From Beats by Dre to Roc Nation Sports, the portfolios of the Forbes Five include a diverse range of investments. Birdman, Jay Z and Diddy have sought profits in liquor while every member retains some income through music and label activities. But what would these artists’ portfolios look like if they reflected the assets most frequently mentioned in verse?
To create a lyrical portfolio, we tallied every mention of particular assets in each artist’s most recent solo album, including synonyms (think “cash,” and “dough” for “money”). Name-checks of publicly traded businesses and subsidiaries, such as Sturm, Ruger RGR +0.88% & Company (guns) or Yahoo YHOO -0.05%‘s Tumblr (tech), were included. Shoutouts were only counted if they were rhymed by the rapper in question rather than a guest lyricist; also excluded were hooks sung by other artists.
The asset most rapped about by hip-hop’s richest? Money. Per their lyrical portfolios, each artist puts between 28% and 64% of their verbal expenditure on cash. Birdman, the hand-rubbing head honcho of Cash Money Records, unsurprisingly has the most dollar-dependent lyrical portfolio, with money comprising about two thirds of the assets he raps about on 2009’s Pricele$$. Judging by these verbal allocations, The Forbes Five never have to worry about liquidity, but it’s not the smartest real-life division – cash has a yield of 0%, and minus inflation actually yields -2%. This means that by keeping money in dollar bills, it’s actually losing value.
Diamonds and jewelry make up 9% of Birdman’s verbal portfolio. These magpie tendencies are reflected in the lyrics of “Shinin’”: “New diamond teeth spent $1 M.” It might sound hyperbolic, but Bryan “Birdman” Williams confirmed the seven figure price tag to FORBES in 2011: “I try to wear $1 million a day. At least.”
Thankfully, the majority of Birdman’s estimated $160 million net worth is in music and media, not dental work. Cash Money Records continues to grow a roster that already includes Hip-Hop Cash Kings Drake, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne; diversification is on the way with Cash Money Content, a YMCMB clothing line and GT Vodka. Birdman’s verbal brand loyalty to French watchmakers Cartier (six mentions) and luxury retailer Louis Vuitton (four mentions) would actually serve him well on the market: Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy stock rose 8.3% in the last year, while Cartier’s parent company, Richemont , saw share prices rocket 20.6% since April 2013.
As per 2013’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail, Jay Z has the most diversified lyrical portfolio, with mentions ranging from traditional media like NewsCorp and Time Warner to Twitter, gold and real estate. As he closes in on a billion-dollar fortune, it’s fitting that his art, wine and yacht-filled rhymes reflect the hobbies of many members of the Forbes 400.
Most significantly, he name checks $493 million worth of art in the album, according to top auction prices for artists mentioned . Yet art is not always a wise investment. Though analysis of the art auction market suggests you can expect an average annual return of 10%, such figures do not take into account pieces that might not be as sellable. Still, Jay Z’s mix of classic (Picasso, Da Vinci) and modern/contemporary (Rothko, Koons) works continues to sell well. Had Jay Z bought a Picasso when he first mentioned the artist in his 1996 album Reasonable Doubt, it likely would have been a solid purchase.
“You know, music is like stocks, too,” Jay Z told Warren Buffet and Steve Forbes during a conversation in 2010. “There’s the hot thing of the moment. People tend to make emotional decisions based on that. They don’t stick with what they know… They jump on this next hot thing. And it’s not for you.”
An avid car collector, it’s no surprise 50 Cent talks about motors 15% of the time he is mentioning assets in 2009’s Before I Self Destruct. His first car was a charcoal gray Toyota Land Cruiser, paid for in $53,000 cash made from selling drugs. Millions of albums and a $100 million Vitaminwater exit later, he’s upgraded to an electric blue Lamborghini Murcielago, in addition to a Ferrari convertible and a Bentley Mulsanne, among others. Lyrically, he also has the most diverse motor mentions of the bunch, rhyming about Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz, Bugatti, BMW, Audi and Honda models, in addition to the cars he owns in real life.
A common adage states a vehicle starts losing value the minute you drive it out of the dealership. Yet 50, real name Curtis Jackson, is less concerned with value loss than he is with the tax man. As he notes in “So Disrespectful,” with a net worth of $140 million, he is “in that tax bracket you never gonna see.”
“If you’re familiar with my man Uncle Sam, you understand the only way you can actually feel better about what he’s gonna take, come the end of the year, is lifestyle,” Jackson told FORBES. “Only thing you can do is spend some of it.”
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Dre’s lyrical portfolio is the least-flashy of his peers. He has at least 70% less asset mentions in 1999’s The Chronic 2001 than 50 Cent’s most recent offering, instead focusing on gangsta rap subject matter. No Louis or Lambos for Dre: He does not mention a single designer brand and sticks to mid-to-upper tier cars like Cadillac, Lexus and Mercedes.
Indeed, Dre’s real portfolio is far more impressive – his net worth of $550 million draws mostly from the unprecedented success of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones.
The richest rapper in 2014, P. Diddy’s 2010 Last Train To Paris is also conspicuously asset-free, instead filled with love and nightclub odes. His repeated “house” mentions in “Coming Home,” means real estate comprises about 30% of his lyrical portfolio. It’s also a sound investment: In the U.S., houses are again appreciating in value, meaning what was once rent money is now earning money.
Unsurprisingly for a liquor mogul, Diddy does make many a “popping bottle” reference. Today, he owes much of his fortune to Ciroc vodka.
Speaking to FORBES last year, Diddy said: “I’d be blessed to be a billionaire … hopefully someday it’ll come true and I’ll be able to do some good with it.”
To view more, visit Forbes.com