When it comes to beginnings, very few can tell of journey’s quite as humble- or as difficult- as that of Nicki Minaj’s.
Ducking and diving the obstacles that were poverty, domestic violence and drug abuse to pursue a career in Rap, the last seven years have seen a fearless drive and undeniable talent force a change in her fortunes.
Traits, that have seen her lift herself up from the mean streets of NYC to an international acclaim, that now sees her hailed as one of the world’s most commercially viable acts.
So, it should come as no surprise that she’s earned a spot on Forbes’ 2013 ‘Hip Hop Cash Kings‘ list, sat alongside the likes of Jay Z, P.Diddy and Dr. Dre.
Forbes’ report after the jump…
“Looking through this year’s list of Hip-Hop Cash Kings, you might find yourself asking, “Where the ladies at?” Nicki Minaj, who clocks in at no. 4 with an estimated $29 million, is the only woman on the list, earning more than Snoop Lion, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar combined. In fact, Minaj, who made her 2011 debut raking in $6.5 million has been the only female to ever make the Cash Kings list since its inception in 2007.
So where are all the other fierce females? Simply put, nowhere near the top. While a slew of upcoming female rappers have the potential to earn seven figures someday soon, in recent years, no woman MC other than Minaj has gained mainstream recognition and the record sales, touring, and endorsement deals that go along with it.
This year, Minaj nearly doubled last year’s $15.5 million pay check by clocking impressive tour numbers to go with her American Idol gig and endorsements with Mac, OPI and Pepsi. She also owns a stake in Myx Fusions Moscato, a sweet wine now making its way into her music videos and rap verses. These deals rank Minaj far higher than any of her male Cash Money labelmates, includingDrake, Lil Wayne, and YMCMB head honchoBirdman.
“I’ve never been afraid to walk into the boy’s club,” Minaj told a FORBES contributor. “Ever. Ever, ever, ever.”
“Nicki’s just got it,” says music attorney Lori Landew, a partner in the entertainment division ofFox Rothschild. “Part of the reason she’s so authentic is because she’s so chameleon-like, which could come across as cartoonish and not attractive to a brand, but it works for her.”
Minaj is not hip-hop’s first high-earning female, however. Had there been a list prior to 2007, ladies like Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliot and Eve probably would have been Cash Kings in their prime. Fugees star Lauryn Hill, whose solo shows grossed over $100,000 back in the day according to PollstarPro, certainly would have made the cut.
And that’s not to say women aren’t earning money in the music industry today. Thanks to her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, pop star Beyoncé made $53 million this year – about $10 million more than hubby Jay Z, who came in at No. 2 on the Cash Kings roster. Queen Bey’s pay check doesn’t even come close to Madonna’s, who topped this year’s FORBES list of highest-earning celebrities banking an estimated $125 million in the past year. Lady Gagaearned 10th place on that list, generating $80 million in the 12 months leading up to March 2013.
Potential future female rap stars include Azealia Banks, who pulled in over $1 million this year mostly from live shows – and she hasn’t even released an album yet. Blonde Australian MC Iggy Azalea signed to Wilhelmina Models in 2012 and became the face of Levi jeans off the buzz of viral YouTube videos, a mixtape and an EP. Other upcoming rappers include Angel Haze, whose venomous freestyles and fast-flowing rhymes got her signed to Universal Republic and Island Records.
So what’s keeping these women from joining the millionaire boys club? Unlike the corporate world, where females might provide mentorship to each other, women MCs have lately proven more likely to feud publicly than offer a guest verse. Azealia Banks’ Twitter feed alone has been the virtual scene of spats with nearly every female rapper around, including Nicki Minaj, Lil’ Kim, Angel Haze and Kreayshawn.
“Hip-hop today has become so much more competitive because there are so many more artists vying for attention,” said Wendy Day, founder of Rap Coalition, a non-profit which helps artists navigate fair record deals. “It’s a very male dominated industry, and it’s very, very hard to establish yourself as a female rapper.”
“It seems there’s only one [female rapper] that gets anointed at a time,” Landew said. “I think it’s just more difficult for women in rap to break through the mainstream and to cross over into the male market.”
While competition is an expected and often fruitful part of hip-hop, if these ladies hope to become Cash Queens, they will need to focus on selling records, growing their audience to become big touring acts, and endorsing wisely.
As Minaj says, “It’s time for a female Jay, a female Puffy.”
Full list below
#1. Diddy – $50 million
#2. Jay Z – $43 million
3. Dr.Dre – $40 million
4. Nicki Minaj – $29 million
5. Birdman – $21 million
6. Kanye West – $20 million
7. Lil Wayne – $16 million
8. Wiz Khalifa – $14 million
9. Ludacris -$12 million