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Cash Kings 2011: Hip-Hop’s Top Earners

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stars banked more than any of their peers over the past 12 months.

This week, Jay-Z and Kanye West dropped their long-awaited
collaboration, Watch the Throne. The
album's timing and title couldn't have been more appropriate-the Empire State of Mind rapper is hip-hop's
top earner with $37 million in the past 12 months, claiming his fourth Cash
Kings crown in five years; his partner-in-rhyme ranked third.

by the tail end of his Blueprint 3 Tour and a vast portfolio of business
interests, Jay-Z barely edged second-ranked Diddy-who raked in $35 million,
roughly half of that total coming from a lucrative partnership with Diageo's
Ciroc vodka-but handily topped West, who earned $16 million. The duo is steaming
ahead with plans for co-headlining tour starting this fall.

and Kanye are hip-hop ambassadors," says Steve Stoute, chief of Translation
Marketing and author of The Tanning of
. "They bring the art form around the world, and they've taken
production and everything to the next level. Now they've got a chance to grow
with their global audience."

Watch The Throne rappers aren't the
only ones making millions by going global. Fresh off a eight-month jail stint,
Lil Wayne released a new album and performed a slew of shows from Buffalo to Vancouver,
netting $15 million over the past year. That sum tied him with his mentor and
label boss, Cash Money Records co-founder Birdman, for the fourth spot.

we ain't number one now, we'll be there soon," said Birdman, in the midst of
discussing his billion-dollar dreams with Forbes. Farther down
the list, Swizz Beatz also looked to the future: "I will be #1 next year," he wrote in an email. Wiz
Khalifa-whose high earnings landed him at No. 11-seemed
pleasantly surprised to learn he'd be making his Cash Kings debut. "I'm one of
them?" he exclaimed. "That's what's up!"


Khalifa's total was surpassed by a troika of grizzled veterans: Dr. Dre, Snoop
Dogg and Eminem, who tied for the sixth spot on the list at $14 million apiece.
Dre's income got a big boost from Beats by Dre, his lucrative headphone venture
with Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine; Snoop cashed in on touring and endorsements
from Pepsi Max, Metro PCS and others; Eminem continued to earn from his
Grammy-winning album, Recovery, as
well as a handful of lucrative concerts with Jay-Z at Yankee Stadium in New
York and Comerica Park in Detroit.

are four hip-hop artists that sell hard tickets: Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye and Lil
Wayne," says Randy Phillips, chief of concert promoter AEG. "Those are the big
four. In the past, it hasn't really been a live medium ... Is it changing? When
you look at the business Jay and Eminem did in Yankee Stadium, I think it is."

Touring was
one of the many revenue streams we looked at to come up with the Cash Kings
list, which charts pretax earnings for all living artists whose work is
primarily classified as hip-hop or rap. The estimates also include income from
record sales, digital downloads, films, merchandise sales, endorsements, books
and other entertainment ventures; management, agent and attorney fees are not
deducted. Earnings are calculated for the period from May 2010 to May 2011 and
based on data from Pollstar, Nielsen SoundScan, the Recording Industry
Association of America, and individual record labels, as well as interviews
with numerous lawyers, media buyers, managers and many of the artists

This year's list features plenty of newcomers. Besides the
aforementioned Wiz Khalifa, there's Nicki Minaj, who debuts at No. 15 with $6.5
million-making her the first female rapper ever to grace the list. Another,
Atlanta-based rapper-singer-songwriter B.o.B, squeaked on with $5 million.
Sandwiched between Minaj and B.o.B is an additional newbie, Pitbull, who
released two albums, performed 50-plus shows and inked a seven-figure
endorsement deal with Kodak.

is great with brands," says Adam Kluger, chief of brand partnership firm The
Kluger Agency. "Endorsements hip-hop artists work because hip-hop artists
typically set the most trends ... It's every brand's goal to be seen in the
mainstream, and hip-hop music has become mainstream music."

The Top 10

1. Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, $37 million -- Hip-hop's reigning Cash
King continues to reap the benefits of a 10-year $150 million Live Nation deal,
as well as stakes in the New Jersey Nets, the 40/40 Club chain, ad firm
Translation and others. This year marked the first time he out-earned wife
Beyonce since their marriage in 2008.

2. Sean "Diddy" Combs, $35 million -- Music now accounts for
less than 20% of earnings for the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy, thanks
to big stakes in clothing lines Sean John and Enyce, record label Bad Boy and
marketing firm Blue Flame. But it's his Ciroc vodka deal that led Forbes to
estimate his net worth at $475 million this winter.

3. Kanye West: $16 million -- The self-proclaimed
Louis Vuitton Don returns to the top three for the first time since 2009. His
new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, hit stores in
November, earned critical raves and quickly went platinum. His follow-up, Jay-Z
collaboration Watch the Throne, debuted on August

4. Dwayne "Lil Wayne"
Carter, $15 million
-- The lyricist reportedly
wrote his first song at age 8 and signed a record deal with Cash Money a year
later. Today he's one of rap's richest, despite serving eight months in jail
last year. His latest release, I Am Not A
Human Being
, made him the first artist since Tupac Shakur to have a No. 1 album while incarcerated.

4. Bryan
"Birdman" Williams, $15 million
-- The Cash Money chief continues to rake in cash from the label he
cofounded, home to fellow Cash Kings Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj. Excluded
from previous lists because we deemed him more executive than rapper, Birdman
was included this year because most of his peers now have a similar job

6. Marshall "Eminem" Mathers, $14 million -- Eminem doesn't tour as
much as many rappers and his outside business interests are limited, but music
alone was enough to blast him back into the upper reaches of the list this
year. His album Recovery sold 5.7 million
copies worldwide and earned 10 Gramm nominations. Normally non-commercial, he
added to his coffers with Super Bowl spots for Lipton and Chrysler.

6. Calvin "Snoop Dogg" Broadus, $14 million -- The ageless wonder of the West Coast turned in another strong
year, boosted by new album Doggumentary,
heavy touring and endorsements with companies from Metro PCS to Pepsi Max.
Icing on the proverbial cake: A verse on Katy Perry's smash hit "California

6. Andre "Dr. Dre" Young, $14 million -- The man who launched the careers of fellow Cash Kings including
Snoop Dogg, Eminem and 50 Cent keeps bringing in cash-namely from producer fees
and Beats by Dre, his lucrative headphone venture with Interscope chief Jimmy

9. Aliuane "Akon" Thiam, $13 million -- The Senegalese-American singer-songwriter-producer extraordinaire
caked up on a string of international concerts from Australia to Zimbabwe, a
lucrative World Cup spot with Pepsi, a host of business ventures and hit song
"I Just Had Sex," which has garnered over 115 million YouTube views since its
December debut.

10. Christopher "Ludacris" Bridges, $12 million -- The self-proclaimed Mouth of the South makes money from much more
than just music. This year, he earned big on movie roles including Fast Five,
No Strings Attached and New Year's Eve, as well as endorsements with Tag body
spray and Trojan condoms. He also struck partnership deals to launch Soul By
Ludacris headphones and a cognac called Conjure.

Photo credits: Getty Images

Related Links:

Full List: Hip-Hop's Highest Earners

The World's 25
Highest Paid Musicians

The Top-Earning
American Idols

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