Forget a milli, Diddy is working on a billi.
The rapper, label mogul and celebrity endorser is inching closer to being rap's first billion-dollar man according to the Forbes list of hip-hop's wealthiest artists. The finance magazine's "Forbes Five" short list of the richest rappers were already collectively worth over $1 billion.
Diddy took the top spot with an estimated net worth of $550 million, which has been boosted lately by his deal with Ciroc vodka, which reportedly pays him in the double-digit millions thanks to his share of the profits from sales, which have spiked over the last year by 122 percent.
As a bonus, Diddy will earn a nine-figure payday if the brand is ever sold to another company.
Diddy's fortune is also fed by his stakes in the Sean John and Enyce clothing lines, as well as the Blue Flame marketing firm, his Bad Boy record label and pieces of a number of tech startups. But the magazine said his most recent deal is the one that could push him into the billionaire boys club. The mogul's deal with Comcast to launch the Revolt cable channel — which he owns outright — in 2013 might be worth low-to-mid nine figures in the next few years.
His pal Jay-Z is the next man up at an estimated $460 million. One of the few on the list who still puts out albums and tours, Jay continues to earn money from his music career, as well as the proceeds from the $204 million sale of his Rocawear clothing label in 2007. He pocketed plenty of change when he signed a $150 million deal with Live Nation in 2008 and gets added revenue from his stakes in the New Jersey Nets, his 40/40 club chain, the ad firm Translation and cosmetics company Carol's Daughter.
"Who's going to be hip-hop's first billionaire is still to be determined," said ad man Steve Stoute, who founded and co-owns Translation with Jay-Z. "But clearly Jay and Puffy are far and away positioned to surpass that."
The legendary beat-maker and rapper has an estimated fortune of $270 million, doubling since last year thanks to the $300 million cellphone maker HTC paid to buy a 51 percent stake in his Beats Electronic business. Sources told the magazine that both Dre and partner Interscope boss Jimmy Iovine owned one-third of the company before the deal, putting Dre's haul at $85 million after taxes, with his remaining stake worth around $100 million.
Cash Money Records co-founder Birdman earned the #4 slot with an estimated $125 million fortune, mostly derived from the smash success of such artist as Drake, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. He could creep up later this year when Cash Money's deal with Universal is up and a bidding war could erupt over the right to distribute the label's music.
"One of my motivations in life is to be a billionaire," said Birdman. "We're going to keep working hard until we get our brand to be as big as possible. That's the goal in life, that's what I live for."
Business-savvy rapper 50 Cent rounds out the list at #5 with an estimated fortune of $110 million. He earned $100 million one the sale of his part of Vitaminwater in 2007 and he still rakes in tens of millions a year from record sales, touring and clothing, as well as acting jobs, 50-themed video games, shoes, books and a new headphone line.
Though the top five all have a shot at reaching the billion mark, with the recent $1 billion sale of Instagram inspired Stoute to say that it may not be Diddy or Jigga who reach the mountaintop first. "You don't necessarily know, given what a guy like Kanye or will.i.am is capable of doing," said Stoute. "In a world where people are creating applications that sell for a billion dollars, you never know who's going to come out of left field."