Hip hop “emcees” or musicians we call rappers, have closed in on the ten figure fortunes. These guys made it from the streets, living tough street lives and today they have become multi billionaires. The top five rappers, who made it from rap (and rags) to riches, are Sean “Diddy” Combs, Dr. Dre, Jay Z, Birdman and 50 Cent. Here’s how they made it.
- SEAN “DIDDY” COMBS.
Singer, songwriter and producer Sean John Combs was born on November 4, 1969, in Harlem, New York. He was raised by his mother, a model, after his father was murdered in 1974; Sean Combs grew up in Mt. Vernon, New York, and attended a Catholic boys school in the Bronx. He earned the nickname “Puffy” in high school because of his habit of puffing out his chest to make his body seem bigger. Combs would later take on other monikers, including “Puff Daddy,” “P. Diddy” and “Diddy.”
Diddy majored in business administration at Howard University, producing weekly dance parties and running an airport shuttle service while attending classes. He dropped out to pursue an internship at Uptown Records, which led to a talent director position. Diddy rapidly rose to the level of vice president and had success producing several key artists for Uptown, but left the company in the early 1990s.
In 1993, Diddy started his own production company, Bad Boy Entertainment, working with such upcoming and established rap, hip-hop, and R&B recording artists as Mariah Carey, New Edition, Method Man, Babyface, TLC, Boyz II Men, Lil’ Kim, SWV, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans and Biggie Smalls. By 1997, Bad Boy Entertainment had sold nearly $100 million in recordings, and made a multimillion-dollar deal with Arista Records for management of the label.
After his friend, Biggie Smalls, was murdered in 1997, Diddy recorded the tribute “I’ll be Missing You,” which topped the Billboard singles chart for eleven weeks and launched Combs’s first album, No Way Out (1997), to platinum status. Nielsen SoundScan named No Way Out as the third best-selling LP of 1997, with more than 3.4 million copies sold in the United States.
Diddy released his second album, Forever, in 1999. That same year, his recently launched clothing line, Sean John, debuted in America.
Forbes Magazine estimates that for the year ending May 2012, Combs earned $45 million, ranking him fifteenth among musicians. In 2014 his estimated net worth was 700 million.
In 1998, Combs started a clothing line, Sean John. It was nominated for the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) award for Menswear Designer of the Year in 2000, and won in 2004. The clothing line became the subject of controversy in 2003, when the National Labor Committee revealed that factories producing the clothing in Honduras were violating Honduran labor laws. Among the accusations were that workers were subjected to body searches and involuntary pregnancy tests. Bathrooms were locked and access tightly controlled. Employees were forced to work overtime and were paid very low wages.
Combs responded with an extensive investigation. He ensured that improvements were implemented at the factory, including adding air conditioning and water purification systems, firing the most abusive supervisors, and allowing the formation of a labor union. In late 2006, the department store Macy’s removed Sean John jackets from their shelves when they discovered that the clothing was made using dog fur (from a species called raccoon dog). Combs had not known the jackets were made with dog fur, but as soon as he was alerted, he had production stopped.
In November 2008, Combs added a men’s perfume called “I Am King” to the Sean John brand. The fragrance, dedicated to Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali, and Martin Luther King, featured model Bar Refaeli in its advertisements.
In addition to his clothing line, Combs owned two restaurants called Justin’s, named after his son. The original New York location closed in September 2007; the Atlanta location closed in June 2012. He is the designer of the Dallas Mavericks alternate jersey. In October 2007 Combs agreed to help develop the Ciroc vodka brand for a 50 percent share of the profits. He acquired the Enyce clothing line from Liz Claiborne for $20 million on October 21, 2008.he also has a major equity stake in Revolt TV, a television network that also has a film production branch. It began broadcasting in 2014.
Born Andre Romelle Young, Dr. Dre came from a musical background. Both of his parents were singers. His mother, Verna, quit her group the Four Aces shortly before Dre was born. His middle name comes from one of the bands his father Theodore belonged to, the Romells.
After his parents split up, Dre lived with his mother, who remarried several times. They moved around frequently, and at one point lived at the Wilmington Arms housing project in the Compton area. At Centennial High School, Dre showed a talent for drafting, but he paid little attention to his other course work. He transferred to Fremont High School and then went to the Chester Adult School. But his interests didn’t lie in schoolwork—he wanted to make music. Dre received a music mixer for Christmas in 1984 and soon turned his family’s home into his studio. For hours on end, he would work his magic, taking pieces of different songs and sounds to make his own sound.
Dre started hanging out at L.A. nightclub “Eve After Dark”, where he eventually got his chance to work the turntables. He joined the “World Class Wreckin’ Cru”, which performed in nightclubs, and developed the rap persona of Dr. Dre, the Master of Mixology. His new moniker was inspired in part by basketball star Julius “Dr. J.” Erving.
Dre teamed up with fellow rappers Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Yella, MC Ren, the Arabian Prince and the D.O.C. to form N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude) in 1985. With his new group, he was able to produce a more hard-hitting sound. N.W.A.’s lyrics were equally harsh and explicit, reflecting life on the streets.
The group’s second album Straight Outta Compton (1988) sold more than two million copies and marked the arrival of a new genre—gangsta rap. One track, “F*** tha Police,” ignited a firestorm of controversy. The song, which explored tensions between black youth and the police, was thought to incite violence. The FBI even sent a warning letter to Ruthless Records and its parent company about the song.
Breaking out on his own and on a new record label, Dre hit the top of the hip-hop charts with The Chronic on Death Row Records in 1992. The biggest single from the album was “Nuthin but a ‘G’ Thang,” which featured Snoop Dogg, then a little-known rapper. With this latest release, Dre helped introduce G-funk, which incorporated musical samples and melodies from funk with gangsta rap. Dre had always admired the work of such acts as Parliament and Funkadelic.
Dre released his second solo album, 2001, in 1999. Selling millions of copies, the recording proved to be a hit on both the hip-hop and pop charts. His fans, however, have been waiting years for his next release Detox. Some tracks from the forthcoming album had been leaked, but it has yet to make its official debut. Dre has claimed that this will be his final album.
Behind the scenes, Dr. Dre has been instrumental in launching the careers of numerous hip-hop and rap artists. He acted as a track producer for many of the artists on Ruthless Records, a venture he started up with Eazy-E. Dre also worked with singer Michel’le on her debut album. With N.W.A., Dre helped produce much of the group’s material.
With Marion “Suge” Knight, Dre co-founded the rap music empire known as Death Row Records in 1991. There he worked on the 1993 debut album of Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle, and Tupac Shakur’s 1996 work All Eyez on Me. That same year Dre left Death Row Records, escaping from the increasingly troublesome West Coast/East Coast rap feud. The conflict would eventually lead to the deaths of rappers Shakur and Biggie Smalls.
Dre established his own label, Aftermath Entertainment, in connection with Interscope Records. He signed numerous acts to Aftermath, but his two greatest successes came with Eminem and 50 Cent. At first, Dre took flak for signing white rapper Eminem, but he soon proved the critics wrong. He produced several of Eminem’s hit albums, including The Slim Shady LP(1999) and The Marshall Mathers LP (2000). With 50 Cent, Dre worked on his debut smash Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003), among other projects.
In 2008, Dre expanded his hip-hop brand when he founded Beats Electronics with record producer Jimmy Iovine. He debuted the company’s audio line with Beats by Dr. Dre Studio headphones, which became wildly popular, and were followed by more successful products endorsed by pop and hip-hop artists. The online music streaming service Beats Music was also launched in January 2014. The two partners have also funded The Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation.
In May 2014, Apple announced the purchase of Beats for $3 billion. The deal would increase Dre’s net worth to approximately $800 million, making him the richest rap star, according to Forbes. As part of the deal, Dr. Dre and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine will be joining Apple in executive roles. This acquisition is the largest in Apple’s history.
- JAY Z.
Rapper Jay-Z was born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York. Jay Z’s mother knew he was a special child due to the fact that he didn’t give her pain during his birth. Jay-Z’s father, Adnes Reeves, left the family when Jay-Z was only 11 years old. The young rapper was raised by his mother, Gloria Carter, in Brooklyn’s drug-infested Marcy Projects.
During a rough adolescence, detailed in many of his autobiographical songs, Shawn Carter dealt drugs and flirted with gun violence. He attended Eli Whitney High School in Brooklyn, where he was a classmate of the murdered rap legend Notorious B.I.G.
Carter turned to rap at a very young age as an escape from the drugs, violence and poverty that surrounded him in the Marcy Projects. In 1989, he joined the rapper Jaz-O, an older performer who served as a kind of mentor, to record a song called “The Originators,” which won the pair an appearance on an episode of Yo! MTV Raps. It was at this point that Shawn Carter embraced the nickname Jay-Z, which was homage to Jaz-O, a play on Carter’s childhood nickname of “Jazzy,” and a reference to the J/Z subway station near his Brooklyn home.
But even though he had a stage name, Jay-Z remained relatively anonymous until he and two friends, Damon Dash and Kareem Burke, founded their own record label, Roc-A-Fella Records, in 1996. In June of that year, Jay-Z released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt. Although the record only reached No. 23 on the Billboard charts, it is now considered a classic hip-hop album, featuring songs such as “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” featuring Mary J. Blige, and “Brooklyn’s Finest,” a duet with Notorious B.I.G. Reasonable Doubt established Jay-Z as an emerging star in hip-hop.
Two years later, Jay-Z achieved even broader success with the 1998 album Vol. 2- Hard Knock Life. The title track, which famously sampled its chorus from the Broadway musical Annie, became Jay-Z’s most popular single to date and won him his first Grammy nomination. “Hard Knock Life” marked the beginning of a fruitful period in which Jay-Z would become the biggest name in hip-hop.
Over the span of those years, the rapper released a list of No. 1 albums and hit singles. His most popular songs from this period include “Can I Get A …”, “Big Pimpin'”, “I Just Wanna Love U”, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “03 Bonnie & Clyde”, a duet with future bride Beyoncé Knowles. Jay-Z’s most acclaimed album of this period was The Blueprint (2001), which would later land on many music critics’ lists of the best albums of the decade.
In 2003, Jay-Z shocked the hip-hop world by releasing The Black Album and announcing that it would be his last solo record before retirement. Asked to explain his sudden exit from rap, Jay-Z said that he once derived inspiration from trying to outshine other great MCs, but had simply gotten bored due to a lack of competition.
During his hiatus from rapping, Jay-Z turned his attention to the business side of music, becoming president of Def Jam Recordings. As president of Def Jam, Jay-Z signed such popular acts as Rihanna, Ne-Yo and Young Jeezy and helped in Kanye West’s transition from producer to bestselling recording artist. But his reign at the venerable hip-hop label wasn’t all smooth sailing; Jay-Z resigned as Def Jam’s president in 2007, complaining about the company’s resistance to change from ineffectual business models.
Jay-Z’s other, ongoing business ventures include the popular urban clothing line Rocawear and Roc-A-Fella films. He also owns the 40/40 Club, an upscale sports bar with locations in New York and Atlantic City, and is a part owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball franchise.
In 2006, Jay-Z ended his retirement from making music, releasing the new album Kingdom Come. He soon released two more albums: American Gangster in 2007 and Blueprint 3 in 2010. This trio of later albums marked a significant departure from Jay-Z’s earlier sound, incorporating stronger rock and soul influences in their production and offering lyrics tackling such mature subjects as the response to Hurricane Katrina; Barack Obama’s 2008 election; and the perils of fame and fortune.
Jay-Z says he’s trying to adapt his music to befit his own middle age. In 2008, Jay-Z signed a $150 million contract with the concert promotion company Live Nation. This super deal created a joint venture called Roc Nation, an entertainment company that handles nearly all aspects of its artists’ careers. In addition to Jay-Z himself, Roc Nation manages Willow Smith and J. Cole among others.
More recently, Jay-Z proved that he had both commercial and critical staying power. He teamed up with another famous member of rap royalty, Kanye West, for 2011’s Watch the Throne. The album proved to be a triple hit, topping the rap, R&B and pop charts that August. The song “Otis,” which samples the late R&B singer Otis Redding, got several Grammy Award nominations and the recording was also nominated for Best Rap Album.
Two years after the release of a collaboration album with West, both rappers dropped solo albums within weeks of the other’s release date. West’s album,Yeezus (2013), was critically lauded for its innovation, while his mentor Jay-Z’s album gained less than stellar reviews. The rappers 12th studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013), was seen as decent but failed to live up to the hip-hop stars larger-than-life reputation.
The bulk of his wealth’s growth comes from Roc Nation Entertainment Company, worth over $100 million after the addition of Roc Nation Sports.
Birdman, real name Byran Williams was born on February 15, 1969. He is also known by the Baby. Birdman is an American rapper, entrepreneur and record producer. He is the co-founder of Cash Money Records and one half of the duo Big Tymers.
Along with his releases with Big Tymers and for his solo career, he has recorded a collaboration album and numerous tracks with Lil Wayne. Birdman has also made his name by contributing to the making of YMCMB (Young Money Cash Money Billionaires). According to Forbes Magazine, he has an estimated net worth of $160 million in 2014.
FORBES listed him as one of the “Forbes Five” wealthiest hip-hops featured in the May 15, 2014 issue of Forbes Magazine. According to the prestigious magazine label, Birdman’s net worth comes not only from his surprising earnings in his career but also from his business engagements.
FORBES stated Birdman net worth could be worth more than $300 million if he manages his Cash Money Records alone. Birdman being so generous shares his fortune with his brother, Ronald “Slim” Williams, a co-founder of their record company.
Cash Money Records is now catering to the most celebrated artists including Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Lil Wayne. Birdman net worth of $170 million stems from his multi-platinum records as a producer and an artist. His song “Stunna” was nominated two times in the Grammy in 2000.
Birdman net worth of $170 million is massively huge, but if records will be laid out, the successful rapper-producer could be earning more than his worth. Cash Money Records earns over $100 million yearly and has sold 50 million records to date.
With Birdman net worth unbelievably big, he can buy any property he would wish to have. He owns $30 million condo in Miami and other properties. The rich rapper had lost about 20 houses during hurricane Katrina.
Birdman net worth of $170 million is more than enough for him to buy 100 cars every six months. He claims he changes his cars every six months and give away the old ones to those who want it. Birdman owns fleet of luxurious cars including Bugatti Veyron, Maybach Landaulet, Maybach Exelero, and Lamborghini Aventador to name a few.
- 50 CENT.
Curtis James Jackson III, now known by his rap name 50 Cent, was born on July 6, 1975, in the borough of Queens in New York City. He was raised in a broken home in the rough neighborhood of Jamaica. His single mother worked as a drug dealer and was murdered when Jackson was only 8 years old; after her death, he was raised by his grandparents. He had boyhood aspirations to be a boxer, but he began selling drugs when he was a teenager. He also began to rap during his high school years.
50 Cent’s first important contact with the New York hip-hop scene was an introduction to Jam Master Jay from the group Run-D.M.C. Jay was impressed by 50 Cent’s rapping ability and produced an album for him; however, it was never released. 50 Cent also made a false start with the Columbia label, recording an album that was shelved before its release.
In 2000, 50 Cent was the victim of a severe shooting incident that left him with multiple wounds and injuries. After his recovery, he began rapping again and made low-budget recordings with his friends Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo, as a crew called G-Unit. Their efforts were noticed by the hip-hop stars Eminem and Dr. Dre, who promoted 50 Cent as a solo act and signed him jointly to their record labels.
50 Cent’s debut release, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, was produced by Eminem and Dre. It was a massive success that eventually reached sales of 9 million units. Its singles, including “Wanksta” and “In Da Club,” were crossover hits on the pop charts, since 50 Cent’s gritty lyrics were backed by catchy musical hooks that appealed to audiences beyond the hip-hop scene. His personal appearance—muscled and tattooed, wearing a bulletproof vest and toting a handgun—was also a strong factor in his appeal, as was the fact that his rap lyrics were based on real-life experiences.
Get Rich was followed another hit album, 2005’s The Massacre, on which 50 Cent continued to rap about drugs, crime and sex on tracks like “Candy Shop” and “Just a Lil Bit.” Later releases, including Curtis in 2007 and Before I Self-Destruct in 2009, didn’t achieve the same sales figures. However, 50 Cent’s personal history as a “gangsta,” a criminal and a survivor of drugs, violence and poverty who had lived to tell the tale, had made him an influential figure in hip-hop culture.
50 Cent has established himself in a variety of fields. In November 2003, he signed a five year deal with Reebok to distribute a “G-Unit Sneakers” line as part of his G-Unit Clothing Company. He provided the voice-over as the protagonist in the video game, 50 Cent: Bulletproof, which was released for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and the PlayStation Portable. Its sequel, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, was released in early 2009.
He worked with Glacéau to create a Vitamin Water drink called Formula 50. In 2007, Coca-Cola purchased Glacéau for US$4.1 billion. Forbes estimated that 50 Cent, who owns a stake in the company, earned $100 million from the deal after taxes. He has teamed up with Right Guard to launch a body spray called Pure 50 RGX Body Spray and a condom line called Magic Stick Condoms, in which he planned to donate part of the proceeds to HIV awareness. 50 Cent has signed a multi-year deal with Steiner Sports to sell his memorabilia.
In 2005, 50 Cent made a cameo appearance on The Simpsons episode “Pranksta Rap“, in which he makes light of his legal troubles. The same year, he starred alongside Terrence Howard in the semi-autobiographical film Get Rich or Die Tryin’. He starred in the 2006 film, Home of the Brave, as a soldier returning home from the Iraq War, traumatized after killing an Iraqi woman. 50 Cent is working on a role as a fighter in an Angola State Prison in Spectacular Regret alongside Nicolas Cage, and starred opposite Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in 2008’s Righteous Kill, a movie regarding a police death. He also started the film production companies G-Unit Films in 2007 and Cheetah Vision in 2008. In August 2007, 50 Cent announced plans to launch a dietary supplement company in conjunction with his movie Spectacular Regret.
In August 2005, shortly before appearing in Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 50 Cent published an autobiography entitled From Pieces to Weight: Once upon a Time in Southside Queens. In it 50 Cent explores the cultural and economic forces that led him to sell cocaine and crack, details his entrepreneurship as a drug-dealer and then as a rapper, and reflects on his own ethos and on society. On January 4, 2007, 50 Cent launched his G-Unit Books imprint at the Time Warner Building. He also co-wrote
The Ski Mask Way, a novel about a small-time drug dealer who attempts to rob his employers, which is to be turned into a film. 50 Cent said he read Robert Greene‘s The 33 Strategies of War and worked with the author on a book titled The 50th Law, an urban take on The 48 Laws of Power. In May 2008, 50 Cent met billionaire Patrice Motsepe to forge a joint venture selling 50 Cent-branded platinum. In 2008, 50 Cent started a reality television show on MTV titled 50 Cent: The Money and the Power; the winning contestant, Ryan Mayberry, won a $100,000 investment from 50 Cent.