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With a Boost From Yeezy, Kanye West Dethrones Jay-Z as Highest Paid Rapper of 2019

The wildly popular shoe line is expected to top $1.5 billion in sales this year.

Kanye and Jay-Z Stephen Lovekin/WWD/Shutterstock/Greg Allen/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

This probably isn’t what Jay-Z had in mind when he and Kanye West recorded Watch the Throne together back in 2011. Eight years later, the emcee-turned-business mogul has been displaced as the highest paid rapper by his one-time protégé.

In its just-released rankings of the highest paid rappers of 2019, Forbes puts West at number one, crediting him with a pretax income of $150 million for the year. It marks the first time the Chicago native has out earned Jay-Z—who he once honored in a song titled “Big Brother”—in a career that spans all the way back to the beginning of the last decade.

West hasn’t released an album since last year’s Ye or hit the road since the Saint Pablo Tour in 2016, but it wasn’t music that put the rapper over the top. His record earnings were mostly due to the wildly popular Yeezy, his shoe and clothing partnership with Adidas. Launched in 2015, the brand is expected to top $1.5 billion in sales this year. Ironically, Jay-Z is credited with having given West the nickname that now graces the eponymous line.

Coming in at second on the list, by a long shot, was Jay-Z, whose yearly earnings the magazine put at $81 million. In third was the most-streamed musical artist of the moment, Drake ($75 million), followed by Diddy ($70 million) and Travis Scott ($58 million). Others that made the list include Kendrick Lamar at no. 8 ($38.5 million), Cardi B at no. 13 ($28 million) and Future at no. 17 ($19.5 million). Overall, the magazine’s top 20 brought in $860 million, a 33 percent increase from last year.

While Jay-Z may no longer be the highest paid rapper, he can take solace in another title Forbes bestowed upon him earlier this year—first billionaire rapper. Surprisingly, Beyoncé’s husband’s music catalog accounts for $75 million of his vast fortune, with the balance of his wealth comes from investment and the businesses he’s started, like Armand de Brignac champagne, Tidal and his Roc Nation music and sports empire.

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