Empire State of Mind: Jay-Z becomes hip-hop's first billionaire

NEW YORK (AFP) – Jay-Z is officially hip hop’s first billionaire, Forbes declared Monday (June 3), founding his kingdom on entertainment but also reaping earnings from liquor, art and real estate.

The rapper born Shawn Carter, who grew up in one of Brooklyn’s most notorious housing projects, “has accumulated a fortune that conservatively totals US$1 billion (S$1.54 billion), making him one of only a handful of entertainers to become a billionaire – and the first hip-hop artist to do so,” the magazine said in a new cover story.

The house that Jay built includes stakes in Armand de Brignac champagne and D’Usse cognac – worth US$310 million and US$100 million respectively – as well as US$220 million in cash and investments that includes a stake in Uber worth an estimated US$70 million.

The 49-year-old also boasts a US$75 million music catalog, US$75 million from the entertainment company Roc Nation and US$100 million from streaming service Tidal.

In addition to his penthouse in New York’s posh Tribeca neighborhood, Jay-Z and his superstar wife Beyonce own mansions in East Hampton, New York and Los Angeles’ swank Bel Air neighborhood – real estate holdings adding some US$50 million to the rapper’s name, Forbes said.

In 2017 Forbes said music’s first couple had officially amassed a joint billion-dollar worth.

It had been widely assumed that hip hop mogul Dr. Dre had already achieved billionaire status – especially after he anointed himself as such in 2014 – but according to Forbes’ 2018 ranking his personal wealth is closer to US$770 million, despite selling his company Beats by Dre to Apple for US$3 billion.

Fellow megawatt rap titan Diddy is worth US$825 million, according to that same list. He along with Dre and Jay are not only the wealthiest hip hop artists, but the richest American musicians of any genre.

Swizz Beatz, the producer behind a number of Jay-Z’s megahits, told Forbes the rapper has created “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,” he said.

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

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