This year marked the fifth annual installment of the Forbes Hip-Hop Cash Kings list, which ranks rap's top earners. Who captured the total earnings crown for the past half-decade? Read on. (Full story: Hip-Hop Cash Kings 2007-2011)
Received nine figures for Vitaminwater stake in 2007; spent freely on cars, renovations to mansion formerly owned by Mike Tyson. Cushion remains from catalog, acting gigs and 50 Cent-themed videogames, books, clothes and headphones. Future billionaire? Told Forbes in 2008: "It's probably going to take me 10 years."
3. Sean "Diddy" Combs, $158 million
Artist formerly known as Puff Daddy built fortune chiefly through clothing line Sean John, record label Bad Boy and Ciroc vodka. Acting gigs, television shows and guest appearances add to coffers. Told Forbes in 1999: "I'm gonna be bigger than David Geffen." Not there yet.
4. Kanye West, $100 million
The self-proclaimed Louis Vuitton Don has pulled in tens of millions from both producing and rapping. Followed solo masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with Jay-Z collaboration Watch the Throne, stands to fatten pockets on tour with Hova.
5. Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley, $81 million
Virginia-based superproducer has penned beats for every rapper on this list as well as pop acts including Madonna, Mariah Carey, the Jonas Brothers and Duran Duran. Solid success as a solo artist with Shock Value trilogy adds to coffers.
6. Andre "Dr. Dre" Young, $80 million
Superproducer/rapper helped launch careers of Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent. Expanded wealth with Aftermath record label, Beats headphones and HP laptop line. Likens himself to world's first billionaire: "Young black Rockefeller ... gettin' money like a bank teller."
7. Pharrell Williams, $76 million
Versatile star made his name penning hits for rappers and pop artists alike as part of popular production duo The Neptunes; now fronts funk-rock band N*E*R*D. Once named the world's best-dressed man by Esquire, Williams designs sunglasses for Louis Vuitton and launched apparel lines Ice Cream and Billionaire Boys Club.
8. Calvin "Snoop Dogg" Broadus, $73 million
Lanky rapper parlayed pimpish image into mainstream fame; once the embodiment of West Coast gangster rap, he revealed a softer side in his reality-TV show Father Hood and variety show Dogg After Dark. Added to acting résumé by playing himself in Sacha Baron Cohen flick Bruno and soap opera One Life to Live.
9. Christopher "Ludacris" Bridges, $68 million
Self-proclaimed "Mouth of the South" has sold over 20 million albums, won three Grammy awards and appeared in two Oscar-winning films. He’s also inked endorsement deals with Tag body spray and Trojan Magnum condoms in addition to touring and releasing new albums. Latest venture: A deal with spirits producer Birkedal Hartmann to create a cognac called Conjure.
10. Dwayne "Lil Wayne" Carter, $66 million (tie)
Lyricist reportedly wrote his first song at age 8 and signed a record deal with Cash Money Records a year later. His 2010 album I Am Not A Human Beingmade him the first artist since Tupac Shakur to have a No. 1 album while incarcerated. Now free, he’s making up for lost time with a lucrative tour.
10. Marshall "Eminem" Mathers, $66 million (tie)
Controversial rhymester has sold over 32 million records since 2000, more than The Beatles (30 million)--or any other artist. But he’s still a relative pauper compared to peers due to lack of outside business ventures and touring.
10. Aliuane "Akon" Thiam, $66 million (tie)
Senegalese-American hip-hop singer/songwriter/producer profits range of business ventures including Konvict Clothing, ads for Pepsi and Kon Live, his Interscope-backed imprint that launched Lady Gaga and others.
Bryan "Birdman" Williams earned more than enough over the past five years to rank among the top 10, but we didn't estimate his earnings for Cash Kings lists until 2011 because we deemed him more executive than rapper (he was included this year because most of his peers now have a similar job description).
Our estimates chart pretax earnings for all living artists whose work is primarily classified as hip-hop or rap. The estimates also include income from record sales, digital downloads, films, merchandise sales, endorsements, books and other ventures; management, agent and attorney fees are not deducted. Earnings are calculated every year and based on data from Pollstar, Nielsen SoundScan, the RIAA and individual record labels, as well as interviews with numerous lawyers, media buyers, managers and many of the artists themselves.