Forbes released their annual "Hip-Hop Cash Kings" list, which tracks the richest men in the realm of rap music. The list is based on earnings estimates between June 2008 and June 2009 and takes into account music sales, tour revenue, film work and revenue streams from various business ventures. Jay-Z took the top spot, having brought in $35 million in the past year. Looking down the list, the one fact that stands out is how little new music was released by the top artists during that time frame. In fact, among the top 10, only Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem released new albums (at least those that were available stores — Jay-Z and 50 Cent have both released free music, for example). In fact, it's been several years since some of these artists have released albums (André 3000 and Diddy among them).
So how do so many of these guys stay rolling in dough? Diversification. Most of them bring in money from clothing lines (50 Cent, Diddy), shoe deals (The Game, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams), record labels (Ludacris, Lil Wayne, T.I.) and production and collaboration (Akon, Timbaland, T-Pain). Some guys get into just about anything they can get their hands on (that's you, Snoop Dogg) and some just cash checks on past successes (Dr. Dre seems to make most of his money on royalties from The Chronic).
Still, a runaway hit never hurts (just ask Flo Rida, Rick Ross or Will.I.Am). As the music industry continues to narrow (with labels tightening belts and publications covering hip-hop folding), it'll be more and more difficult to make money just rapping over beats. But this list sets up an excellent precedent for up-and-coming acts looking to make it big. As Jigga has proven, it pays to be as shrewd a businessman as you are a rhymer.