Zack O’Malley Greenburg has again announced his Hip-Hop’s top earners. He pioneered the “Forbes List” of hip-hop’s top earners over a decade ago and is now covering the intersection between music, media and money at his own blog.

Zack O'Malley Greenburg

Zack O’Malley Greenburg

The list of Hip-Hop’s highest-paid artists measures pretax income for calendar year 2021 before deducting fees for agents, managers, lawyers and living expenses.

Unsurprisingly Jay-Z and Kanye West come on top of the list and are the highest-paid musicians of any genre. Last year has been impressive for hip-hop as the top ten earners of 2021 banked more than $1 billion.

Hip-hop is a subculture and an art movement that was forged in difficult circumstances in New York City during the early 1970s. This is the kind of music that emerged to reflect the negative effects of the city’s declining economy.


Hip-hop history

This was a hard time when living conditions were worsening in neighborhoods that were prominently populated by African-Americans, Puerto Ricans and Caribbean immigrants. The level of urban despair gave rise to rising crime, gang violence, and poverty.

Hip Hop History Bronx Block Party

Four decades later since Hip-hop emerged in difficult circumstances, it now accounts for 27% of U.S music consumption-more than any other genre.

This is roughly equal to rock and country combined. Hip-hop is now setting the trend and brands that want to advertise partner with hip-hop artists the reasons why they are among the highest earners in any music genre.

Is it because Jay-Z was born in New York in the same time as hip-hop was emerging that he is the top earner in this music genre?

I don’t know! This is just a question that pop up in my mind as I am crafting this story.

But the truth is that Jay-Z is 2021’s king of hip-hop cash. He has accumulated $470 million after selling cent million-dollar chunks of his Tidal streaming service and Armand de Brignac champagne.

His net worth has since ballooned to $1.5 billion as a result of his last year financial performance.

His fellow billionaire Kanye West is ranking second after accumulating $250 million over the course of 2021. The hip-hop artist and businessman who calls himself Yeezus earned all this chunk of money almost entirely from his footwear empire.

Hip-hop artists who owns businesses have the advantage of promoting them together with their career resulting in exponential growth of their wealth. This is the case of Kanye West who owns a footwear empire.

Kanye’s obsession for design dates back as far as his passion for music. He was inspired by the time when his father took him to an auto show as a child and became obsessed with the Lamborghini.

Kanye West and his sneakers

Kanye West and his sneakers

He now says that there is a bit of Lamborghini in everything he does.

Hip-hop artists are now at the top when it comes to teaming up with brands looking for market shares. Puff Daddy earned a massive payment from Diageo for his Ciroc vodka like while DJ Khaled made a fortune with partnerships involving companies from Pandora to Dolce & Gabbana.

Puff daddy and DJ Khaled

Puff daddy and DJ Khaled

DJ Khaled in company with Puff Daddy posted a short video on his Instagram account celebrating their accomplishments in 2021 and wishing a happy new year to his more than 27.8 million followers.

If there is an area where hip-hop needs to improve, it is its persistent gender gap pay. On the list of hip-hop artists who did well last year, you only finds Doja Cat.

Doja Cat

Doja Cat (Sources BBC)

Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini known professionally as Doja Cat is a rapper, singer, and songwriter. Born and raised in Los Angeles, the 26-year-old is the only female hip-hop artist who comes up on the list as she benefited from her strength at the international stage and partnerships with brands from Pepsi to Candy Crush.

Here below is the full list of hip-hop’s top earners in 2021:

1. Jay-Z ($470 million)

2. Kanye West ($250 million)

3. Diddy ($75 million)

4. Drake ($50 million)

5. Wiz Khalifa ($45 million)

6. Travis Scott ($38 million)

7. DJ Khaled ($35 million)

8. Eminem ($28 million)

9. J. Cole ($27 million)

10. Birdman ($25 million)

10. Doja Cat ($25 million)

10. Tech N9ne ($25 million)

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