Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 February 2020

Jay-Z is named hip hop's first billionaire – so what's the blueprint for his success?

Forbes has assessed the rapper's wealth, which it 'conservatively totals' at $1bn

Jay-Z has become the first rapper to accumulated a fortune of more than $1bn. EPA 
Jay-Z has become the first rapper to accumulated a fortune of more than $1bn. EPA 

With 14 number one albums in his back catalogue, real estate investments across the US and significant stakes in brands such as Uber, it was perhaps only ever a matter of time before Jay-Z hit the billion dollar mark. Now, though, it’s official: the 49-year-old rapper is hip hop’s first billionaire.

The US magazine Forbes has reported that Jay-Z’s fortune “conservatively totals” $1bn (Dh3.6bn). Forbes attributes Jay-Z’s wealth to his realisation that “he should build his own brands rather than promote someone else’s”.

The clothing line Rocawear (sold for $204 million in 2007), the luxury drink D’Usse, and the music-streaming service Tidal are all examples of successful brands that Jay-Z has founded. Added to this, Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, owns houses worth many millions of dollars in Los Angeles, the Hamptons and Tribeca.

This is all a long way from the Marcy housing project in Brooklyn where Jay-Z grew up, earning money as a drug dealer. In 1996, he started a record label, Roc-a-Fella Records, on which he released his debut album Reasonable Doubt. Jay-Z has since released a further 12 solo albums, including 2001’s The Blueprint, which sold more than two million copies, and five collaborative albums, including 2011’s Watch the Throne, recorded with Kanye West. In 2008, Jay-Z married the singer Beyonce Knowles, who is reportedly worth $335 million.

Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles in New York in 2014. Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles in New York at the Met Gala in 2014. Film Magic

The producer of some of Jay-Z’s biggest hits, Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean, told Forbes: “It’s bigger than hip-hop. 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.

“If he’s a billionaire now, imagine what he’s about to be. Because he’s only just starting.”

It was long assumed that Dr Dre was hip hop’s first billionaire after he sold his headphone company, Beats, to Apple in 2014. But Forbes estimates that after paying taxes, Dr Dre would have a net worth of about $800m.

Jay-Z is on the cover of this month’s Forbes magazine, alongside the billionaire businessman Warren Buffett, who said in 2010: “Jay is teaching in a lot bigger classroom than I'll ever teach in. For a young person growing up, he's the guy to learn from.”

How Forbes calculated Jay-Z’s fortune

  • Armand de Brignac (Jay-Z owns 100 per cent of the drink brand) – $310 million
  • Cash and investments – $220 million
  • D’Usse (joint liquor venture with Bacardi) – $100 million
  • Tidal (music-streaming service) – $100 million
  • Roc Nation (entertainment company) – $75 million
  • Music catalog – $75 million
  • Art collection – $70 million
  • Real estate – $50 million

Updated: June 4, 2019 11:36 AM

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