The economy has been rough on everybody, but as Forbes' Hip-Hop Cash Kings list proves, it still pays to be a huge mainstream rapper with multiple business ventures.
Even though he took a 57 percent pay cut compared to last year, [artist id="1269"]Jay-Z[/artist] still managed to come in at #1 as the richest rapper of the year. By Forbes' estimate (based on earnings between June 2008 and June 2009), Jigga pulled in $35 million in the past year, owing mostly to his international tour and his ownership stakes in the NBA's New Jersey Nets and New York's sports/strip club 40/40. Why did Hova take such a huge pay cut? Because last year's figure was boosted heavily by the $150 million deal the rapper signed with Live Nation, which provided him with an immediate cash windfall.
Last year's winner, 50 Cent, slipped to fourth place with $20 million. Again, 50 owes most of his fortune to diversification, such as his Vitamin Water deal, G-Unit clothing line and numerous licensing deals (including a video game). Between 50 and Jay stands Kanye West (who cashed checks on his multiplatinum album 808s & Heartbreak and his juggernaut Glow in the Dark Tour) with $25 million and Diddy (whose ever-expanding portfolio includes a brand of premium vodka and his Sean John clothing line) with $30 million.
The rest of the list proves that rappers are making a great deal of money doing things that have nothing to do with actual rapping. Even the producers on the list — like Pharrell Williams ($16 million) and Timbaland ($17 million) have their hands in accessory lines and film production. If all else fails, you just need to create a timeless album, which is how Dr. Dre came in at #11 on the list. Though he executive-produced Eminem's platinum Relapse, the producer's $13 million came primarily from royalties collected on classic releases like The Chronic.