre “Soulja Boy” Way – $6M (tie)

18. Faheem “T-Pain” Najm – $6M (tie)

20. Jonathan “Lil Jon” Smith – $5M (tie)

20. Radric “Gucci Mane” Davis – $5M (tie)

20. William “Rick Ross” Roberts – $5M (tie)

Which is more shocking: that Gucci Mane made $5 million in the past 12 months, or that Drake’s first name is Aubrey? However you spin it, these two artists appearing on Forbes’ list of Hip-Hop’s Top 20 Highest Earners marks a significant achievement. As relative newcomers who don’t have the entrenched fan base of most of the other stars, Gucci Mane and Drake have competed successfully against even megastars like Eminem.

What could be the secret to their success? Indeed, how have many of these men managed to make millions of dollars year after year despite the downward trend in music sales and the fickle nature of hip-hop audiences? The key might be a basic lesson that should always be applied by every investor and, if possible, business owner: diversification. Hip-Hop stars, probably more than any other group of entertainers, are the least risk averse and are willing to try their hand at any project that could be lucrative. From Queen Latifah to Diddy, top earning hip hop stars are quick to parlay their names in the realms of movies, fashion, beauty, television, wine, energy drinks, business books, liquor, soft drinks, personal appearances, sunglasses, and restaurants, just to name a few.

Most high earners in hip hop are able to develop multiple streams of income, which not only lead to huge sums of cash, but also enable them to remain financially stable if some sources of income dry up. This ability to try out many types of business ventures without shame, worrying too much about being qualified, or caring at all about being judged, all in the spirit of fun, is a great business trait that high earning hip-hop stars exemplify. People in almost any profession from all walks of life can fruitfully apply this money lesson. Hip-hop’s highest earners also know how to get out of a business that is failing without remorse. Stars like Eve and Busta Rhymes have abandoned ailing clothing lines, for example, then fearlessly moved on with their careers.

The top 20 highest earning artists in hip-hop have taken a lot of well-deserved flack for promoting negative values in our community. But for once, let’s give credit where credit is due. Forbes’ list of Hip-Hop’s Top 20 Highest Earners includes some of the smartest and hardest working businessmen in America today. The hustle, creativity, and productivity of these high earning hip-hop stars cannot be denied. Let’s hope that as role models they are able to convey these qualities to today’s youth.