J. Cole is about as flashy as a paper bag. For the past year and change he's rarely been seen out of sweatpants, rides a bike through New York City instead of a Bentley and is more likely to be caught sitting on top of a house than inside a penthouse. But behind that humble exterior lies a man who's swimming in more ducets than Scrooge McDuck.
Billboard just released its Top Money-Makers List of 2015 and although the top of that list is dominated by pop, rock and country acts - Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and the Rolling Stones round out the top three spots - it was J. Cole who made hip-hop's highest ranking appearance at number 27, pulling in an estimated $8.8 million in 2015. And yes, that's more than Drake, The Weeknd and Nicki Minaj.
Cole's putting numbers on the board everywhere, but the real deciding factor here is touring, which makes sense. Album sales are withering, streams pay a fraction a penny, it's hard out there for an artist in the digital age. But if you can, for example, sell out Madison Square Garden, that's a lot of real people paying real money to fill those seats. And while many of his peers spent last year recording, vacationing and detouring into other ventures, Cole toured, toured, toured and then, just to mix things up a bit, toured some more.
Billboard's list doesn't factor in indirect music revenue like corporate sponsorships, which is why Drake's net worth is still larger thanks to big deals with Apple Music and Nike, but don't get it twisted. Cole may not look like Hollywood, but he's got enough money to tell almost anyone, including Drizzy, to G.O.M.D.
Now, about that Illuminati membership...