Move over Jay-Z: Dr Dre is number one on Forbes’ list of Hip-Hop’s top earners

by Stanley Azuakola

Using figures from their touring, record sales, publishing, films, merchandise sales, endorsements and other ventures from May 2011 to May 2012, Forbes has compiled its list of annual hip-hop’s 20 biggest earners.

Thanks to his Beats By Dr. Dre headphones, which now sells more than half of America’s premium headphones, Dr. Dre is top of the list, displacing last year’s top earner Jay-Z, who is now number three.

Dre earned $110 million before taxes last year when handset maker HTC paid $300 million for a 51% stake in his company. However, the rapper and his partners have since bought back half of that stake.

“I understand why Dre didn’t finish ‘Detox.’ It’s called Beats,” former Def Jam president Kevin Liles said with a laugh, referring to Dr Dre’s delay in releasing his much awaited next album.

Most of the names which  made it into the list this year, made most of their money outside of the music industry.

Diddy came in second with $45 million thanks to his share of profits from Ciroc Vodka. Jay-Z is ranked third this year with $38 million, pulling in more than half of that from outside ventures like his ownership stake in the Nets and a deal with Duracell.

Kanye West and Lil Wayne came fourth and fifth respectively, with a mix of earnings from albums (Watch the Throne and Tha Carter IV), tours and endorsement deals.

Drake took in $20.5 million to come in sixth, while Cash Money co-founder Bryan “Birdman” Williams came seventh with $20 million. Nicki Minaj earned $15.5 million off albums, tours and endorsements to snag the eighth spot.

Eminem at number nine, is one of the few who earned most of his millions from music alone. He sold more albums last decade than any artist, and continues to cash in from his extensive back catalog and occasional tour dates, pulling in $15 million.

Ludacris came in 10th with $12 million from movie roles, voice-overs, his own headphone line, and other ventures.

In total, Forbes’ top 20 hip-hop earners pulled in $415 million last year, the most since 2008’s $515 million.

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