Billionaire Boys Club – Hip Hop’s Race to a Billion

“What’s better than one billionaire?

Two, especially when you’re the same hue as you”

— Jay-Z, Family Feud

The race to a billion has been a topic of conversation in hip hop for a long time.

Eyes turned to Russell Simmons as the chosen one as the owner of the most legendary rap label, Def Jam & all its subsidiaries with Def Poetry Jam featuring acts like Kanye West and Def Comedy Jam hosted by Martin Lawrence.

When the Cash Kings list came out in 2007 I Get Money was given the Forbes remix treatment with the Top 3 earners (Diddy, 50 Cent, Jay-Z) all on the track.

Each has come close with 50 Cent’s historic Vitaminwater deal after the brand was purchased by Coca Cola.

And Diddy has been the most consistent with Sean John clothing & fragrance winning awards while Bad Boy has produced millions but his biggest partnership has been Ciroc as the brand has become the face of vodka.

Jay-Z capitalized a minority’s stake in the Nets to their move to Brooklyn, a Rocawear store nearby while a branch of his 40/40 club is fitted in the arena he owned ownership in.

TIDAL’s partnership with Sprint bought needed cash into the company and his $200M deal with Live Nation in 10 years it’s likely Jay-Z becomes the first hip hop billionaire.

When Apple bought Beats By Dre for a record 3.2 billion in 2014 headlines where a blazed with one question, did we have the first hip hop billionaire?

There was a, now infamous, video on Facebook of Tyrese and Dr. Dre celebrating the sell, proclaiming “the Forbes list just changed”.

Everyone knew he and his partner Jimmy Iovine had the most individuals ownership in the companyas founders with Iovine at 25% & Dre at a respectable 20%.

Soon after the deal was finalized & congrats were showered reports began surfacing that it was actually the owner of Interscope who was the actual billionaire.

After taxes Dr. Dre’s impressive cut of over half a billion dollars shrunk to around $300M bringing his net worth to $700M+

This number though enormous was deflating considering how close he got to that elusive title.

How does Dr. Dre, whose name and pedigree is the marketing for Beats not have the same percentage as Jimmy Iovine?

On the surface 5% doesn’t seem like such a difference but factoring in what Dr. Dre has been through the question of “What If” is fascinating.

Dr. Dre is the greatest hip hop producer of time.

Coming out of the Westside he along with Daz & Warren G revolutionized music with the G Funk sound of hard hitting rhymes over soulful chords.

His ability to adjust is admirable.

After N.W.A he co-founded Death Row Records with Suge Knight releasing The Chronic then leaving his own company he teamed with Jimmy Iovine’s Interscope for his solo label called Aftermath.

Iovine is a music man producing records for legendary rock groups like Tom Petty & U2.

So the partnership of the producer & executive was a match made in heaven.

With the first iteration of Aftermath failing Dre regrouped and 2.0 had Eminem, 50 Cent & The Game where they all received multi Platinum successes.

The story of how they created Beats is music lore.

After turning down a sneaker deal they were convinced speakers and headphones were the way to go

“They [Beats] went from 27,000 to 1,600,000 headphones in one year

— The Defiant Ones documentary

The “What If?” is simple what if they both owned half of the company with each owning 25% of Beats.

The difference between the 5% is $150M and after taxes it would’ve pushed Dr. Dre to billion status.

Iovine and Dre has a great relationship but White owners promoting Black has always been controversial with Dame Dash criticizing those outside forces as culture vultures.

Achieving a billion is not a pride thing but it allows true freedom.

“Only spot a few Blacks the higher I go. What’s up to Will? Shout out to O. That ain’t enough we gonna need a million more, ‘Kick in the door’ Biggie flow.”

— Jay-Z, Murder To Excellence

The rooms & conversations are different.

Critics never thought hip hop would ever take it this far so it’s only right to continue to break boundaries.

Rap is pop culture and the next step is to have one of these Black creatives to achieve the ultimate, a net worth of a billion dollars

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