The Richest Rappers In The World

According to NPR, rap emerged in 1970s New York City. Evolving side-by-side with DJing, what initially began as a way to keep a crowd entertained took on the form of a commercially successful, mainstream music genre after Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" topped charts in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The 1979 hit paved the way for the "golden age of hip-hop" in the mid-1980s, as the genre spread from New York to across the globe.

Rap and hip-hop have developed so much since their beginnings, and the people on this list are representative of the incredible diversity the genre has created. They also show that maintaining a ridiculously high net worth involves stepping beyond the recording booth, often taking part in business deals or branching out into film or fashion. Some rappers have even begun veritable empires, spawning the careers of other artists by sharing their talents with up-and-comers. Read on to find out who has seen the most success in the genre.

Birdman: A New Orleans legend and his $110 million empire

New Orleans rapper Birdman is best known for starting Cash Money Records, which launched Lil Wayne's career. Allegedly using $100,000 from his half-brother's drug dealing, Birdman and his brother founded Cash Money in 1991. According to Forbes, they saw wild success as an indie label and attracted backers from the most prestigious recording companies in the country, even selling to Universal for millions in 1998. What's more, the recording giant allowed Cash Money to keep 85% of its royalties. Cash Money Records remains one of the most successful hip-hop labels out there, and according to Billboard, they've sold over a billion units to date.

Despite his success, Birdman's net worth has gone up and down over the years. From spending $70 million on "royalty payments, marketing endeavors and recordings costs" to losing his $12 million mansion for allegedly defaulting on a loan, Birdman struggles to manage his wealth after a series of bad decisions. Tragically, these money problems led to a massive feud between Birdman and Lil Wayne, who used to have a father-and-son type of relationship. His net worth fell by $50 million between 2014 and 2017 alone, leaving him with an estimated $110 million that year.

LL Cool J: The 'forefather of pop rap' and his $120 million throne

After signing to Def Jam records at 16, LL Cool J dropped out of high school to focus on his music career. His ability to go from hard gangsta rap to smoother flows gave him a wide appeal, helping him top charts for many years. But be careful what you say about this versatile artist — although he was once labeled the "forefather of pop rap," he doesn't take very kindly to the title. In fact, his response on Twitter was, "What the f*ck are you even talking about?? LOL." Many fans agree that although he laid the path for artists like Drake to combine smooth, sultry R&B stylings with rap flows, he himself is not a pop artist.

LL Cool J is also more than just a recording artist. He became a successful actor after his time in the booth, appearing in both TV shows and films. He is mainly known for his leading role on "NCIS: Los Angeles," for which he earns a salary of $350,000 per episode, according to Celebrity Net Worth. He has also released four books (a workout book, an autobiography, a children's book, and a book for teens), multiple clothing lines, and a musical social networking site called Boomdizzle.com. Thanks to his many endeavors, his net worth could be as high as $120 million, according to Hello Magazine.

Lil Wayne: A multi-platinum imprint worth $150 million

According to XXL Magazine, Lil Wayne broke into the rap game by getting Birdman's attention at just eight years old. His new mentor signed him to Cash Money Records at 12, placing him in both a duo and a four-person group before allowing him his first solo record at just 17. An iconic stream of solo records and mixtapes followed during the early 2000s, and thanks to his smooth flow and intelligent lyricism, Lil Wayne soon became one of the decade's biggest rappers. 

Thanks to the success of his solo career, Wayne was able to start his own label, Young Money Entertainment, as an imprint of Birdman's Cash Money. Young Money has featured powerhouses like Nicki Minaj, Drake, DJ Khaled, and Tyga and has produced five albums that hit number one on the Billboard Hot 200. He is often credited for raising a new generation of rap and hip-hop, and many of music's biggest names cite him as their inspiration.

Although his music and label bring in the majority of his cash, bringing his possible net worth to $150 million, Lil Wayne has made some efforts to diversify his earnings. He wrote a book in 2016 about his time in New York's infamous Rikers Island jail and has signed several brand endorsements, including for Apartments.com, Beats by Dre, and Bogey Cigars.

Snoop Dogg: A $150 million personality

After being scouted by Dr. Dre and signed to Death Row Records, Snoop Dogg began an incredibly successful rap career. Snoop is often credited for putting West Coast rap back on the map, thanks to his combination of mesmerizing flow with funky, old-school beats (a style also seen in Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" from the same era). Additionally, Snoop's fun, laid-back personality made him the perfect candidate for celebrity. His popularity was largely responsible for the spread of West Coast slang, including heavy use of the suffix "-izzle," The New York Times wrote in 2004.

Snoop's place in the zeitgeist helped maintain his career even when his album sales were dropping. The early to mid-2000s saw a variety of Snoop-related business deals, mainly movie and TV credits but also some more obscure ventures. (He has produced an adult film with his music as the soundtrack, founded a cannabis investment firm, started an esports gaming league, and even hosted a cooking show with Martha Stewart.) Between his music catalogue and his variety of businesses, it's no wonder Snoop Dogg's net worth could be as high as $150 million.

Snoop also makes time to give back and is involved in a number of charitable endeavors. He has coached both a youth football league and a high school team and gives away thousands of turkeys every year in Inglewood at Thanksgiving.

Ice Cube: $160 million from music and movies

After founding minor hip-hop group C.I.A. with two friends, Ice Cube went on to pen "Boyz-in-the-Hood," which he sold to Easy-E at Ruthless Records. The song eventually became a smash hit and led to the formation of the influential gangsta rap group N.W.A., which was made up of Easy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre. The three were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of fame in 2016 for their contributions to hip-hop music and culture and are often viewed as central figures in the gangsta rap movement. After making multiple records with N.W.A., Ice Cube broke out on his own for a lucrative solo career and even went on to write tracks for other artists. 

In addition to music, Ice Cube has found success in the acting world. He is most known for appearing in feature films "Boyz N the Hood" and "Ride Along," although he has 81 acting credits and counting on IMDb, including multiple voice acting roles for video games. He has even made some ventures into the business world, making headlines in 2019 for forming a group which would bid on Disney's regional sports networks, valued at $10 billion. (Variety reports that Ice Cube and his partners lost out to Sinclair Broadcast Group.) His net worth could be as much as $160 million.

Drake: $180 million well spent

Initially becoming famous on "Degrassi: The Next Generation," Drake went on to become one of the biggest names in music today. He started by releasing mixtapes on his MySpace page, leveraging his minor fame from "Degrassi" until he eventually got noticed by Lil Wayne and signed to Young Money Records.

Known for his emotional R&B/rap ballads as well as dance hits, Drake has been nominated for 129 major awards and received 27, making him "Billboard's most awarded artist in history" (via Digital Music News). Given his impressive accolades, his estimated $180 million net worth is less than surprising — but boy, does he spend it. Drake is known for rocking a "million-dollar outfit," sleeping in a $400,000 bed, and even collecting Hermès Birkin Bags (which range from $8,000 to $2 million, depending on the features) for his future wife.

Drake's estimated net worth also does not include certain assets, like the $185 million Boeing 767 jet he was gifted. For reference, a 767 is no private jet — it's a legitimate commercial airliner that can fit nearly 200 seats.

Pharrell Williams: $200 million for three decades in the business

Between solo records, producing and writing for others, touring, judging on "The Voice," and participating in a variety of business deals, Pharrell Williams has a lot of ways to make money. In fact, Forbes listed him as one of the most "diversified performers on the Celeb 100" for his varied gigs. His net worth has been estimated as high as $200 million.

Although he isn't the most traditional rapper on the list, Pharrell's genre bending rap-rock, experimental hip-hop, and progressive punk stylings helped him find broad appeal, increasing his net worth. His unique sound has also helped him remain relevant throughout the ages, from his beginnings as a producer on the 1992 hit "Rump Shaker" to his writing on Snoop Dogg's 2004 smash "Drop it Like its Hot," his 2010 soundtrack for "Despicable Me," and his 2017 N.E.R.D revival track with Rihanna, "Lemon." Pharrell's continued presence in the music industry is proof of his many talents — and will keep his pockets lined for years to come.

Master P: $200 million in innovative contracts

With a successful career in rap group TRU and his very own record label under his belt, it's no wonder Master P is so rich, but his label isn't just any old production house. What makes No Limit Records (now No Limit Forever) so unique is that its artists retain 100% ownership over their masters (or the master recording, which is essentially the legal rights to your track) and 85% of their sales, thanks to the fact that they are an independent label. This model is vastly different from most other rappers' labels, which are typically imprints of larger companies and thus beholden to their rules and contract standards. According to NPR, Master P has long been a proponent of artists' ownership over their own music collections, and his independent label model showed up-and-coming artists the dangers that can come with selling your soul to a multibillion-dollar record company. Using his business degree to change the way artists make money off of their music, Master P both helped artists maintain their rights and created a multimillion-dollar empire.

Aside from his label, which brings in by far the most cash, Master P has a variety of side gigs to keep his wallet flush. From a clothing line to a phone sex line, energy drinks, and a real estate firm, Master P's business savvy goes beyond the usual celebrity's. He also played basketball professionally in the NBA, all the while staying actively involved in music, although he never made it past the preseason. His variety of professions have brought his net worth estimates as high as $200 million.

Eminem: $230 million from tours and sales

Eminem got his start by competing in the Los Angeles Rap Olympics in 1997. Despite placing second, his performance got the attention of some major record executives, one of which handed his tape off to renowned rapper-turned-producer Dr. Dre. After hearing the demo, Dre is quoted as saying, "Find him. Now," (via Rolling Stone).

Since them, Eminem has gained a slew of milestone achievements, such as the top-selling rapper of all time, fastest-selling hip-hop album of all time (for "The Marshall Mathers LP"), and 14th best-selling musical artist of all time.

With such impressive accolades, it's no wonder that a large chunk of Eminem's wealth comes from his recording career. But the rapper doesn't stop at solo recordings: His label Shady Records, which gave 50 Cent his start and birthed the top-selling "8 Mile" soundtrack, is constantly earning him royalties. Additionally, most of his money comes from his tours. He earned $3 million for a two-night gig in the U.K., brought in $12.4 million with the help of Rihanna for a two-night deal at Metlife Stadium, and gained $5 million per show on the pair's co-headlined Monster Tour. Additionally, he maintains smaller sums from film appearances and brand endorsements, making his potential net worth as high as $230 million.

Dr. Dre: The $800 million production powerhouse

Dr. Dre is one of the most legendary rapper-producers out there. He has produced for some of the biggest names in music, from Mary J. Blige to 2Pac, and is credited with launching Eminem's career. But before he used his award-winning production skills to co-found Death Row Records, he found fame as a member of gangsta rap group N.W.A.

Dre is also known for his top-selling headphone collaboration, Beats by Dre. According to Britannica, Beats was started as an electronics company but eventually came to include a music streaming service. The two-piece company was purchased by Apple for $3 billion in 2014.

Between his business and his music, Dr. Dre earned a lot of wealth over the course of his career. However, despite declaring himself a billionaire in 2014, Dr. Dre's net worth is actually estimated by Forbes to be around $800 million. Even at this lower figure, Dr. Dre is still one of the top five wealthiest rappers in the world.

P Diddy: $900 million for an entrepreneurial spirit

P Diddy is an accomplished rapper, record executive, and entrepreneur. He got his start at Uptown Records as a talent director but was eventually fired, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In protest, he founded his own record label, Bad Boy Entertainment, at just 24 years old. From here, he made two crucial decisions in starting his fledgling label. First, he was able to poach Uptown newcomer The Notorious B.I.G., whose rise to fame help cement his label's reputation. His second move was to form an illustrious production crew, The Hitmen, who were able to pull big names from Usher to Aretha Franklin and TLC. Diddy's success with his label, coupled with his critically acclaimed studio albums, helped him achieve legendary status in the hip-hop community.

Like many of the other rappers on this list, P Diddy has created some seriously lucrative entrepreneurial endeavors. He is most known for Ciroc vodka, whom he partnered with in 2007, and his clothing line Sean John. Thanks to his long career in music and business, his net worth could be as much as $900 million.

Jay-Z: $1.4 billion on the elevator

Known as an incredible businessman in addition to being a talented rapper, it's no wonder Jay-Z made it on this list. He quickly rose to fame after starting Roc-A-Fella Records in 1995 and releasing his platinum album "Reasonable Doubt" the following year. Although he announced his retirement from performing in 2003, he was soon after named president of Def Jam Records and would go on to release multiple critically acclaimed albums and perform on several live tours in the future. For his continued presence in the music industry, he was even inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.

But Jay-Z's expertise does not stop at music. With a reputation for being business-savvy, this rapper's entrepreneurial endeavors are what made him most of his money — and what earned him the title of "hip-hop's first billionaire" in 2019. According to the BBC, much of Jay-Z's wealth comes from his investment properties in trendy Los Angeles and New York neighborhoods, his $100 million stake in music streaming service Tidal, a $70 million stake in Uber, his music catalogue worth $75 million, and his $410 million stake in Armand de Brignac champagne and D'Usse cognac. In fact, his stakes in Tidal and his champagne brand alone caused his net worth jump an entire 40% in 2021, bringing him to $1.4 billion, according to Forbes. It looks like Beyoncé is going to have to revise that elevator lyric.

Kanye West: a highly disputed net worth

The now-infamous Kanye West broke onto the scene in 2000 with a production role on Jay-Z's second studio album, "The Blueprint." Since then, he has released nine studio albums and three collaborative albums and produced for a variety of artists, including Mariah Carey and Jermaine Dupri (via Rolling Stone). In recent years, his marriage to Kim Kardashian, struggles with mental illness, and political views have brought him much controversy. But despite his struggles, he maintains his spot as the richest rapper in the entire world.

West's net worth has been highly disputed as of late. In early 2021, Bloomberg released an article about his upcoming brand deal with Gap, saying it could potentially be worth nearly $5 billion. This figure would put his net worth at $6.6 billion. However, Forbes wasn't happy with the estimate, placing his net worth instead at $1.8 billion. Their reason? Forbes says their figure is based on West's net worth at the time of writing, while Bloomberg's is speculative and based on the projected value of the upcoming deal.

Even at the conservative end of the estimates, West is still the richest rapper by several hundred million dollars. His wealth mostly comes from his music sales in addition to stocks and royalties of his clothing brand, Yeezy. If his net worth of $6.6 billion is to be believed, he would be the richest Black person in America by about $2 billion and the richest Black person in the world. (At $1.8 billion, he's still in fourth place worldwide.)