Yesterday, Forbes released it’s list of the five richest people in hip-hop. Atop the list sat the incomparable Diddy with $820 million. Jay Z is right on his heels with $810 million — he could sell pictures of the twins to a magazine and make up the difference in about 15 minutes. Dr. Dre, the producer responsible for building the careers of rappers like 50 Cent and Eminem, is sitting on $740 million. Meanwhile Birdman, worth $110 million, is soon to be surpassed by his own artist Drake, who came in at No. 5 with $90 million.
For many people there is a name that feels suspiciously absent: Kanye West. I’m not one of those people. I can think of more than a few reasons why Yeezy wasn’t on the list.
Up front, it’s important to know that Forbes is more than just a magazine. It stands as an authority in the world of wealth, finance, and business. Appearing on any of its lists lends credibility to individuals and companies, giving them a better chance of executing future ventures. It’s also a status symbol in a culture obsessed with rich people. I can imagine that it would be hard to agree to appear on such a grandiose list after his wife was robbed at gunpoint less than a year ago. Both he and Kim have maintained a much lower profile since then, with Kim partly blaming her own flashiness for the violent theft.
But a look at the differences between Kanye and his peers on Forbes' list is also telling. Diddy’s lucrative deals with liquor companies like Ciroc and DeLeón, in addition to his cable network Revolt, have bolstered his portfolio. Beyoncé’s husband has been similarly business savvy via Tidal and Roc Nation entertainment. Everyone knows about Dre’s infamous multibillion-dollar transaction when he sold the hugely popular Beats Electronics to Apple in 2014. For their contributions to hip-hop, all three of these men are artists in their own right, but these days they are business titans first.
Kanye, on the other hand, remains firmly rooted in his artistry as his primary source of income. With eight studio albums and five tours under his belt, West’s musical endeavors — where his creativity shines the brightest, in my personal opinion — have raked in quite a bit of cash for the rapper/producer. Not to mention his fashion endeavors, including a particularly lucrative partnership with Adidas resulting in West’s YEEZY collection. His artistry trumps everything, and I can’t imagine this half of Kimye putting his signature on any deal that's not an expressive outlet for him, which isn’t always the end goal for business magnates.
On their 2016 list of "Hip-Hop Cash Kings," Forbes reported that West made $17.5 million that year — before the premature conclusion of his Saint Pablo Tour. It was after Kanye tweeted that he was $53 million in debt. Despite these conflicting details, I’m going to go out on limb here and say that while he may not appear on Forbes' most recent list, he's certainly not broke.