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Not A Hard Knock Life Anymore: A Look At Jay-Z's Billion Dollar Empire

Not A Hard Knock Life Anymore: A Look At Jay-Z's Billion Dollar Empire

Jay-Z may have 99 problems – but the bills ain’t one.

Jay-Z has become much more than a rapper, taking an Empire State of Mind as he’s built a portfolio of companies and real estate that led Forbes to estimate this week that he’s now worth $1 billion, the first hip-hop artist to hit that mark.

The artist – real name Shawn Carter – has a rise all the more remarkable considering his start, in housing projects in Brooklyn and a stint as a drug dealer.

Start in Music

Jay-Z got his start in music without a record deal. He started the record label Roc-A-Fella Records in 1995 to release his own debut studio album, 1996’s "Reasonable Doubt," and sold CDs out of his car. He would go on to release 14 No. 1 albums, and is estimated to have made more than a half a billion dollars from just the music.

But early in his music career, he also began branching out into business, starting with a clothing company, Rocawear in 1999. He would also start a sports bar chain, 40/40 Club, and an entertainment company Roc Nation. He created a brand, and used the various enterprises to cross promote the others. Eventually, he sold the rights to Rocawear for more than $200 million, though he retained a stake in the company.

As he made more money, he also bought companies, such as Aspiro, a Norwegian company that operates music streaming service Tidal. He also bought in as a part owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

Despite how it started, it's not exactly a hard-knock life.

Here’s a look at Jay-Z’s current holdings and estimated worth.

Companies and Brands

Tidal. Jay-Z bought the music-streaming service’s parent company for just under $60 million in 2015. Forbes says it’s now worth $100 million.

Roc Nation. Jay-Z’s entertainment conglomerate started as the company putting on the Live Nation concert. It now includes a sports agency that represents athletes including Kevin Durant, an agency representing artists and a record label. Forbes puts its worth at $75 million.

Armand de Brignac champagne. Launched in 2006. Jay-Z owns the entire company, makers of $300 gold bottles of Ace of Spades, which Forbes pegged the value of at just over $300 million.

D’Ussé Cognac. Jay-Z co-owns the brand with beverage company Bacardi. Forbes says it's worth $100 million.

Music Catalog

Possibly the smartest thing Jay-Z did was negotiating the return of master recordings from an early label. He also managed to acquire publishing rights to some of his work from EMI. That brings in a lot of money – his songs are streamed a billion times a year. Forbes says the music catalog is worth $75 million.

Cash And Investments

Jay-Z, who has hung around with Warren Buffett, has an impressive investment portfolio that includes an estimated $70 million stake in Uber – which he reportedly bought for $2 million six years ago. Forbes pegged Jay-Z’s cash and investment portfolio at about $220 million.

Other Assets

Forbes says Jay-Z has an art collection valued at approximately $70 million and several homes worth, together, about $50 million.

Related Links

How Did A Startup Get Jay-Z And Kevin Durant Excited About Life Insurance?

10 Youngest Billionaires On The Forbes 400 List

Photo credit: Mike Barry, via Wikimedia Commons


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