Jay-Z is officially hip hop’s first billionaire, Forbes has declared, after building an empire based on music, property, fashion, and investments.
The US magazine has estimated that the rapper’s wealth now “conservatively totals” $1bn (£800m).
Forbes says the husband of singer Beyonce has succeeded because he built brands rather than just endorsed them.
In its rankings, Forbes rejected claims that rapper and producer Dr Dre had reached billionaire status.
Jay-Z, born Shawn Carter, grew in one of New York City’s most notorious areas.
He hit fame in 1996 with his debut album Reasonable Doubt. His 2001 album The Blueprint was in March added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry because it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Forbes said it had estimated Jay-Z’s wealth by adding various assets and then “subtracting a healthy amount to account for a superstar lifestyle”.
Among the 49-year-old’s assets are:
- A $75m music catalogue
- Stakes in Armand de Brignac champagne and D’Usse cognac, worth $410m in total
- A stake in Uber worth about $70m
- Property in fashionable parts of New York and Los Angeles
- A $100m stake in the music streaming service Tidal
- An art collection valued about $50m
His superstar wife is reportedly worth about $335m, made mostly from music and endorsements, and the couple has had a joint net worth over $1bn for several years.
Jay-Z, who once rapped “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man”, is one of only a handful of entertainers to become billionaires, according to Forbes.
It was often assumed that Dr. Dre reached billionaire status in 2014 after selling his Beats headphone business to Apple. But last year Forbes put his personal wealth at about $770m.
Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean, the producer behind some of Jay-Z’s biggest hits, told Forbes that the rapper’s success is “bigger than hip-hop”.
He said: “It’s the blueprint for our culture. A guy that looks like us, sounds like us, loves us, made it to something that we always felt that was above us.”
Jay-Z appears on the front cover of the latest Forbes magazine alongside another – wealthier – billionaire, Warren Buffet.
It appears that the legendary investor, 40 years his senior, spotted something special in the rapper a few years ago, telling Forbes in 2010: “Jay is teaching in a lot bigger classroom than I’ll ever teach in. For a young person growing up, he’s the guy to learn from.”