List o’ Top Ten Highest Earning Rappers – 2010

list of top ten highest earning rappers hip hop artists 2010Rap star Jay-Z came first in a list of the richest rappers in 2010, earning more than double that of runner-up Sean “Diddy” Combs. The interesting spin is that these hip hop stars don’t make their money just on music – the majority of the high earners are businessmen, and by recognizing the opportunities to leverage their fame and game, have hardcore skills in negotiating deals that make real money through branding themselves in areas not related to music, such as clothing, alcohol and broadcasting. Then comes the bling, the mansions and the personal jets. Have a look to see who made the list in 2010.



Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter took in $63 million in personal income between June 2009 and June 2010, according to Forbes.com. Diddy took in $30 million, followed by Senegalese-American rapper Aliuane “Akon” Thiam at $21 million. Despite beginning a jail sentence in March for weapons charges, New Orleans-born rapper Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Carter came in fourth, earning $20 million, ahead of California rap icon Andre “Dr. Dre” Young, who took in $17 million. Eminem, who earned $8 million in 2010, tied at number 14, even though he’s sold more records than any artist since 2000. To many it’s shocking to see him so low down on the list, yet compared to his peers, he doesn’t really do much outside of music.

Almost all stars at the top of the list all share a common strategy — diversification. The top-earning rappers pulled in cash from alcohol sponsorships, clothing lines, nightclub properties and film appearances, in addition to concert tours and record sales. Jay-Z co-owns the 40/40 nightclub chain. Diddy promotes Ciroc vodka and appeared in the feature film “Get Him to the Greek.” Dr. Dre and Lil Wayne have record labels. Akon appeared in a Pepsi World Cup ad campaign.

The real money isn’t in record sales. Rappers have responded to the current era of the digital download, when record sales don’t reach the numbers they used to. Artists don’t put out albums anymore, they put out single hits, so they have reasons to tour. Hits and tours make you relevant, and they get you sponsorships, and earn you money from merchandise.

The List – Annual Earnings (est.): Aug/09 – Aug/10:

10. Kanye West – $12 million

list of top ten highest earning hip hop artists rappers - kanye west

Kanye West is as famous for his outspoken attitude as he is for his rapping, from accusing US president GW Bush of racism to interrupting Grammy speeches. However, at the end of the day, West’s music speaks for itself. After bringing a soulful, distinctive sound to artists like Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, West won multiple Grammys for his rap debut, The College Dropout, and his follow-up, Late Registration. The American rapper, singer, and record producer rose to fame with the release of his debut The College Dropout in 2004. He has gone to release three more albums and received numerous awards, including twelve Grammys.

In 1996 West was an English major at Chicago State University, where his mother, Donda, chairs the department, but left school to pursue his music career full-time. “He said, ‘Mom, I can do this, and I don’t need to go to college, because I’ve had a professor in the house with me my whole life,’” Donda West tells Time. “I’m thinking, this boy is at it again. He always could twirl a word.”

After turning out hit singles for Common, Ludacris and Cam’Ron, among others, West got his big break 2001 when Jay-Z asked him to produce several tracks on his chart-topping album The Blueprint. Some love him, many hate him, but there is not denying that his name is known and he is making money.

9. Pharrell Williams – $13 million

list of top earning rappers hip hop stars - Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams is an American recording artist, producer, musician and fashion designer. He is one half of record production duo The Neptunes, winning three Grammys, and the lead vocalist and drummer of rock band N.E.R.D. In addition to his music performance, Pharrell brings in serious coin from his BBC clothing line (Billionaire Boys Club), music production and jewelry design.

Williams is one half of the production duo The Neptunes, where, along with Chad Hugo, he produces pop, hip-hop and R&B music. He is also the lead singer and drummer of the funk-rock band, NERD. He released his debut single �Frontin�� in 2003 and followed up with his debut album In My Mind in 2006. In 2008, Pharrell corroborated with Louis Vuitton to create a series of jewelry under 4 different themes.

Here is Pharrell handling an interview with sleazy entertainment reports; he handles this situation with ultimate grace and respect and comes out shining – nicely done:

8. Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley – $14 million

list of top earning rappers - timbaland

The multi-award winning American record producer, singer-songwriter, actor, musician and rapper. He has collaborated with artists such as Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado and Madonna and also produced tracks for Mariah Carey, Wyclef Jean and Jay-Z.

Tim “Timbaland” Mosely began honing his craft at age 19 under the tutelage of Jodeci soundman DeVante Swing. Eventually he hooked up with Missy Elliott, Playa, Ginuwine and Magoo, forming the hip-hop production crew, Da Bassment. In 1996, the collective produced Ready for the World’s hit track “Love You Down,” which appeared on the Nutty Professor soundtrack. Timbaland worked prolifically from 1996 to 1998, with credits including Ginuwine (The Bachelor), Missy Elliott, Aaliyah and Timbaland & Magoo. All told, Timbaland’s productions have sold more than 10 million copies. In 1998, Timbaland moved from behind the board to behind the mic for his solo debut.

7. Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broadus – $15 million

list of top ten highest earning hip hop artist rappers 2010 - snoop dog calvin broadus

Snoop Dogg is a multi-award winning American entertainer, rapper, record producer and actor, and one of the most recognizable names in hip-hop. Snoop’s 1993 debut album, Doggystyle, went quadruple platinum. He has gone on to release a further nine albums, but makes as much if not more money through his production interests�in music, television and movies, and gets serious green for the many endorsement deals that he has steadily in play.

Cordozar Calvin Broadus, better known as Snoop Dogg, is an American entertainer, rapper, record producer and actor. Snoop is best known as an MC in the West Coast hip hop scene, and for being one of Dr. Dre’s most notable prot�g�s. Snoop Dogg was a Crip gang member while in high school. Shortly after graduation, he was arrested for cocaine possession and spent six months in Wayside County Jail. His music career began in 1992 after his release when he was discovered by Dr. Dre. He collaborated on several tracks on Dre’s solo debut, The Chronic and on the titular theme song to the film Deep Cover.

6. Christopher “Ludacris” Bridges – $16 million

list of top ten highest earning rappers hip hop artists - Chris Ludacris Bridges

Ludacris is the stage name of Atlanta-born Christopher Bridges, an American rapper, actor and businessman. Bridges began his career as a radio DJ in Atlanta, where he was known on the air as Chris Lova Lova. His self-produced record, Incognegro, led to a contract with the Def Jam South record label and was remade into Back for the First Time. His second release, Word of Mouf (2001), was also a hit, and Ludacris rose in the ranks of young rappers in radio and MTV rotation. Ludacris released Chicken and Beer in 2003 and embarked on an acting career in a small role in the feature film 2 Fast 2 Furious (starring Paul Walker). He also appeared as Skinny Black in the movie Hustle and Flow (2005, starring Terrence Howard) and had a small role in the drama Crash (2004, with Don Cheadle). He changed his look in 2006 and presented himself as having grown from “the clown prince of rap” into a mature musical artist and actor. He released a new album, Release Therapy (with the single “Money Maker”), and landed a role in the Guy Ritchie film RocknRolla (2008, along with Jeremy PIven).

His career got a boost in 2002 when TV’s Bill O’Reilly expressed outrage that Pepsi had hired Ludacris as a spokesman. O’Reilly criticized Ludacris’s foul language and called for a boycott of Pepsi, who then fired Ludacris and hired Ozzy Osbourne instead. Ludacris has collaborated in the studio with several other hip-hop stars, including Missy Elliott, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige, and through his music, his movie appearances and his production company – Disturbing the Peace Records – he makes the list of richest rappers with business savvy and an� instinctive sense of how to make money.

5. Andre “Dr. Dre” Young – $17 million

list of top highest earning hip hop artist rappers - Andre Dr Dre Young

Dr. Dre is an American record producer, rapper, record executive, and actor. The multi-award winner is one of the founding members of watershed rap act N.W.A, the founder of Aftermath Entertainment and a former co-owner of Death Row Records.

N.W.A. was the brainchild of Eazy-E who linked up with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre to form the hardcore rap group. They dropped their self-titled first album in 1987. A year later, N.W.A. unleashed the fiery Straight Outta Compton, a vicious street classic that resonated with the frustrations of blacks in LA. It became an underground success with relatively no airplay. N.W.A. became notorious for their hardcore lyrics.

After parting ways with Eazy E over financial differences, Dr. Dre teamed up with then bodyguard Suge Knight to establish Death Row Records. Now at a label he could call home, Dre had time to focus on music once more. His debut single, “Deep Cover,” from the soundtrack of the similarly-titled movie, arrived in 1992. In 1996, he started Aftermath Entertainment after striking a distribution deal with Interscope Records.

Dre’s next big break arrived when he met a Detroit rapper named Eminem. There are many variations of the Dre meets Eminem story, but popular belief has it that Dre discovered Em’s demo tape in the garage of Interscope label chief Jimmy Iovine. 50 Cent joined the fold a few years later. He would go on to sell over 12 million copies of his own debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, buoyed by Dr. Dre’s midas touch on the monstrous single”In Da Club.”

4. Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Carter – $20 million

list of top ten highest earning hip hop artists rappers - Dwayne Lil Wayne Carter

Lil Wayne is known for his next-generation mix of whimsy and menace — what the Baltimore City Paper called a “gravelly, giggly idiot-savant patter” that turns “standard gangsta tropes into triple-decker punch lines.” The hugely successful formula made him one of the biggest rap stars of the 2000s. A prodigy from a tough New Orleans neighborhood, Lil Wayne caught the attention of the Cash Money record label at age 12. He formed The Hot Boys with the rappers B.G., Young Turk and Juvenile in 1997; his first solo album, Tha Block Is Hot (1999), put him on the rap map at the tender age of 16. But he really came into his own with his 2004 album Tha Carter, and its sequels Tha Carter II (2005) and Tha Carter III (2008). He also is known for his open-the-floodgates output of “freestyle” mixed tapes and internet singles in the mid-2000s, as well as his guest appearances on dozens of records by other rappers.

Wayne was arrested in Arizona in January of 2008 and charged with possession of marijuana, cocaine and MDMA (or “Ecstacy”), and in 2009 he entered a guilty plea on a felony weapons charge dating to 2007. Tha Carter III (2008) won four Grammy Awards, including best rap album and best rap song for the single “Lollipop.” He spent 8 months in jail in New York in 2010, but it didn’t slow his career. While incarcerated, Lil Wayne released the album I Am a Human Being and made it to the top of the charts again.

3. Aliuane “Akon” Thiam – $21 million

list of top ten highest earning hip hop artists rappers - akon

Aliaune Damala Dakha Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam – he often goes by the shorter Aliaune Thiam, and is best known by his fans as just Akon. Akon was born in 1973 In St Louis but spent the first six years of his life in Senegal. His father is legendary percussionist and jazz musician Mor Thiam whose expertise for playing the Djembe, a traditional African drum, has been touted as “unrivaled”. Akon freely admits that he is grateful for his family musical background that later on was helpful in paving the way for him to consider a career in music.

Mo money? Since his first album Konvicted debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 in November, 2006, Akon has been looking for ways to make money. He has become involved in film production, developed his Konvict Clothing line, overseeing his successful Konvict Muzik record label (distributed by Universal Motown), and starting a new label called Kon Live Distribution (distributed by Universal/Interscope). He has also found time to start a diamond mining business in Africa, called Aliaune, which supplies “non-conflict” diamonds to wholesalers.

2. Sean “Diddy” Combs – $30 million

list of top ten highest earning hip hop rappers - Sean "Diddy" Combs

Diddy is a multi-award winning American record producer, rapper, actor, and men’s fashion designer. His business interests include Bad Boy Records, clothing line Sean John, a movie production company and two restaurants. Apparently Diddy has had the knack for business since childhood – as a 12-year-old, the enterprising Diddy reportedly lied about his age to get a paper route, then made up a number of false identities so he could earn more money by managing several routes at once. He also has kept that love of changing identities, from Puff Daddy to Diddy over the years.

The Diddy track:

Diddy is just 3 years old when his father, Melvin, a street hustler, is shot to death in Manhattan’s Central Park. Soon after, his mother Janice moves the family from Harlem to a suburb just north of the Bronx. As an adolescent, he soaks up the rising hip-hop scene in ’80s Harlem. In the fall of 1988, he attends Howard University, studying business administration, but his real education comes when he leaves in 1990 for an internship at New York record label Uptown Records.

Two weeks after being fired from Uptown Records, Diddy forms Bad Boy Records. He produces Ready to Die, the legendary debut album by 22-year-old Brooklyn rapper, The Notorious B.I.G. The record’s success establishes both as emerging stars and cements their bond. Diddy makes a name for himself as a producer with more albums by Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, 112 and Mase.

1. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter – $63 Million

Jay-Z is an American rapper and businessman with interests in music, nightclubs, Broadway theatre, sports franchises and fashion. He has receiving ten Grammy Awards and holds the record for most number one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200. Like most rappers, none of whom are short on opinion, Jay Z has done his own thing, and has done it with flair and finesse. Love him or hate him, he has set a cool example for his fans and has left no doubt that he is indeed a savvy businessman who can cut a good deal and keep us entertained in the process.

The numbers? He is one of the most financially successful hip hop artists and entrepreneurs in America having had a net worth of over $450 million in 2010. He has sold approximately 50 million albums worldwide, while receiving ten Grammy Awards for his musical work, and numerous additional nominations.

Ludacris is the stage name of Chris Bridges, a rapper and actor from Atlanta, Georgia who became a video and radio star after the success of his 2000 album Back for the First Time.

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