Jay-Z Makes History as the World’s First Hip-Hop Billionaire

Move over, Kylie Jenner — there’s a new billionaire in Tinseltown! Jay-Z has officially amassed a 10-figure income.

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Forbes reported on Monday, June 3, that the “Empire State of Mind” rapper, 49, is making history as the first hip-hop artist to become a billionaire.

According to the publication, the business mogul’s wealth is comprised of several endeavors, including his own champagne and cognac brands, investments in art and real estate, stock in massive companies such as Uber, his Tidal streaming service, his Roc Nation entertainment company and, of course, his wide-spanning musical catalog, which he’s been steadily growing since 1996, when he released his first album, Reasonable Doubt.

Though Jay-Z’s solo net worth is an accomplishment, the New York native has actually enjoyed billionaire status prior to 2019 — Forbes reported that he and Beyoncé became a billion-dollar couple in May 2017, with Bey’s $350 million wealth combining with Jay’s $810 million to total a cool $1.16 billion net worth.

Jay-Z Makes History As the First Hip-Hop Billionaire
Jay-Z Earl Gibson III/Getty Images

It’s a far cry from the Grammy winner’s early beginnings in Brooklyn, where he previously admitted he once sold drugs: “I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer,” the musician told Vanity Fair in 2013. “To be in a drug deal, you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up. Or if you want to start some sort of barbershop or car wash — those were the businesses back then. Things you can get in easily to get out of [that] life.”

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Jay-Z (née Shawn Carter) told VF that he knew his former profession wasn’t something he could maintain, however: “At some point, you have to have an exit strategy, because your window is very small; you’re going to get locked up or you’re going to die.”

Jay-Z also recalled watching his mom, Gloria Carter, struggle to make ends meet while growing up. “We were living in a tough situation, but my mother managed; she juggled,” he told the publication. “ Sometimes we’d pay the light bill, sometimes we paid the phone, sometimes the gas went off.”

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Still, he says Gloria made it work. “We weren’t starving — we were eating, we were OK.”

Despite how far he’s come financially, it’s not all about the dollar bills for the “Young Forever” crooner: Jay-Z spoke about the correlation between money and happiness in a 2011 interview. “They’re not tied to each other. [Money] allows you freedom, it allows you to go places where you can smile and you look at the sunset, but there a lot of people with tons of money who aren’t happy,” he pointed out. “Life is about balance, right, you have to have some type of balance. There’s time for work and time for play.”

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