Jay-Z Becomes Hip-Hop's First Billionaire

Rapper Jay-Z said it best: “I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man." The hip-hop legend has plenty of rap songs about being a billionaire and now he is one. Forbes announced on Monday, June 3 that Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, is the first hip-hop artist to become a billionaire because of smart investments in real estate, businesses, and art.

"Less than a decade later, it's clear that Jay-Z has accumulated a fortune that conservatively totals $1 billion, making him one of only a handful of entertainers to become a billionaire — and the first hip-hop artist to do so," Forbes' Zack O'Malley Greenburg wrote. The rapper reportedly has a $70 million stake in Uber, a $70 million art collection, and $50 million in various real estate holdings and in his music catalog, according to Forbes. The hip-hop artist also owns his own music streaming service, Tidal, and owns Roc Nation, his sports management company.

The rapper also launched his own champagne company, Armand de Brignac, in 2006 during his music video “Show me What You Got,” which is now worth $310 million, Forbes reported. He also partnered with Bacardi for his cognac D’Ussé, which is now worth $100 million. Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean, a producer who has worked with Jay-Z on some of his greatest hits, told Forbes that the news is much “bigger than hip-hop” and that “it’s the blueprint for our culture.”

“A guy that looks like us, sounds like us, loves us, made it to something that we always felt that was above us,” Swizz Beatz told the publication. “If he’s a billionaire now, imagine what he’s about to be. Because he’s only just starting.” Becoming a billionaire was not easy for the rapper. He was born and raised in Brooklyn and sold drugs to make money. During a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair, he discussed how he learned about budgeting and how to spend his money. In 1996, Jay-Z released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, under his own record label, Roc-A-Fella records, Forbes reported.

In 1998, he released his breakthrough album titled Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, which went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts, according to the Grammy website. His song from the album, “Can I Get A…,” became a Top 20 hit on the music chart. Since then, he’s released 14 No. 1 albums, 22 Grammy-winning albums, and received 77 Grammy nominations. The rapper has earned over $500 million in pre-tax earnings, according to Forbes.

Forbes estimated Jay-Z’s net worth was $610 million on the Hip Hop’s Wealthiest Artists 2016 list. He came in third behind rappers Sean "Diddy" Combs, who was worth $750 million at the time, and Andre "Dr. Dre" Young, whose worth was listed as $710 million. In addition to all of his success, Jay-Z is also married to R&B queen Beyoncé, who is worth $355 million. The couple’s combined worth is $1.35 billion, according to Business Insider. The R&B singer’s Formation World Tour in 2016 raked in a quarter of a billion dollars in 2016, according to the publication.

In April, Beyoncé surprised fans by dropping a live album the same day as the documentary about her iconic Coachella performance was released on Netflix. She became the first Black woman to headline the annual festival in 2017, and performed with a marching band and dozens of dancers. Jay-Z and her sister, Solange, performed alongside Queen Bey during the festival, which also brought Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams onstage to reunite Destiny’s Child for three songs.

In 2018, the power couple closed their On The Run II tour with more than $250 million, Billboard previously reported. The two sold over two million tickets and played in 48 stadiums during the tour, which netted them $5.28 million each night. A few days after beginning the tour in June 2018, the couple released their joint album, Everything Is Love and sold 123,000 album-equivalent units in its first week, Billboard reported. Hip-hop artist Dr. Dre claimed that he was hip-hop’s first billionaire after selling Beats Music, the headphone and streaming music service, to Apple in 2014. Although the deal brought his net worth to about $1.1 million, state and local taxes knocked his net worth to below $1 billion, CNN previously reported.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.