How Jay-Z Became Rap’s First Billionaire

"I ain't got a billion streams, got a billion dollars"

Jay-Z
Rap artist Jay-Z is a billionaire. (Ethan Miller/ Getty)
By Ariel Scotti / June 3, 2019 12:09 pm

Jay-Z really is a business, man.

Even by conservative measures, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is a billionaire. He’s the first hip-hop artist and one of only a handful of entertainers to reach the ten-figure milestone — and he did it largely by investing in himself.

Jay’s meteoric rise from the Marcy housing projects in Brooklyn, New York to rap mogul con be credited to ventures in the liquor business, art collecting, real estate, stakes in companies like Uber and, of course, his music and musical endeavors, Forbes reported.

Before becoming the star that he is now, Jay-Z, was a self-proclaimed drug dealer, but today, he’s the founder of Roc-A-Fella Records and the owner of “14 No. 1 albums, 22 Grammy awards and over $500 million in pretax earnings in a decade,” according to Forbes.

“It’s bigger than hip-hop … it’s the blueprint for our culture,” said producer and Jay-Z collaborator, Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean. “A guy that looks like us, sounds like us, loves us, made it to something that we always felt that was above us.”

Jay put his money into his own businesses instead of promoting others. He started Rocawear, his own clothing line in 1999, and then sold it for a reported $204 million in 2007. He owns D’Ussé, a Bacardi-branded cognac and Tidal, a music-streaming service. He’s the face of his “Ace of Spades” champagne by Armand de Brignac and his entertainment company, Roc Nation, that started as part of a joint venture with concert giant, Live Nation. The company includes an agency that represents artists like Rihanna and athletes like Kevin Durant.

His art collection is boasted about in his music — all one billion annual streams of it, which he owns the rights to — in songs like “Picasso Baby,” where he raps about a “Basquiat in my kitchen corner.”

After he and his fellow musical blockbuster wife, Beyoncè had twins in 2017, the couple purchased two new homes to match, too — a $26 million East Hampton mansion and a $88 million Bel Air estate. Jay also owns a penthouse in Tribeca that be purchased in 2004 for $6.85 million.

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