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Jay Z’s billion-dollar breakdown: The blueprint on how Hov reached a billy

“We gon’ reach a billy first!”

Although he first called it on his surprise thirteenth studio album, 4:44, it’s still hard to imagine that it only took two years for Jay-Z’s prophetic proclamation to come into fruition.

As announced by Forbes on Monday, Jay-Z as officially the first billionaire rapper in the world with a net worth of $1 billion.

The feat makes Jay-Z only the fifth black billionaire in the U.S., not only putting him in a special class for hip-hop but for African-Americans as a whole.

According to Forbes, Hov’s savvy business acumen, diverse portfolio of lucrative investments, acquisitions, and deals all made the billionaire status possible.

That’s years of wearing his own brand, building up his record label empire, music streaming, liquor, art, real estate, and stakes in companies like Uber.

Here’s a closer look to just how the 49-year-old Brooklyn native has made history

Armand de Brignac: $310 M & D’Usse $100 M


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Jay-Z, photographed as he celebrated the one-year anniversary of the opening of The 40/40 Club in Atlantic City by Shareif Ziyadat on November 9, 2006. Nine days earlier the rapper’s debut post-retirement single “Show Me What You Got” had been released to radio officially after leaking three weeks earlier, and the star-studded, James Bond-inspired music video premiered on MTV the same day. While the release of the single marked Hov’s long-awaited return to music, the other major event of that day was the rapper’s premiere of the champagne brand Armand de Brignac. The music video would provide clarity for listeners left confused by the start of his second verse—“H.O.V.A., gold bottles of that Ace of Spade”—by revealing the mysterious drop that had pulled Shawn Carter away from his favorite Cristal. In June 2006 the rap mogul had kicked off the boycott against hip-hop’s favored champagne brand after discovering that Frédéric Rouzaud—the new managing director of Louis Roederer, the champagne house that produces the Cuvée de Prestige best known as Cristal—told The Economist that the house viewed Cristal’s association with rap “with curiosity and serenity.” Asked if he thought the champagne’s association with hip-hop culture was hurting the brand, he replied “that’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.“ On June 16 Jay-Z, who had been supporting the Cristal lifestyle in his lyrics, music videos and club bills for 12 years, released a statement decrying Rouzaud’s comments, saying that “it has come to my attention that the managing director of Cristal, Frédéric Rouzaud, views the ‘hip-hop’ culture as ‘unwelcome attention.’ I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands, including The 40/40 Club, nor in my personal life.” Cristal was immediately pulled from the shelves of his two sports lounge locations in New York and Atlantic City, and he was never seen drinking the champagne again. (Continued below) #JAYZ @armanddebrignac

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Liquor and spirits are probably the most common business venture rappers take on, but no one has done it quite like Hov.

While Diddy has his very successful Ciroc partnership, Jay’s choice of poison, in likes of Armand de Brignac champagne and D’Ussé cognac, has amounted to a whopping $410 million.

Cash & investments: $220 M


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Jay-Z, photographed during a promotional session for The Blueprint for USA Today in New York City by Todd Plitt on August 23, 2001. During that day’s interview session Hov also spoke with SPIN magazine, explaining to them why he had been challenging himself releasing a new album every year, even when his “plan was just to do one album in the beginning. But I really started getting into a groove as far as recording. The more I do, the more I just want to do better albums. Every year since 1996 I’ve dropped an album. It would be fast for a lot of artists, but it’s really on schedule for me. I don’t write lyrics down, and I can’t just hold 16 songs in my mind. Anything could happen. I could trip and hit my head and it’s over.” #JAYZ @toddplitt @usatoday

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A key factor that should be accounted for when considering Jay reaching a billion is how long he’s been planning this move ahead.

He launched Rocawear in 1999, then sold it to  Iconix in 2007 for $204 million — an investment he made nearly two decades ago. And that’s been a part of his strategy leading up to this point.

His investment portfolio includes a stake in Uber worth an estimated $70 million, making the hip-hop artist’s total cash and investments worth an estimated $220 million.

TIDAL: $100 M


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None other than Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter will help celebrate the reopening of New York’s iconic Webster Hall on April 26 after the venue’s recent extensive renovation. Hov’s “B-Sides 2” show for his “Day 1 fans” will be the mogul’s first time playing the venue in Manhattan’s East Village that first opened in 1886. Tickets will go on sale on April 19 at 11AM ET. A limited number of tickets will also be available to American Express card members on April 18 at 10 AM ET. The renovation of the 133 year-old venue aims to “preserve the iconic features of the venue, while modernizing it to meet today’s entertainment and guest experiences standards,” according to a statement. “When we were thinking about who would be the right choice to open this legendary venue, we knew it had to be a world-famous New York City icon,” said Brett Yormark, CEO of BSE Global in the statement. “No one fits that description better than JAY-Z, who will join an unparalleled list of celebrated performers who have played Webster Hall.” #JAYZ @websterhall

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We all knew about Jay-Z acquisition of TIDAL from Norwegian media technology company Aspiro for $56 million in 2015, but what we didn’t know was that, as per the magazine, he’d make $100 million in stakes from the music streaming site.

Many laughed and even questioned the move, now iTunes is being dismantled and he’s left looking brilliant.

Music catalog: $75 M

According to Forbes, when Jay-Z signed on to become record label Def Jam’s president in 2004, he had negotiated the return of his masters (publishing rights and royalties of 10-15% on music sales). With his streams clocking close to 1 billion streams annually, Jay-Z makes $75 million.

This is something he’s been talking about since 1996. Here he is speaking with that millionaire mindset while still young in the game.

Roc Nation: $75 M

Music is where it all started for Jay, and with 14 No. 1 albums, 22 Grammy awards and over $500 million in pretax earnings in a decade, it’s a hell of a foundation to build off of.

Now, his entertainment company Roc Nation, worth $75 million, represents top sports stars such as Kevin Durant, Todd Gurley to artist giants like Rihanna and J. Cole.

Art collection: $70 M

What’s so dope about Jay is that he even makes hobbies into investments. He’s not just spending money to be spending money — he purchases material items that appreciate in value.

The value of his art collection is estimated to be at $70 million. His collection includes Jean Michel Basquiat’s “Mecca,” purchased in 2013 for a reported $4.5 million.

Real estate: $50 M


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“False alarms and false starts All made better by the sound of your heart All the pain of the last time… I prayed so hard it was the last time Your Mama said that you danced for her Did you wiggle your hands for her? Glory! Glory! Glory! Sorry Everything that I prayed for God’s gift, I wish I woulda prayed more God makes no mistakes, I made a few Rough sledding here and there, but I made it through I wreak havoc on the world Get ready for part two A younger, smarter, faster me So a pinch of Hov, a whole glass of B” Jay Z and Blue Ivy, photographed in the Wynwood Art District in Miami on January 8, 2014. The day before, to celebrate their daughter’s second birthday, Jay and Beyoncé had rented out Jungle Island, an interactive zoo and park located between Miami and Miami Beach. #JAYZ #BlueIvy

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Forbes also estimated that he owns real estate properties in upscale New York and Los Angeles that is worth $50 million.

His property list includes the twin $26 million East Hamptons mansions, an $88 million Bel Air estate he bought with his wife Beyonce as well as a Tribeca penthouse bought for $6.8 million. All which can be sold at any time.

Jay-Z being a billionaire won’t make us richer nor will talking about his exploits put money into our pocket, but this is not your everyday pocket-watching.

When you think about how someone like Hov, who started out selling drugs and who never obtained a formal education, was able to ascend to a level where people like him was fought hard fought to be kept out of, it does take a moment of recognition.

The only other recognizable African-American billionaire in terms of name and stature is Oprah. The mere fact that Jay-Z is of and from the culture and is viewed as a hero for so many, will inevitably light the spark for Black billionaires of the future.

Yeah, Jay may be the billionaire, but in doing so he’s already made many more rich.