Hip-Hop's Top Earners
To compile the Cash Kings list, which charts pretax earnings for all living artists whose work is primarily classified as hip-hop or rap, Forbes looked at income from touring, record sales, publishing, films, merchandise sales, endorsements and other ventures. Management, agent and attorney fees are not deducted; earnings are tabulated from May 2011 to May 2012 and based on data from Pollstar, the Recording Industry Association of America and Nielsen SoundScan, and from interviews with numerous managers, lawyers, record executives and some of the artists themselves.
Hip-hop’s top earners pulled in $415 million last year, the most since 2008’s $515 million. The more recent total got a heavy boost from Dr. Dre’s impressive haul, but it doesn’t mean he’s resting on his financial laurels. Earlier this summer, he and his partners bought back half of the 51% stake in Beats that they sold to HTC nearly a year ago—meaning that fans waiting for his new album might have to hold out a little longer.
With $110 million in pretax earnings, Dr. Dre is this year’s Hip-Hop Cash King—thanks largely to his Beats headphone line. He’s not the only one on the list who banks the bulk of his bucks outside the recording studio.
(Getty Images North America)