When hip-hop first started in the late 70s, nobody knew how big the genre would become. As gangster rap ruled the 80s and the emergence of social hip-hop in the 90s, what was once a form of self-expression became a money-making machine. Some of the richest rappers in the world arrived during this period of time.
In the same way many young African Americans saw sport as a way out, rap soon became another escape route from a life of poverty and gang violence. More and more people from all backgrounds have turned to rap and are enjoying the fruits of their labor, as the genre dominates the music charts once ruled by rock.
While many of the names on this list will be familiar, there are a few who might surprise. We have gathered information from various sources on the internet, including Wealthy Gorilla, Slice, and Celebrity Net Worth, to come up with this list.
From cultural disrupter Kanye West to legendary producer and rapper Dr Dre, these are the 18 richest rappers in the world.
18 Richest Rappers in the World
18. Timbaland – $85 Million
While his rap career isn’t that great, his work as a record producer has seen Timbaland widely regarded by the hip-hop fraternity. He made a name for himself as Missy Elliot’s go-to producer in the late 90s before carving his own path. Timberland is responsible for more hits from the early to mid-00s than you can poke a stick at. His work with the likes of Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, OneRepublic, Nelly, and Drake has made him a household name.
Unlike many of the artists on this list, the majority of Timbo’s mola comes from his production work. He’s able to charge huge sums of money for his time, although it’s certainly worth it, as the majority of his productions chart well.
17. Adam Horovitz – $90 Million
Beastie Boys member Adam Horovitz has earned a tidy sum over his four-decade career. While the hip-hop trio ended in 2012 after the death of Adam Yauch, Horovitz has continued to stay involved with anything Beastie Boys relates. He’s also worked as a producer, given acting a go, and invested wisely, which is why he has a nice fat bank balance.
17. Michael Diamond – $90 Million
Another Beastie Boys alumni, Michael Diamond, or Mike D, has managed to acquire the same amount of wealth as his buddy Ad-Rock. This probably isn’t all that surprising considering both are still involved with any Beastie Boys release or merchandise related to the band, splitting the profits evenly.
Since the end of the Bestie Boys, Diamond has followed a similar path to Horovitz; producing several songs and albums while also recording his own solo material. Diamond also hosts the Apple Music show The Echo Chamber.
16. Nicki Minaj – $100 Million
When talking about the richest rappers, it was only a matter of time before Nicki Minaj made her presence felt. The Trinidad and Tobago MC was raised in New York and fast became the biggest thing in rap. She is absolutely dynamite on the mic and has won just about every award you can think of.
While music has made her stacks of cash, it’s the endorsement deals that really put Minaj in another stratosphere. Collaborations with MAC Cosmetics, Nokia, and Pepsi have topped up her bank account, while her tours have also earned Minaj millions.
Her father was also a financial advisor so it’s no surprise Minaj is good with her money. Although she hasn’t been overly active lately due to the pandemic and the birth of her first child, Minaj is said to be working on her fifth album which will hopefully arrive sometime soon.
15. Pitbull – $100 Million
Mr. Worldwide is also Mr. Richy Rich. Florida rapper Pitbull might not be a favorite of hip-hop purists, but there is no denying the man makes money. He’s sold over 25 million albums and 100 million singles worldwide. He’s also won 35 Billboard Latin Music Awards and even has a Grammy Award for the category Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album for his Spanish record Dale.
Pitbull has endorsed many large companies and is the spokesman and majority owner of Voli Vodka. He gives a lot back to the Spanish community and is involved in several charities and organizations. He’s also the co-owner of the NASCAR Cup Series team Trackhouse Racing, which is where a large portion of his fortune is invested.
14. LL Cool J – $120 Million
Ladies Love Cool James is still making the big bucks as Special Agent Sam Hanna on the long-running TV drama NCIS: Los Angeles. It’s believed he’s making over $350,000 per episode, which is a long way from his days as an aspiring rapper.
That’s not taking anything away from his music career, with LL Cool J extremely popular in the 80s and early 90s with hit songs “Going Back To Cali,” “Rock the Bells,” “Mama Said Knock You Out,” and “Doin’ It.”
But it’s safe to say the majority of his fortune comes from his acting career. Along with NCIS: Los Angeles, LL Cool J is the host of Lip Sync Battle and has starred in plenty of great movies, including Deep Blue Sea and Any Given Sunday.
13. Swizz Beatz – $150 Million
Swizz Beatz isn’t much of a rapper. While he does spit the occasional rhyme, he’s made his fortune as a record producer. He became part of the Ruff Ryders crew as an 18-year-old, working with the likes of DMX, Eve, and Drag-On. He continued to work with up-and-coming rappers, such as Jay-Z and Cassidy, before truly breaking out in the mid-00s when he turned pop.
The New Yorker started working with the likes of Beyonce, Gwen Stefani, and future wife Alicia Keys. This took him to another level of fame and resulted in Beatz becoming one of the most in-demand producers on the planet.
Along with music, Beatz has made his fortune through property and the energy drink Monster. He’s also had several high-paying endorsement deals that have contributed to his $150 million bank balance.
12. Birdman – $150 Million
While his rap career isn’t great, Birdman claims a spot on this list due to his association with Cash Money Records. He co-founded the label with his brother Roland “Slim” Williams in 1992 and watched it grow into one of the biggest labels on the planet. The main reason for this is Lil Wayne, who Birdman mentored at a young age.
Birdman signed the likes of Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Drake to various deals with his label, earning him a solid slice of their income. His business methods have been questioned, with Birdman being very “hands-on” and known to coerce people into signing bad contracts. Whatever the case, Birdman continues to make lots of money and finds himself on this list with an estimated net worth of $150 million.
11. Snoop Dogg – $150 Million
Snoop Dogg is another 90s rapper who finds himself on the list of the richest rappers in the world. Unlike his peers Dr Dre and Ice Cube, he can’t quite crack the top ten, with an estimated net worth of $150 million. Discovered by Dre and featured on his album The Chronic, Snoop has had an incredibly successful career, releasing 19 albums and a whopping 175 singles.
And it’s not just rap, with Snoop Dogg giving reggae a crack on Reincarnated and gospel a go on Bible of Love. He’s also given acting a try – more often than not starring in below-average comedies and horrors – has his own cannabis line, and recently purchased Death Row Records, giving him access to the 90s label’s entire back catalog.
10. Ice Cube – $160 Million
Kicking off the top ten is rapper turned actor Ice Cube. Starting his career as part of gangster rap group NWA, Cube had a massive impact on the rap game during the late 80s and early 90s. After breaking away from NWA, he released a slew of well-received solo albums that dealt with many social issues facing young black men in America.
During this time in his career Cube also began starring in movies, making his debut in the classic gangster movie Boyz n the Hood and showing his comedic chops in Friday. Cube seemed to get a taste for the bright lights of Hollywood and soon transitioned into acting, which is where he’s made the bulk of his fortune.
While movies like the Barbershop franchise, Ride Along 1 & 2, and XXX: State of the Union might not be the most artistic movies ever made, they all did extremely well at the box office, helping Cube get very rich in the process.
9. Lil Wayne – $170 Million
Love him or hate him, there is no disputing Lil Wayne’s greatness in the rap world. He went on an absolute tear during the mid-00s when his albums and singles topped the charts. He was absolutely everywhere and you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing a Lil Wayne song. Young Tune has turned this success into a healthy bank balance.
He’s $170 million fortune comes mainly from the music he has made as well as the record label Young Money Entertainment, which he founded. The label counts Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Christina Milian amongst its roster, with former signees including DJ Khaled and Tyga.
8. Master P – $200 Million
Master P might not be a familiar name to those born in the 90s, but at one time he was arguably the biggest rapper in the game. The New Orleans entrepreneur opened the record store No Limit Records And Tapes and began releasing his own music. He caught on fire with the single “I’m Bout’ It, Bout It” and soon found himself signing rappers left, right, and center as he continued to build his empire.
While music has certainly played a major role in Master P’s financial security, his investment deals have also helped him grow his net worth. Unlike many young rappers who spend their money on stupid shit like cars and clothes, Master P invested in real estate and businesses. He owns over 100 properties across the United States along with a travel agency, a Footlocker store, and several more profitable ventures.
Although not in the music spotlight as much as he once was (he hasn’t put out an album in six years), Master P continues to appear regularly on television and in movies while cashing cheques from all his other businesses.
7. Eminem – $230 Million
The only white rapper to appear on this list, Eminem’s career is full of controversy. Rising to fame with the Dr Dre produced albums The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP, and The Eminem Show, Eminem became one of the most talked about rappers in the early 00s. He has continued to release top-selling albums since then and has sold over 170 million albums worldwide.
Eminem is said to earn around $5o million a year when touring, which fell to around $10-$20 million during the pandemic due to Em not being able to play live. He also has his own label, Shady Records, which released many of his most recent albums. The Grammy Award winner is still as sharp as ever with the pen and every record release is met with much fanfare and dollar signs.
6. Pharrell Williams – $250 Million
Ok, he might not be a rapper per se, but we thought it is worth including Pharrell Williams thanks to his connection to the hip-hop world. Williams, along with producing partner Chad Hugo, got their start making beats for rap and R&B artists in the 90s. Pharrell also fronts the rap-rock group N.E.R.D., which has a huge following around the world.
The majority of Williams’ wealth comes from his solo career. While his two albums, In My Mind and Girl, were moderate successes, it’s the singles, such as “Happy,” that have catapulted Willimas into the fifth spot on the richest rappers list. Being part of the Robin Thicke track “Blurred Lines” also contributed greatly to his success. It’s all the hit singles and albums he has produced that have lined his pockets.
5. Drake – $250 Million
Tying with Pharrell Williams, Drake has a cool $250 million sitting in his bank account, as long as he hasn’t gambled it all away yet. The “God’s Plan” and “Hotline Bling” rapper has graduated from playing dorky Jimmy on Degrassi: The Next Generation to a successful rapper who has sold over 170 million albums worldwide.
Along with making bank thanks to music, Drake has several money-drawing ventures, such as Virginia Black whiskey, one of the highest-selling whiskies in Canada, and his collaboration with Nike. He also recently became part owner of Italian football club A.C. Milan.
His ability to take the piss out of himself, resulting in memes and other pop culture jokes, is a smart and strategic move that has kept him constantly in the news and no doubt helped with the sales of his albums and other products.
4. Dr Dre – $500 Million
Remember when it was reported Dr Dre was a billionaire after he sold his share in Beats by Dre to Apple Music? While the sale totaled around $3 billion, after tax, Dre was only left with around $750 million, which isn’t to be laughed at. While he might not be in the billionaires club, Dre has still earned a credible fortune since bursting onto the scene in the 80s as a member of the rap group NWA.
He went on to have an extremely successful solo career and has released three albums, all being well received by critics and fans. Like many rich rappers, he has diversified his portfolio, investing in many different companies and businesses. His fortune could be in trouble though, as Dre currently going through a nasty divorce with his wife of 25 years Nicole Plotzker. There’s a good chance he will slip down this list once all is finalized.
3. Sean Combs – $900 Million
Sean Combs, who has also gone by the alias Puff Daddy, P Diddy, and just Diddy, is the third richest rapper in the world. Getting his start as the Notorious B.I.G.’s righthand man in the New York rap game, Combs soon went from manager to producer to rapper, with his debut album, No Way Out, a monster hit.
Despite not releasing an album in 16 years, Combs continues to earn coin thanks to his clever investments. Like many rappers who came up through the 90s, Combs has spent his money wisely, starting clothing company Sean John, opening several restaurants, and investing in Ciroc vodka, which has turned out to be a very good piece of business. He’s also dabbled in television and continues to produce music, meaning there is always money coming in from somewhere.
2. Jay-Z – $1.3 Billion
While he is only a fairly recent member of the billionaires club, New York rapper Jay-Z is more than worthy of joining the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. The rapper, who started life hustling drugs as a teen, has built a business empire over the past 35 odd years. While he assumed the mantle of best rapper alive during the early 00s, it’s his non-music investments that have boosted his bank balance.
Jay Z co-founded the label Roc-A-Fella Records in 1995 (which was then purchased by Def Jam in 1997), started the clothing brand Rocawear in 1999, opened the luxury chain of sports bars known as the 40/40 Club, and created the entertainment company Roc Nation in 2008. He also owns the champagne brand Armand de Brignac, which is believed to bring in hundreds of millions annually.
As he says in the remix of Kanye West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leon,” “I’m a businessman, not a business man.” Truer words have never been spoken.
1. Kanye West – $6.6 Billion
Kanye West is one of the most controversial people not only in music but in the entire world. It seems whenever he opens his mouth or tweets his opinion, he finds himself embroiled in another scandal. Despite his reputation often taking a battering, West’s bank account continues to grow. He is now worth an estimated $6.6 billion, which is just incredible.
While much of his early money was made through his music, in recent years it has been West’s other investments. He completely owns Yeezy, his apparel line, that makes around $1.5 billion yearly, so you know West is getting a decent cut of that. He also made a deal with Gap to sell exclusive garments, making West an additional $1 billion.
It’s not known if his divorce from Kim Kardashian will impact his net worth, but it’s safe to say he’ll still have more money in the bank than most of us.