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The Forbes Five: Hip-Hop’s Wealthiest Artists 2018

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Last June, when Jay-Z and Beyoncé welcomed twins to their family, they did what many couples do in the wake of a new arrival–move to a bigger home–on quite an epic scale. Over the next few months, they shelled out $26 million for an East Hampton mansion and scooped up an $88 million Bel Air estate, adding 21,000 square feet per newborn. That’s the sort of thing you can do when one partner is a pop demigod and the other is the richest rapper on the planet.

Jay-Z upped his net worth from $810 million to $900 million over the past year, seizing hip-hop’s cash crown for the first time since Forbes started counting back in 2011. The Brooklyn-born mogul’s jump is due mostly to the rising value of his interests in Armand de Brignac champagne and D’Ussé cognac, on top of nine-figure ownership stakes in his Roc Nation empire and Tidal streaming service.

“We always complain about, ‘We don’t own this, we don’t own that.’ … Here he is, this man who owns that,” superproducer Swizz Beatz told me in an interview for my book 3 Kings: Diddy, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Hip-Hop’s Multibillion-Dollar Rise. “The sky is not the limit: it’s just a view.”

Jay-Z, Diddy and Dre are not only the wealthiest hip-hop acts on the planet, but the richest American musicians of any genre. Longtime Forbes Five champ Diddy ranks No. 2 this year despite increasing his fortune slightly in the past 12 months; tepid trends in the vodka and cable TV sectors have affected his interests in Ciroc and Revolt, but heady growth at DeLeón tequila, his joint venture with beverage giant Diageo–and massive annual earnings totals in recent years–have kept his net worth trending in the right direction.

READ MORE: Kendrick Lamar: The Conscious Capitalist

Dre ranks third with $770 million, creeping upward thanks to the market trends boosting his nine-figure windfall from Apple’s $3 billion buyout of Beats in 2014. The superproducer is also in line to receive a slug of Apple stock this summer worth well over $100 million; depending on the tech giant’s share price at the time, he could leapfrog Diddy and Jay-Z when that happens.

After the top three, there’s a long drop before the fourth and fifth names on the list: Drake and Eminem, tied at an even $100 million apiece. The youngest impresario of the bunch, 31-year-old Drake has earned more than $250 million since 2010, before taxes and spending; an equity stake in Virginia Black whiskey and pricey estates in Toronto, Canada, and Hidden Hills, California, pad his holdings. His inclusion on the Forbes Five represents yet another career goal achieved.

“If I’m not on your list this year, I’d be gravely disappointed,” he told Forbes back in 2013. “That’s pretty much my objective every year … other than making good music.”

READ MORE: How DJ Khaled Rolls: Hip-Hop’s Boldest Star Shows Off His Major Keys

Eminem isn’t known as a businessman like some of the other names on this list, but he’s still the best-selling rapper of all time and moved more albums in the U.S. during the 2000s than any act in any genre. Fresh off new album Revival, he makes his Forbes Five debut as former listmember Birdman–Drake’s Cash Money Records boss–slips below the $100 million mark in the wake of some apparent liquidity issues.

To compile the Forbes Five rankings, we follow the same procedures used to calculate our list of the world’s billionaires (our annual update arrives Tuesday): valuing major assets, poring over financial documents, and speaking with analysts, attorneys, managers, other industry players and, in some cases, the moguls themselves.

So who will be the first hip-hop star to reach the billion-dollar mark? Trends in the spirits world could continue to play a key role for Jay-Z and Diddy. After the furious rise of vodka in the first part of this decade, fueled largely by flavored variants like those of Ciroc, the market has shifted towards cognac, whiskey and tequila.

“D’Ussé fits right in there,” says Eric Schmidt, Director of Alcohol Research at Beverage Marketing Corporation. “I think DeLeón is poised for growth … it could one day be the next Patrón, but it’s a long road.”

Jay-Z, meanwhile, shouldn’t be slacking off anytime soon: though he and Beyoncé bought their East Hampton abode outright, according to public records, their $88 million Bel Air mansion comes with a $52.8 million mortgage. – Written by 

Big Shots

Celebrating Women With Monumental Strength

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Sixty two years ago, on August 9, 20,000 women of all races, classes and creed marched, singing and chanting, babies on their backs, to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital city, to deliver a petition to then Prime Minister J.G Strydom against the introduction of the apartheid pass laws.

This meant black women were not allowed in urban areas for more than 72 hours unless they possessed a pass with the holder’s details, including payment of taxes and permission to be in these urban areas. The march was led by the struggle stalwarts: Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn and Rahima Moosa.

“I didn’t see much of Helen Joseph at the march, she was in front of the crowd. She was a big strong woman and she led the march with other strong women. They told us that women are holding passes and if we don’t demonstrate against [the government], we [too will one day end up] holding these passes,” recollects Ramnie Naidoo to FORBES AFRICA. She was only was 14 years old at the time, escorting her mother at the march.

Pictured here is Helen Joseph (1905-1992), founding member of the Federation of South African Women, and Rahima Moosa (1922-1993), union activist and member of the Transvaal Indian Congress, both co-leaders of the 1956 Women’s March.

They have been immortalized in the Long March To Freedom, a procession of 100 life-sized bronzes celebrating the pioneers of South Africa’s journey to democracy, at the Fountains Recreation Resort in the City of Tshwane, Gauteng, South Africa.

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Arts

Talking African Writing in London

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Africa Writes, the Royal African Society’s annual literature festival, dwelt on Afrofuturism and where black British artists see themselves in the burgeoning new aesthetic.

(more…)

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Life

Kingdom Calling At The Bushfire Festival

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It’s an early morning in May and as the sun rises, red, orange and yellow hues bathe the swaying sugarcane fields of Malkerns, a small town in the landlocked southern African country of Swaziland.

Swaziland, renamed ‘the kingdom of eSwatini’ in April this year on its 50th birthday, awakens to the sounds of the rustling wind and chirping birds. Very soon, these natural notes will be replaced by the cacophony and camaraderie of thousands of guests jetting into the country for the annual Bushfire Festival, a three-day fiesta of art, culture, music and food in the last week of May.

It’s a busy time of the year for a kingdom that is one of the world’s last remaining monarchies.

Within the Bushfire Festival arena, djembe drums beat to the rhythm of the heartbeat of Africa. Revelers indulge in traditional feasts at the food markets as the musicians take center-stage.

The likes of South Africa’s Samthing Soweto, Brazil’s Flavia Coelho, Nigeria’s Yemi Alade and Mali’s Salif Keita are present, offering a profusion of sounds and melodies.

In the camping arena is a confluence of cultures, as over 29,000 guests who have traveled here to attend the festival make new friends and form unlikely collaborations.

Many stop to admire a hand-crafted grass hat worn by a young woman who has traveled from Lesotho. Anna Thai is originally from Memphis, Tennessee, in the United States.

“The people here are very relaxed and accepting of each other. There are so many from different countries, so many languages and so many different faces and I really enjoy the diversity of it,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

What started as a cultural meet around a small amphitheater, where artistes performed in front of a crowd of no more than a hundred, is today one of Africa’s most talked-about festivals.

 

Swazi-born Jiggs Thorne. Photo by Karen Mwendera.

“We started off as kind of a charity running a business and very quickly learned that it needed to be a business running a charity.” – Jiggs Thorne

Swaziland-born Jiggs Thorne, the founder and director of the festival, always had a passion for the arts, but admits he had to learn the business aspect of the festival the hard way.

“The important thing is I never studied to become a festival director and that’s the thing with entrepreneurs, you are driven by passion; the kind of passion that gets you up and creates that drive you need to make something work. And you have to be incessant,” Thorne tells us.

Born in Manzini, he was inspired by his parents who owned a restaurant. He went on to pursue a degree in drama and politics at the University of Natal in South Africa.

In 1994, when he finished his degree, he decided to return to his home country and apply his passion for the arts. Thorne wanted to develop the local arts scene.

In 2000, he set up House On Fire, the eclectic venue where the festival is now held.

However, its business model wasn’t sustainable, and Thorne realized that if he didn’t act quickly, his dream would slowly fade away.

“Well, I was very much an artiste and I think I’ve become entrepreneurial along the way and we started off as kind of a charity running a business and very quickly learned that it needed to be a business running a charity,” he says.

The Bushfire Festival came into being.

“It was always about a positive light, warmth, about celebrating diversity,” he says.

A majority of the funding came from sponsorships, and partnerships – the festival is called MTN Bushfire.

With his brother Shelton, Thorne fine-tuned the business model to keep its mandate as a creative arts platform and business at the same time. As Thorne came from an arts background, he had to depend on others to make his dream work.

Read More: Setting Fire To Swaziland

“There needs to be integrity in the way in which you deal with people so I think that’s kind of paramount in this equation where you are dependent on others to make it happen,” says the 48-year-old father of two.

The festival grew beyond what Thorne had imagined, he says, contributing over E50 million ($3.7 million) to Swaziland’s economy.

“When the king travels overseas, people ask him about Bushfire, you know. So it’s quite a surreal thing that the concept that came up all those years ago in a sense has become owned by others,” laughs Thorne.

This year, the local newspapers, radio stations and social media were abuzz with news on the festival.

Thorne owes its success to his team and his parents who left the legacy for him and the family to build on.

“It was kind of the fire they started and it’s a light that we’ve been able to follow. They are the legacy, says Thorne, who runs the festival with his siblings and extended family.

“Entrepreneurship is something that you don’t really study, you learn, and it’s something that takes over, and it’s kind of all-encompassing,” he signs off.

After the curtains come down on the festival, it’s back to the idyllic sights and sounds of Swaziland, until next year, when the little town of Malkerns will fire up again.

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