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Jay-Z, Diddy & Kanye Top Forbes “Hip-Hop Cash Kings” List

Jay-Z, Diddy and Kanye West topped Forbes’s annual list of hip-hop’s top earners. Dubbed Hip-Hop Cash Kings, the list, which was announced today, names the top 20 most financially successful rap artists over the last year, beginning in June 2008.

Topping the list, and stealing 50 Cent’s title from last year, is Brooklyn rap business mogul, who Forbes believes to have raked in $35 million since last June. Although down from last year’s reputed $82 million in earnings, Jay still managed to pull in millions in profits from his relentless world tour.

One notch down is fellow New York-bred entrepreneur Diddy with $30 million in estimated income. Along with his Sean John clothing line, Puff has been seeing returns from his partnership with Ciroc Vodka and MTV reality shows.

Entering the top three for the first time is Mr. Kanye West. The Chicago-bred superstar earned approximately $25 million over the last 12 months, due in large part to the success of his last album, 808s and Heartbreak, and subsequent Glow in the Dark tour. He also kept his bank account growing with his Nike and Louis Vuitton sneakers.

Tied at no. 4 is G-Unit general 50 Cent and hip-hop hookman Akon, both predicted to have made $20 million. ‘Kon was one of the only artists to make more money than last year, thanks to his Konvict Music label, home to pop princess Lady Gaga and hit maker T-Pain. Fif, on the other hand made a sharp decline in profits. Last year he was believed to pull in an unprecedented $100 million from his stake in Vitamin Water’s sale to Coco Cola.

Rounding out the top five is New Orleans rap giant, Lil Wayne. The Young Money CEO is believed to have pocketed $18 million, also earning most of it on the road.

Super producers Timbaland – who is projected to have taken home $17 million – and Pharrell ($16 million) also made the list. Auto-Tune trendsetter T-Pain followed at no. 9 with $15 million. Comeback kid Eminem generated $14 million with the excitement surrounding his Relapse project, with co-conspirator Dr. Dre also benefiting, bagging up $12 million.

Other artists to weigh in included Snoop Dogg ($11 million), Ludacris ($10 million), Common ($8 million), ($8 million), T.I. ($8 million), Swizz Beatz ($8 million), Andre 3000 ($7 million), Big Boi ($7 million), Flo Rida ($6 million), Rick Ross ($6 million), The Game ($6 million) and Young Jeezy ($6 million).

Despite the recession, Forbes says that the top 20 earners were still able to generate $300 million, albeit still down $200 million from last year. In order to calculate the artists’s worth, the business authority took into account income from record sales, digital downloads, touring, films, TV shows, endorsements, books and other entertainment ventures.Forbes did not take into account management, agent or attorney fees. – Elan Mancini

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