Music artist and business mogul Jay-Z is the world's first billionaire rapper, Forbes has announced.
In its latest cover story, the business publication valued the 49-year-old entrepreneur's empire at US$1 billion (NZ$1.5 billion), including real estate, art and other enterprises.
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"His journey is all the more impressive given its start," Forbes said. Shawn Carter, AKA Jay-Z, grew up in the notorious Marcy housing projects in Brooklyn, New York. Carter sold drugs to get by as a youth, before a boombox birthday present sparked his interest in music.
After selling CDs from his car in New York, Jay-Z established his independent label Roc-A-Fella Records in 1995 and released his 1996 debut Reasonable Doubt. Now, the rapper has "amassed 14 No.1 albums, 22 Grammy awards and over [US]$500 million in pretax earnings in a decade".
The music magnate has built multiple businesses, such as co-founding the clothing line Rocawear; D'Usse cognac, a joint venture with Bacardi; and Tidal, the music-streaming service. The former sold for US$207 million in 2007.
"It's time for someone to take [rapping] to the next level, to become an executive and open the doors for the culture," Jay-Z said n a 2005 interview with GQ.
"It's bigger than hip-hop," producer Swizz Beatz told Forbes.
"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 was above us."
Forbes calculated Jay-Z's net-worth based on his stakes in, and ownership of, various companies alongside his income (minus a considerable chunk to accommodate his lifestyle).
The report reveals sizeable equities such as a US$310 million ownership of Armand de Brignac champagne, a $100 million cognac business with Bacardi, a $75 million entertainment company, Roc Nation, and $220 million in cash and investments.
Forbes also reports Jay-Z's art collection is worth US$70 million (he owns Basquiat's "Mecca"). His music catalogue is worth a cool $75 million, and properties in the Hamptons, Tribeca and Bel Air amount to around $50 million.
Jay-Z married Beyoncé, one of the best-selling music artists of all time, in 2008. Beyoncé's net-worth reportedly sits close to US$360 million. The duo, who have three children, are consistently ranked as one of the world's most powerful couples.