Dr. Dre performs with Snoop Dogg at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
The most profitable man in hip-hop hasn't released a solo album since 1999. But as anyone who follows the record business knows today, the real racket is in corporate partnerships and investments, and that's what vaulted the producer Dr. Dre to the top of Forbes' hip-hop earners list.
Dre hauled in $110 million before taxes in 2011, the vast majority of it coming from a $300-million investment in his Beats by Dre company by the telephone-tech company HTC. Dre made $100 million on that deal alone, which gave a majority stake in the company to HTC. Though if Internet chatter could be translated into a payday, his Phantom Tupac at Coachella could have set him up for several lifetimes.
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No. 2 on the list is Diddy, who similarly made the vast majority of his 2011 fortune from his stake in Ciroc Vodka, which was good for $45 million. Jay-Z came in just below that at $38 million, and though half of that came from partnerships with the Brooklyn Nets, a Duracell joint venture and a stake in the cosmetics firm Carol's Daughter, he did actually release some new music last year - the much-lauded "Watch the Throne" collaboration with Kanye West.
West, for his part, sneaked in just below that with $35 million, most of which came from "Watch the Throne" and "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" sales and touring.
The top woman on the list is Nicki Minaj, whose $15.5 million was good for No. 8 on the list -- she also had widely circulated Pepsi and Adidas ad campaigns to go with musical ventures.
Lessons to learn from all of this? Mic prowess is great, but the real key to joining the hip-hop 1% is to diversify your bonds (among your other investments).
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