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The Forbes Five: Hip-Hop’s Wealthiest Artists

Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter has had quite a career thus far. Since debuting in 1996 with hip-hop classic Reasonable Doubt, he has sold over 50 million records worldwide. He's parlayed his musical success into lucrative businesses in the realms of fashion, cuisine and advertising (for more, check out my new Jay-Z book, which hits stores next week). Last year he earned $63 million, tops among hip-hop artists for the third time in four years.

But when it comes to net worth, Jay-Z is number two. The top spot goes to Sean "Diddy" Combs, who tops our accounting of rap's richest with a fortune of $475 million, fueled by his interests in Sean John clothing, Bad Boy Worldwide record label and, most significantly, his Diageo joint-venture vodka brand Ciroc. Jay-Z ranks a close second, with $450 million.

In Pictures: Hip-Hop's Wealthiest Artists

Superproducer/rapper Dr. Dre ranks third with $125 million, fueled by past earnings generated from his own career and by helping to launch those of Snoop Dogg and Eminem. Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, a onetime Dr. Dre protege who reaped a nine-figure payday from the sale of Vitamin Water to Coca-Cola, rounds out the top five in a tie with Cash Money Records cofounder Bryan "Birdman" Williams at $100 million.

Methodology

In order to form the list, we followed the same procedures we use to calculate the list of the world's billionaires (released today) - valuing current holdings, looking at past earnings, leafing through financial documents and talking to a bevy of analysts, attorneys, managers and other industry players to find the nitty-gritty details. We considered only performers, which is why hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons isn't on this list.

Though other hip-hop artists including Lil Wayne, Pharrell Williams, Rick Ross and others - not to mention pop sensation Bruno Mars, who penned Travie McCoy's hit song "Billionaire" - frequently speak of ten-figure desires, we kept our list to five because of the lack of information available on the fortunes under $100 million.

Related links:

Jay-Z Speaks Financial Truth In New Song With Kanye West
The Celebrities Most In Need Of Career Rehab
Why Lady Gaga Will Earn $100 Million in 2011

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