Dr. Dre unseats Jay-Z as highest-paid rapper

Forbes Names Dr. Dre Year’s Highest-Paid Rapper

Dr. Dre has topped Forbes‘ brand new list of highest-paid rappers despite not having released a new album in 12 years.

The rapper-producer earned the number one spot due to the success of his Beats by Dre headphones, which account for over half of the high-end headphone market. Beats by Dre made up $100 million of the Doctor’s pretax $110 million earnings.

Handset maker HTC paid $300 million for a 51 percent stake in Beats by Dre last year.

Rounding out the top five are Sean “Diddy” Combs, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne.

Similar to Dr. Dre, much of Diddy’s earnings had nothing to do with tour revenue or album sales. $45 million came from the sale of Ciroc vodka, which he became brand ambassador of in 2007. $38 million of Jay-Z’s earnings came from his stakes in the Brooklyn Nets, cosmetic company Carol’s Daughter, and other ventures. $35 million of Mr. West’s earnings are due to the Watch the Throne album and tour partnership with Jay-Z. Lil Wayne earned $27 million thanks to the success of Tha Carter IV, his Mountain Dew sponsorship, and his Trukfit clothing line.

Finishing out the top ten are Drake ($20.5 million), Cash Money co-founder Birdman ($20 million), Nicki Minaj ($15.5 million), Eminem ($15 million), and Ludacris ($12 million). Eminem sold more albums last decade than any other artist, earning most of his money due to an extensive back catalog and occasional tours. Ludacris’ earnings are largely due to his movie roles, Soul headphone line, and Conjure cognac investments. The Atlanta rapper said:

“We work so hard that we never get a real chance to stop and reflect on what we’ve done sometimes. So the FORBES list is a great representation of, ‘You know what, wow, we are out here working as hard as hell!’”

The Cash Kings 2012 list will appear in the September 24 issue of Forbes.

What do you think of the Forbes rankings?