Nine years ago, two unlikely lunch partners sat down at the Hollywood Diner in Omaha, Nebraska. One, Warren Buffett, was a regular there.
The other, Jay-Z, was not. The billionaire and the rapper ordered strawberry malts and chatted amiably, continuing the conversation back at Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway offices.
Jay-z is the guy to learn from for a young person growing up.
This moment, which was originally captured in the 2010 Forbes 400 package, and made it clear that Jay-Z already had a blueprint for his own ten-figure fortune.
“Hip-hop from the beginning has always been aspirational,” he said.
Less than a decade later, it’s clear that Jay-Z has accumulated a fortune that conservatively totals $1 billion, making him one of only a handful of entertainers to become a billionaire—and the first hip-hop artist to do so. Jay-Z’s steadily growing kingdom is expansive, encompassing liquor, art, real estate (homes in Los Angeles, the Hamptons, Tribeca) and stakes in companies like Uber.
He was a drug dealer in the early ’90s. Becoming a musician and starting his own label resulted in the release of his 1996 debut. Since then he’s amassed 14 No. 1 albums, 22 Grammy awards and over $500 million in pretax earnings in a decade.
The clothing line Rocawear started in 1999 (sold for $204 million to Iconix in 2007); D’Ussé, a cognac he co-owns with Bacardi; and Tidal, a music-streaming service.
Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean, the superproducer behind some of Jay-Z’s biggest hits (“On To The Next One,” Beyoncé’s “Upgrade U”), looks at Jay-Z as something others can model:
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 that was above us.”
“If he’s a billionaire now, imagine what he’s about to be,” Swizz Beatz says. “Because he’s only just starting.”
What’s Jay-Z Worth?
To calculate his net worth, we looked at the artist’s stakes in companies like Armand de Brignac champagne, applying our customary discount to private firms. (He owns 100% of Armand de Brignac and has partial ownership of the other companies.)
We checked our numbers with a roster of outside experts to ensure these estimates were fair and conservative. Turns out, Jay-Z really is a business, man.
Armand de Brignac
Jay-Z has used his music to shill the $300 gold bottles of the “Ace of Spades” champagne. More recently, his verse on Meek Mill’s “What’s Free” put a half-billion-dollar value on the wine, which seems like a bit too bubbly a number.
Cash & investments
A vast investing portfolio includes a stake in Uber worth an estimated $70 million. Jay-z reportedly purchased his piece for $2 million back in 2013.
Jay-Z’s cognac, a joint venture with beverage giant Bacardi, moves almost 200,000 cases and has grown nearly 80% annually.
In 2015, Jay-Z submitted a bid to purchase the Scandinavian streaming service’s parent company for just shy of $60 million.
This wide-ranging entertainment company started over a decade ago as part of a joint venture with concert giant Live Nation.
Wise move: his hits now clock close to 1 billion streams annually.
In the song “Picasso Baby,” Jay-Z boasted about a “Basquiat in my kitchen corner.” He probably wasn’t kidding. For over a decade, he’s been scooping up masterpieces like Basquiat’s “Mecca,” purchased in 2013 for a reported $4.5 million. “Jay-Z helped educate millions of hip-hop fans mentioning Jean-Michel.”
After welcoming twins in 2017, Jay-Z and Beyoncé bought a pair of homes to match: a $26 million East Hampton mansion and a $88 million Bel Air estate.