Due to Forbes
Months-long tours and endorsement deals with companies such as Sprite and Hennessy enabled the highest-earning hip-hop artists on our annual list to bring in an average $44 million over the past year. Some of them also have acquired lucrative equity stakes, including Nas, 44, who makes the list for the first time a quarter-century after releasing his debut album. A few years back, Nas kindled a friendship with venture capitalist Ben Horowitz at a dinner party and has since snagged stakes in Silicon Valley darlings (Lyft, Coinbase) and online media (Genius, Mass Appeal).
His interest in these startups is only natural, he says. “[Hip-hop artists] are always advancing technology—from one turntable to two turntables and a fader.” He has already enjoyed some exits, including the reported $1.1 billion sale of doorbell startup Ring to Amazon in February. “There wasn’t a time when [rappers] didn’t think about investing. It just so happens that the world is opening up.”
Nas pulled in a career best $35 million in all, but that’s only good for No. 6 on the list—this year’s king of hip-hop cash is his former rival, Jay-Z, who returns to the top spot with a staggering $76.5 million haul. The multifaceted mogul hit the road in support of his album 4:44 after welcoming twins with wife, Beyoncé, in 2017. This year he’s kicking it up a notch with the launch of Everything Is Love, the couple’s first joint album, and a stadium tour, On The Run II.
After topping our list three years in a row, Diddy slips to the second spot with $64 million but still makes bank thanks largely to a beverage empire that includes Ciroc vodka, DeLeón tequila and Aquahydrate alkaline water. Kendrick Lamar rounds out the top three with a career-best $58 million tally while packing arenas from Los Angeles to London on his solo tour and as headliner of TDE: The Championship Tour. He’s also been cashing in on deals with Nike and American Express.