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Dr Dre the Beats billionaire: The rise of rap’s richest man, from Compton to a history-breaking Apple deal

We chart the rise of one of music’s most impressive forces

Dr Dre is, as of today, the richest man in rap. Thanks to having sold his Beats headphones empire to Apple for an impressive $3.2 billion, he has now usurped P Diddy as the wealthiest hip-hop artist.

In 2014, Forbes estimated that Dr Dre’s net worth was $550 million – a figure that will have increased sizably today, although no one knows how big a stake Dre had in the business so it’s difficult to know exactly just how much his fortunes will have increased, but suffice to say it'll be a lot.

But how has the Compton-born musician become so very, very rich? The answer in short is a mix of successful collaborations, teamed with a keen business and entrepreneurial mind.

When Dre – real name Andre Young - was growing up in Compton, he contended with gang violence and was forced to leave junior schools to study in a safer, suburban environment.

He didn’t fare well at high school, consistently suffering from low grades, before unsuccessfully applying to do an aviation apprenticeship. Instead, he became a local DJ, which led him to join musical group World Class Wreckin' Cru – who became pioneers of West Coast rap.

He had an eye for good collaborations, working with hip-hop legends Ice Cube, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Blackstreet to name but a few – most of which led to huge commercial success. He has produced a string of chart hits – including Mary J Blige’s "Family Affair", Gwen Stefani’s "Rich Girl" and Eminem’s "My Name Is". Royalties have never been in short supply, as you can imagine.

Although his own music has proved lucrative with a plethora of best-selling, platinum albums, it’s his business mind that’s arguably been his biggest financial asset. In 1996, he set up his own label, Aftermath Entertainment, signing Eminem and 50 Cent. In 2001, he sold the business for an estimated $52 million to Interscope Records.

Then came Beats by Dre, the expensive headphones company he co-founded with Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine in 2008. Its rumoured $3.2 billion sale to Apple is the giant’s largest acquisition ever.

So the key to hip-hop financial success is simple – a large dose of talent and ambition, a record label boasting the world’s biggest rap stars, an eye for talent, and a simple, yet extremely lucrative product-based business venture.

There will definitely be no forgetting about Dre, no matter what Eminem says.

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