Kendrick Lamar & Chance The Rapper Show Conscious MCs Can Make The Forbes List Too

On his song “Moment Of Clarity,” JAY-Z infamously rapped “I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars / They criticized me for it, yet they all yell ‘holla’ / If skills sold, truth be told / I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli / Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense / But I did 5 mill’ – I ain’t been rhyming like Common since.” It was an incredibly cynical statement about the commercial viability of Conscious Rap, but, as Jay said, it was grounded in cold hard facts, back in 2003, when he rapped those words.

Fast-forward to 2017, however, and things have changed immensely. This year, the number 1 selling album in any genre is Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., a dense exploration of race, religion, politics and self. In stark contrast to Jay, on Future’s “Mask Off (Remix)“, Kendrick rapped “Platinum, platinum, platinum / Gotta look at self and ask what happened / How y’all let a conscious ni**a go commercial / While only makin’ conscious albums?” Kendrick wasn’t the only successful rapper making conscious music, either. Chance The Rapper took home 3 Grammy Awards for an album that was effectively Gospel Rap, and Logic recently went all the way to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, with a song about suicide prevention. Even JAY-Z made a conscious album this year, with 4:44, that sold over a million copies and earned him his 14th number 1 LP.

There’s no question that conscious music can now dominate the charts, but the most recent Forbes list of the World’s Highest-Paid Hip-Hop Artists Of 2017 now shows that being a conscious MC also also be incredibly lucrative. On the list of 20 artists, both Chance and Kendrick made the top 10, with chance coming in at number 5 with $33 million earned, and Kendrick just behind him at number 6 with $30 million earned. Both secured their earnings primarily through a combination of payments from music streams, touring and sales of merchandise.


Chance and Kendrick’s good intentions are not limited to their music. For years, Chance has been a leader in voting reform, helping the homeless, and countless other charitable activities. This year, he donated $1 million dollars to Chicago public schools, and challenged local businesses to match his efforts. Kendrick also has been generous with his time and money. In past years, he’s consulted with the President of the United States about improving conditions for young Black men in America, he released a limited edition shoe, in conjunction with Reebok, designed to raise awareness about gang violence, and recently he bought a physically-disabled fan a specially-equipped van that allowed her to drive on her own. Together, both Kendrick and Chance have shown that doing good and doing well are not mutually exclusive.

Other points of interest about this year’s list include Drake’s continued ascent, as he surpasses both JAY-Z and Dr. Dre in annual earnings, only standing behind Diddy; Kanye West’s fall outside the top 10; J. Cole coming in at number 13 as another conscious MC; Nicki Minaj’s inclusion as the list’s only woman; and 50 Cent’s complete absence from the list. Here’s a look at the entire Forbes top 20 list:

1. Diddy – $130 million
2. Drake – $94 million
3. JAY-Z – $42 million
4. Dr. Dre – $34.5 million
5. Chance The Rapper – $33 million
6. Kendrick Lamar – $30 million
7. Wiz Khalifa – $28 million
8. Pitbull – $27 million
9. DJ Khaled – $24 million
10. Future – $23 million
11. Kanye West – $22 million
12. Birdman – $20 million
13. J. Cole – $19 million
14. Swizz Beatz – $14 million (?)
15. Snoop Dogg – $16.5 million
16. Nicki Minaj – $16 million
17. Lil Wayne – $15.5 million
18. Rick Ross and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (tie) – $11.5 million
20. Lil Yachty – $11 million