Back in 2007, Kanye West released a song
called “Big Brother”—an ode to Jay-Z. Indeed, catching on with the
mogul’s Roc-A-Fella Records two decades ago was West’s first big break.
Jay-Z even had a hand in coining West’s nickname, Yeezy, which now
graces his eponymous shoe line with Adidas.
“There was a beam of light on the idea of me making athletic footwear,” West explainedin an interview for the August cover of Forbes. “A paradigm shift. Like the Yeezy is desired as much as a Jordan.”
Yeezy is expected to top $1.5 billion in sales this year—or about half of what Nike’s Air Jordan pulls in—boosting West’s pretax income to $150 million over the past year and making him hip-hop’s cash king for the first time ever. Another career first: West out-earned Jay-Z, who ranks second on this year’s list with $81 million, buoyed by the tail end of his On The Run II tour with wife Beyoncé. Drake, the most-streamed artist of any genre, rounds out the top three with $75 million.
All in all, the top 20 acts in hip-hop banked a combined $860
million, up 33% from $648 million last year. The bar for entry is $18
million, the highest it’s ever been. Our numbers represent pretax income
from June 2018 to June 2019 before deducting fees for agents, managers
and lawyers; figures are based on data from Nielsen Music, Pollstar,
Bandsintown and interviews with experts, handlers and some of the stars
West isn’t the only familiar name to have a career year, even in his own family. Travis Scott, seemingly set to become an uncle to West’s children, rode his Astroworld – Wish You Were Here Tour to a $58 million payday and the No. 5 spot on the list. That’s two places ahead of DJ Khaled, who notched a personal best $40 million annual haul after overcoming his fear of flying in the wake of his son’s birth—and expanded his touring business while adding partnerships with Air Jordan and Luc Belaire.
“Khaled is the guy you want on your team,” says the DJ and
third-person enthusiast. “Khaled is a guy that is going to hit that home
run ‘cause his work ethic is incredible. His heart is in the right
place. His mindset is focused. He’s ahead of his time.”
Live music, however, isn’t the only path to profit. Diddy (No. 4, $70 million) raked in the bulk of his bucks from his lucrative deal with Diageo’s Ciroc vodka; Birdman (No. 16, $20 million) owes his payday to his appropriately-titled label Cash Money Records; and Nas (No. 18, $19 million) returns to the list for the second-straight year thanks largely to multimillion-dollar exits in startup investments like PillPack and Lyft.
There are two newcomers on this year’s list. The highest-paid among
them is Donald Glover (No. 10, $35 million), who padded his coffers with
his work on Atlanta and his This Is America Tour (as Childish
Gambino). Cardi B (No. 13, $28 million) follows close behind—at age 26,
she’s the youngest artist in this year’s rankings—and joins Nicki Minaj
(No. 12, $29 million) as one of only two women on the list, the latest
example of a pay gap that has long plagued hip-hop.
Though Minaj recently announced plans to retire, there are plenty of young female emcees who should soon be pushing for spots on the list. Among those to keep an eye on: Meghan Thee Stallion, Tierra Whack and Rico Nasty, all of whom are in the midst of building lasting fan bases. Or, as the latter put it to Forbes earlier this year: “This is my opportunity to make these people lifelong friends.”
Below is the full list
1. Kanye West – $150 million
2. Jay-Z – $81 million
3. Drake – $75 million
4. Diddy – $70 million
5. Travis Scott – $58 million
6. Eminem – $50 million
7. DJ Khaled – $40 million
8. Kendrick Lamar – $38.5 million
9. Migos – $36 million
10. Childish Gambino – $35 million
11. J. Cole – $31 million
12. Nicki Minaj – $29 million
13. Cardi B – $28 million
14. Swizz Beatz – $23 million
15. Meek Mill – $21 million
16. Birdman – $20 million
17. Future – $19.5 million
18. Nas – $19 million
19. Wiz Khalifa – $18.5 million
20. Pitbull – $18 million