The latest Forbes richest rappers list is out, which means it's time to talk about people who spend more money on dinner than your grandparents made in their lifetime and who's truly running the proverbial game:
- Sean “Diddy” Combs: $750 M
- Andre “Dr. Dre” Young: $710 M
- Shawn “Jay Z” Carter: $610 M
- Bryan “Birdman” Williams: $110 M
- Aubrey “Drake” Graham: $60 M
The obvious take away from scanning that list is that actually rapping is now only very loosely related to making big rap money. In fact, it looks like the less you rap, the more you make. Diddy just "retired" from music, Dr. Dre's dropped one album in 16 years that didn't really impact the larger culture, Jay Z just got cut from Drake's album, and with all due respek, Birdman hasn't had a dope song since "What Happened to That Boy." Drake's the only name in the top five that's a consistent, significant musical presence, but while $60 million is no joke, it's clear that he won't hit that upper-upper echelon until he launches big companies of his own (or gets OVO to actually pop).
It's tempting to look down at who's fallen out of that previous top five list (cough, 50 cent, cough), but instead it's far more interesting to look up at all the people in music for whom being worth a mere $750 million would be a devastating downfall. Yes, I'm talking about the Illuminati - the real Illuminati.
By coincidence, I also just happened to see a report that Len Blatvanik, the owner of Warner Music Group, who ultimately distributes Drake's OVO Sound label along with artists signed to Atlantic Records and a host more, had a down year in 2015 and is now worth a paltry $16.8 billion. That's more than 20 Diddy's combined.
If you walk up the label ladder far enough, Universal Music Group (UMG) ultimately controls Dr. Dre's Aftermath, Jay Z's Roc Nation and Birdman's Cash Money, and UMG isn't even the biggest fish in the pond. UMG is controlled in turn by Vivendi, whose CEO, Vincent Bolloré, is worth approximately $7 billion. That's about nine Diddys, ten Dr. Dres, eleven Jay Zs, sixty-three Birdmans and one-hundred-sixteen Drakes.
That doesn't diminish the accomplishments of any of those men (and they're all men) in the slightest, every time I see these lists I get a new wave of appreciation for how people like Shawn Carter went from the Marcy Projects to being worth nearly a billi. But it's also always worth noting that while we may look to those five names as occupying the top tier of the music pyramid, the truth is even the seemingly all-powerful Diddy is only a relatively minor player in the biggest workings of the music industry.
So rappers, if you're really looking to brag about how much money you're making, forget Lamborghinis, forget mansions, forget even being the next Jay Z. Go out and make yourself some of that Len Blatvanik money.