Hip-hop stars diversify to stay rich

Rap star Jay-Z has topped the list of the richest rappers in 2010, earning more than double that of runner-up Sean "Diddy" Combs.

Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter took in $US63 million ($69 million) in personal income between June 2009 and June 2010, according to Forbes.com.

Diddy took in $US30 million, followed by Senegalese-American rapper Aliuane "Akon" Thiam at $US21 million.

Despite beginning a jail sentence in March for weapons charges, New Orleans-born rapper Dwayne "Lil Wayne" Carter came in fourth, earning $US20 million, ahead of California rap icon Andre "Dr. Dre" Young, who took in $US17 million.

Almost all stars at the top of the list all share a common strategy - diversification.

The top-earning rappers pulled in cash from alcohol sponsorships, clothing lines, nightclub properties and film appearances, in addition to concert tours and record sales.

Jay-Z co-owns the 40/40 nightclub chain. Diddy promotes Ciroc vodka and appeared in the feature film Get Him to the Greek. Dr. Dre and Lil Wayne have record labels. Akon appeared in a Pepsi World Cup ad campaign.

The real money isn't in record sales, said Zack O'Malley Greenburg, a Forbes writer who compiled the list.

"Eminem tied at number 14, even though he's sold more records than any artist since 2000," Greenburg said.

Eminem earned $US8 million this year, despite the release of his album Recovery which sold 741,000 copies in the first week of sales.

"It's pretty shocking to see him so low down on the list," said Greenburg. "Compared to his peers, he doesn't really do much outside of music."

Rappers have responded to the current era of the digital download, when record sales don't reach the numbers they used to.

"Artists don't put out albums anymore, they put out single hits, so they have reasons to tour. Hits and tours make you relevant, and they get you sponsorships, and earn you money from merchandise," said Greenburg, who is the author of a forthcoming business-focused biography of Jay-Z.

Greenburg looked at male recording artists who primarily produced rap or hip-hop, and estimated their earnings from record sales, song downloads, touring, film and TV appearances, endorsements and other sources.

The full list can be found on www.forbes.com/hiphop.