Bolstered by two mammoth deals with luxury giant LVMH and Jack Dorsey’s Square, Jay-Z has lapped the competition to become the highest-paid rapper of 2021; and as per Rolling Stone, the 2nd highest-paid musician behind Bruce Springsteen and his US$590 million / AU$811.9 million music catalogue sale.
Hip-hop’s first billionaire managed to rake in a grand total of US$470 million / AU$646.75 million in earnings from offloading half his champagne brand, Armand de Brignac, as well as 80% of streaming service Tidal alongside his co-owners. And that’s before we account for whatever insane royalties Hova cashed in for his elite discography. Or the exxy partnerships he inked with the likes of Tiffany & Co and Puma. To date, Jay-Z boasts a net worth of approximately US$1.5 billion / AU$2 billion.
According to data compiled by journalist Zack O’Malley Greenburg, here’s the complete list of names who were dwarfed by the highest-paid rapper of 2021.
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The Highest-Paid Rappers (2021)
(Note: All $$$ = USD)
“Hov kicked off 2021 by selling half his Armand de Brignac champagne to luxury giant LVMH for $300 million. Then he offloaded 80% of Tidal – originally purchased for $56 million – to Square for $302 million. For the ownership-focused mogul, selling assets is unusual. The smart money says he’ll soon make his next chess move and push to buy an NFL team.”
“He may be legally known as ‘Ye,’ but it’s his Yeezy footwear empire that accounted for the vast majority of his income last year. The recently-released Stem Player should boost Ye and his new album Donda 2, but it’s his apparel deal with GAP that could drive him to the greatest financial heights of all.”
“The Bad Boy Impresario shrugged off the pandemic blues, reaching his usual heights among hip-hop’s top earners thanks mostly to his Diageo-backed Ciroc vodka. The brand has enjoyed something of a resurgence over the past year, with case volumes increasing as fans turned to his spirits for at-home celebrations.”
“The most-consumed rapper on the planet, Drake’s Certified Lover Boy moved just shy of 2 million album-equivalent units in the US and generated an eye-watering 2.4 billion on-demand audio spins. The album was his tenth consecutive effort to top the charts, sending a record nine songs to Billboard’s rankings of top ten singles.”
“Pittsburgh’s mellowest rapper cashed in on the cannabis revolution with products including his Khalifa Kush and mobile app Wiz Khalifa’s Weed Farm. He also got a big boost from quietly selling a chunk of his publishing in April. A budding spirits empire should provide continued growth in his earnings, too.”
“The embattled multihypehnate made the list despite the deadly crowd surge at his Astroworld festival, as he’d already stacked up plenty of cash from his Cactus Jack empire and brand partnerships before the tragedy struck. Scott has been laying low lately, but don’t expect this to be the last we’ve heard from him.”
“The impresario may not be hip-hop’s top earner, but his new album Khaled Khaled featured appearances by three other stars on this list – Jay-Z, Diddy, Drake – and became his third No. 1 album. He padded his coffers with partnerships involving companies from Pandora to Dolce & Gabbana.”
“Though he hasn’t put out an album in more than two years, Eminem was still among the five most-consumed artists in hip-hop last year thanks to a vast catalog of hits. This year, he’ll surely get even more of a boost, thanks to his halftime show with Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and Mary J. Blige.”
“The North Carolina native’s new album, The Off-Season, became his sixth chart-topper and featured production from the likes of Boi-1da and Timbaland. One of the few acts on this list to tour in 2021, he grossed $16 million across 11 show dates. Cole, a Tidal shareholder, also benefited from Jay-Z’s sale of the streaming service to Square.”
“Cash Money’s cofounder continues to sit back and collect checks from the vast catalog – featuring hit by acts including Drake, Lil Wayne, and Nicki Minaj – that he controls with his brother Ronald “Slim” Williams. With streaming still on the rise, Cash Money seems well-positioned for continued profits.”
Doja Cat ($25 million – tie)
“The only female act on the list, Doja Cat had a career-best on the strength of a thriving international presence and partnerships with brands from Pepsi to CandyCrush. Planet Her, released in June, moved 1.5 million album-equivalent units in the US, sixth-most of any artists in any genre, and racked up an astounding 1.85 billion on-demand audio spins.”
Tech N9ne ($25 million – tie)
“The Kansas City veteran has quietly amassed an independent empire, though the volume is increasing after a viral guest verse from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson last fall. His earnings got a boost from a previously-unreported digital-only catalog deal that added eight figures to his fortune.”
The list of highest-paid rappers measures pretax income for the calendar year 2021 before deducting fees for agents, managers, lawyers and living expenses. Estimates are generated with the help of numbers from MRC Data, Pollstar and other databases, as well as by interviewing handlers and some of the artists themselves. – Zack O’Malley Greenburg