Why Kanye West Will Be JAY-Z’s Billionaire Brother
Five weeks ago, Forbes determined that JAY-Z has become the first Hip-Hop artist to reach billionaire status. The Roc Nation figurehead with an elaborate and diverse investment portfolio spanning streaming platforms, champagne, ride-share services, and much more. The milestone accomplishment follows a longstanding race between Jay and collaborators Dr. Dre and Puff Daddy.
However, Kanye West may be the next to follow Jay’s path. A onetime pupil of Jay at Roc-A-Fella Records, the MC/producer/impresario who released Watch The Throne with Hov’ less than a decade ago has gone from a superstar who publicly spoke of a $53 million debt in early 2016 has shifted the narrative surrounding his wealth.
Zack O’Malley Greenburg, the journalist responsible for the JAY-Z billionaire report, traveled to Southern California to shadow ‘Ye for a Forbes cover story. The feature compares Team Yeezy to Team Jordan, claiming that Kanye West’s fortune stems from his shoe partnership with Adidas, above any musical venture. “But as with Michael Jordan in the 1990s, the key to West’s wealth stems from sneakers. His Yeezy shoe line, which he launched with Nike in 2009 and then brought to Adidas in 2013, has the 34-year-old Jordan empire in its sights, in terms of both cultural clout and commercial prowess. The Jordan line does approximately $3 billion in annual sales; West’s upstart is expected to top $1.5 billion in 2019 and growing,” O’Malley reports. The story says that before taxes, West earned $150 million in the last 12 months. The artist who nearly emptied his pockets during The Life Of Pablo is stacking chips ahead of the tentatively-titled Yandhi.
West speaks about the joys of design. Since early his music career, Kanye has fancied himself a player in fashion. The once self-proclaimed “Louis Vuitton Don” (who worked at Gap in his pre-fame days) went from championing other brands, including Ralph Lauren and more recently, Maison Margiela, to creating his sneakers, t-shirts, and other luxury items. The same producer who joined Roc-A-Fella cohorts such as Just Blaze and Bink! in re-popularizing Soul samples and pitched-up vocals in the early 2000s, and bested 50 Cent in a 2007 album sales-battle has driven culture far beyond music. “I am a product guy at my core,” West tells Forbes. “To make products that make people feel an immense amount of joy and solve issues and problems in their life, that’s the problem-solving that I love to do.”
In a path lit by Michael Jordan, Kanye West makes that connection. “[The Yeezy II] was the first shoe to have the same level of impact as an Air Jordan, and I wanted to do more,” West tells the publication. “And at that time Nike refused to give celebrities royalties on their shoes.” The report reveals that with Adidas, Kanye receives a deal that may be superior to His Airness’ arrangement with Nike. O’Malley Greenburg reports the partnership to feature “a 15% royalty on wholesale,” in addition to a marketing fee.
Sources suggest that Jordan is believed to receive royalties closer to 5%, while Nike retains ownership of the brand. Meanwhile, Kanye West owns 100% of Yeezy. As he demonstrates to Forbes, he and Adidas are committed to making the brand thrive through a fickle marketplace and ephemeral industries.
Kanye West Rips One Of His Earliest Freestyles In 1996 (AFH TV Video)
Kanye West is on a path that forecasts billionaire status—per the experts on the subject. There, he will join #23, sister-in-law Kylie Jenner, and the artist he paid tribute to with 2007’s “Big Brother”: JAY-Z. Jay, the man who gave West the “Kanyeezy” moniker more than 15 years ago, may have to watch the throne.
Several Kanye West videos, including a 1996 freestyle, are available at AFH TV. We are currently offering free 30-day trial subscriptions.