By Ryan Velez
Following a recent touring deal ahead of his new album, Jay-Z pulled ahead of Diddy and Dr. Dre in the race to become hip-hop’s first billionaire, and with a net worth of over $810 million, the question of whether or not he will hit this milestone is becoming more of when and less of an if. One doesn’t get to this level just by selling albums, though. Moguldom has recently profiled the investments that have set Jay-Z on the track to the billionaire class, with some names that are familiar and some that are not.
Jay-Z’s first steps into entrepreneurship took place during his rap career, even if no one would expect the businessman to eclipse the artist. In 1996, with Damon Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, he founded Roc-A-Fella Records, with the initial intention of using it as an independent label for Jay-Z’s first album. In the early 2000’s, the label would grow with Jay-Z as its main face, until after a long period of friction and tension rumors, he was named President and CEO of Def Jam Records. In 2008, he would evolve this concept by leaving Def Jam and founding Roc Nation.
The Roc Nation entertainment company has a record label, talent agency, touring and concert production company, music, film, and TV production company and music publishing house, and includes a diverse array of artists including names like J. Cole, Big Sean, Rihanna, Claudia Leitte, Vic Mensa, Grimes, Demi Lovato, DJ Khaled, Omarion, T.I., The LOX, Yo Gotti and Lil Wayne.’
However, much of the investment going on these days is in tech, and Jay-Z has been sure to dabble into this space, from Fort Lauderdale-based JetSmarter, an app designed for last minute booking of private jets, to Away, a company featuring luggage with USB ports to charge mobile devices. He was also an angel investor in Uber’s Series B funding round and opened up the Arrive platform for Roc Nation to provide startups with brand services, business development, advisory and capital to grow.
Of course, we can’t talk about Jay-Z’s investments without talking about Tidal, the music streaming service that seemed like an albatross to his ambitions, only to turn around in a major way. Starting with a poor public reception and heavy employee turnover, Tidal’s fortunes went for the better when Sprint announced it would buy 33 percent of Tidal for $200 million plus a $75 million commitment for an annual artist marketing fund. This catapulted Tidal’s value ten times what Jay-Z paid for its 2 years prior.