The Next Episode: What Dr. Dre's Billionaire Status Means For Hip Hop

Co-Founder of Beats Electronics and the Beats by Dre moniker, Dr. Dre, joins the rarified air of the ten digit club with Apple's alleged acquisition of Beats by Dre. So what does the first Rap billionaire mean for Hip Hop, and what about Jimmy Iovine and will. i. am?

The biggest news of the week hit the web yesterday with the Financial Times reporting Apple was in talks to acquire Beats Electronics, the headphone imprint co-founded by Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre and As the tech media scratched their respective heads, the Hip Hop world exploded. The deal would make Dr. Dre, an almost universally beloved figure in the industry a billionaire (Raps first), and would fundamentally change the way we look at Hip Hop super-stardom. 

As the news wound its way through the web the reactions were decidedly mixed. They mostly ranged between cheers at the ascension of Rap royalty to billionaire status, and jeers centering around Apple going against it's legendary founder's usual status quo. But whatever the chatter, this is a momentous occasion for this art form we're all so passionate about, and it raises the bar for the future moguls who wish to take their seat at the table. 

While we're all happy for the good Doctor's success, we can't help but wonder how this will affect the entire industry. So I had the Editor-in-Chief of HipHopDX throw his thoughts on paper as we spoke on how we felt about Dre becoming a billionaire, what it means for his partners Jimmy Iovine and, and what it means for Hip Hop at Large. 


How Do You Feel About Dr. Dre Possibly Becoming Hip Hop's First Billionaire?

Justin: First of all, I think this is awesome, absolutely awesome. I’m not sure if there’s ever been a more awesome time to be in, around, or a part of Hip Hop culture. I’m not sure if I’ve ever written three consecutive sentences with four “awesomes” in it.  

The level of ingenuity and collaboration across boundaries permeating the space is revolutionary and inspiring. What Jay Z did by selling his album to Samsung before it released should resonate with every independent artist because it highlighted an overlooked legal covenant—that corporations are people, too. What’s stopping the dopest artist on 50th Street and 4th Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, from pitching Sunset Bagels to buy 100 copies in advance and give the project away for free with every online order? How shook was Target after Beyonce dropped her album unexpectedly one Friday night? How did that affect the company’s Q4 earnings? Barriers to entry are falling left and right and it’s guessed it...awesome. 

My timeline was littered with comments about how Detox will never come out now. I don’t know if I even care about Detox anymore. There was a point where it would’ve been great to hear it and have it. Now it’s an even greater running joke. It’s interesting. We care so much about Dre because of the incredible music he’s released. In a sense, we love him because of what he’s done for our ears. Now he’s making a product that goes over our ears instead of inside our ears, so he really hasn’t moved all that much. What’s the distance between the eardrum and the ear lobe? 27 centimeters? I don’t know the answer to that question.

Dre: Joining the billionaire club would be an astonishing feat for any Hip Hop artist, and the same applies for the mogul and musical genius Dr. Dre. "The D.R.E." could have ended up being caught up in any number of beefs in the 90’s, a criminal incident or five, losing it all in a well-timed lawsuit, or getting tangled in that dead-space between 1996’s The Aftermath LP and the signing of who would become one of the best Rappers of all-time, Eminem. But the now zen, significantly mellowed out super producer and straight up O.G. is set to attain a level of success thought to be unheard of in Hip Hop. Plus, it would be retail that put him over the top, which is an even more treacherous space than the halls of Death Row were at their hottest. 

For all he’s been through, the Doctor has been amazingly consistent over the course of his storied career. His string of successes is nuts by any measure. He’s personally been a part of or signed acts like World Class Wreckin’ Cru, N.W.A, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, 50 Cent, Eminem, Game, Nate Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, and Kendrick Lamar. And that’s not to mention that the man has two bona fide classics under his own belt in The Chronic and 2001 as well as those ground-breaking N.W.A albums, and anchoring 'Pac at the height of his brilliance. And Detox, well, we may never get to hear it, but if there’s an ‘honorary classic’ award in Hip Hop, then Detox gets it hands down. 

What Does This Mean For Jimmy Iovine And

Justin: I’m more interested in where falls in all of this. is the mind behind Beats by Dre, not Dr. Dre, not Jimmy Iovine. He was the one who originally told Jimmy Iovine that they needed to expand into hardware, which led the world into believing they couldn’t live without $300 headphones. He’s never been absent from the company. In fact, he’s a founding shareholder of Beats Electronics. Assuming that he’s still a shareholder, Hip Hop could actually have TWO billionaires should the deal close.  

Andre:’s place in all of this remains to be seen, but his being mum on the deal either means he blew it or he’s set to capitalize mightily off the sale. I’m leaning toward the latter. The true mastermind behind Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre’s initial foray into the hardware space, has been experimenting with products for years and is displeased with how tame the music industry has been claiming in an article with the Guardian, "Our music sells other people's hardware, and it's a hard pill to swallow," said at Midem on Saturday. Speaking via Skype, the Black Eyed Peas frontman called the music industry “delusional,” adding, "I try my hardest not dwell on it, so I try to focus on my philanthropy.” That’s a lot more time and money to now spend on your philanthropy, will. As for Jimmy Iovine, Apple thinks they have the musical Steve Jobs on their hands. Big shoes to fill. 

What Would This Mean For Hip Hop In General? 

Justin: This one is a more traditional approach to wealth creation. Essentially Jimmy and Dre and were early entrants to a new market—super overpriced headphones—put their brand over the ears of the world’s most recognizeable artists and athletes, and sold a shit-ton to everyone else off cool points alone. By diversifying into music streaming—a subsector that’s yet to prove profitable—brandishing their we’re-way-cooler-than-y’all bomber jackets like Bayside High, they made enough noise to sell for billions of dollars to one of their most significant retail outlets. 

Regardless, Steve Stoute’s theory of a Tanning America is reinforced by this rumored transaction. This is the most money Apple’s ever spent in an acquisition, and they spent it on Hip Hop. Awesomely apropos.      

Dre: The first Hip Hop billionaire means Rap is officially an American institution. Cash rules everything around us here in the states, and this achievement is an introduction into the wide world of true monied excellence. A billion dollars is an Xbox achievement that Hip Hop has never before achieved (pre-taxes of course), and now the second most important art form America has ever produced will be looking to storm those gates with bang-bang abandon.

Either way, the Forbes list is significantly changed, and Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre, and will i. am may have just ushered in Raps gilded age. So who’s next? We know how competitive Jay Z and Puffy are and you can never count out the savviness of a 50 Cent or the market dominance a Birdman could flex if he decided to jump into the hardware game.  

Justin "The Company Man" Hunte is the Editor-in-Chief of HipHopDX. He was the host of The Company Man Show on and has covered music, politics, and culture for numerous publications. He is currently based in Los Angeles, California. Follow him on Twitter @TheCompanyMan.

Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant who’s contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Senior Features Writer for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.

RELATED: Still D.R.E.: Waiting On Albums From Andre 3000 And Dr. Dre


  • J Dub

    I forgot to mention, maybe the reason Dre has been holding off the release of Detox is to hit this milestone. Now he has smashed this out of the park, just imagine his legacy if he finishes and drops Detox now. Wishful thinking maybe but what if.

  • J Dub

    Thanks HHDX, I enjoyed this editorial, in fact it's the editorials that keep me coming back to your site. Intelligent discussion about hip hop and the fact 95% of the comments are written by true heads that take the time to read something a bit longer than the usual gossip/news updates :) Also like how Justin is passionate enough take the time to read and comment on reader comments, well done.

  • d mac

    as I've being saying in the news c-section, this is bittersweet news it's a great accomplishment to have brothers go from making "jungle music" to have companies worth billions but the community will only get higher prices and less opportunity due to this acquisition/consolidation in a quest to gain market share kinda wish they would've stayed on their own and encouraged tech from it's consumer community that would have allowed them to expand into cellphone and computer products instead of the product placement they were doing but they didn't so Dre and will get paid, bragging rites ensue, but Hip Hop and it's billionaire wealth still do not own food or recording industry distribution, manufacturing, commercial real estate, utility companies or financial institutions but if this gets Dre to buy the RAIDERS (f*ck the Clippers), which could empower the community for years and we can see some offset

  • iHowl

    Another dude with tons of money that will do little for the rest of the world other than keep filling his overly filled pockets.

  • Sidid1984

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  • raymond

    I'm happy for Dre, but this has nothing to do with Hip Hop. This is just a great business move that happens to involve audio accessories. Dre, Jay and Diddy have already proven that hip hop artists/producers can be superwealthy.

    • Justin Hunte

      There are billions of people on the planet who don't believe anything is possible until they see it. Should this rumored deal close as described and Dre does become a billionaire basically off of selling beats and rhymes (pun intended), it lowers the ceiling for some person from somewhere unexpected to crash through. It's an extension of the possibilities of the culture in a similar way to when Rakim got a million dollar recording contract or when Sugar Hill Gang first got on the radio (maybe that's not the best example). Thank you for the checking the piece. We sincerely appreciate it.

    • Anonymous

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  • Maximus

    Try to get there as well to me

    • Justin Hunte

      Amen, brother. Thank you for reading the story.

    • Anonymous

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  • Manuu

    By thaw way it is so sad that almost every news on this site is about Dre now, there's too obsession with money, as it should state the true worth of something, or better the true worth of an art called Hip Hop...1 billion, 500 mlns, 250, 50 or 10 wouldn't make any difference on my livin

    • Justin Hunte

      It's not a money obsession. It's a discussion around a milestone. It's like Nas' line on "We Will Survive": 'Hip Hop took it to billions/I knew we would." I appreciate you reading the site. Thank you, Manuu.

  • Manuu

    This fact won't effect my life in any way, neither that of Hip Hop...drop the album and we'll give you attention, I won't buy none of those headphones Beats, give us that Detox first man

  • logical

    It would be more logical for apple to acquire 50's smsaudio. Buying beats for 3.2 million dollars when it will take a long time to get the money back seems abit odd. All the reviewers think that smsaudio is alot better and cheaper headphones than beats, plus they have the whole disney distribution plus star wars. They are not as huge as beats which means the company can still grow. Therefore, acquiring smsaudio for the round of 1 - 1,5 million dollars seems more logical.

    • Justin Hunte

      The big play for Apple is that they would acquire one of the top selling products in apple stores. Thanks for checking the the article, Logical. We appreciate it.

    • Anonymous

      you are unbelievably dumb. Beats is a popular brand, and sms audio is not.

  • Kurrupt Spirit

    Nothin ! #odbvoice

  • Anonymous

    This means nothing for hiphop! Dr Dre will not drop Detox because he is lazy and his ghostproducers are on vacation since 1999!

    • Justin Hunte

      I'd love to see people's reaction if Dre dropped a graffiti book. What would that mean for hip hop? Personally, these stories are awesome to me. Products of Hip Hop culture pushing past boundaries, creating wealth. As an example alone, it's empowering. Thank you for reading, Anonymous.

  • Anonymous

    400 on headphones.. lol. you're all suckers.

  • Anonymous

    it means nothing for hip hop. It means a lot for Dre and his family.

  • POPE

    This means nothing for hip-hop.

  • Anonymous

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  • Anonymous

    they're saying that after taxes n shit, when its all said and done he's going to be worth 800 million or so, not yet at the billi mark

  • Anonymous

    I had never heard Will.i.Am's name associated with Beats before this. Beats by Will just doesn't have the same ring to it I guess.

  • Uhhh

    He's not a billionaire. HipHopDX says taking L's. Yung Berg of this blog shit. LMAO. Incredible.

  • Anonymous

    I'm proud of him but he didn't make it off music so who gives a fuck. Him being a part of hip-hop is just coincidental. It's like if Bill Gates or Oprah put out a rap album and crowned themselves "hip-hop's first billionaire".

    • Justin Hunte

      Remember when Jermaine Durpri used to brag about making all of his money off of music? Interesting thread. Thank you all for commenting.

    • Anonymous

      Actually MJ sold 750million records. That includes singles and albums and everything else. He was definitely worth over a billion dollars. Before he lost most of it. I think only Paul McCartney might be the only other billionaire musicians.

    • Iovine of this blog sh*t

      Ehh..MJ? He sold 750 million albums! Do the math 750,000,000 x $17.00

    • Anonymous

      no one making a billion off rap music EVER

    • Anonymous

      Dre is great, but his rep has more to do with his name than the music he is making. He hasn't put out an album in 15 years. His involvement in hip hop has been minimal over the past several years producing a handful of songs per year. He's scared of putting out a new album. Its kinda funny that the anticipation of a Dre album has kept his name buzzing more than putting out music on a regular basis. Good business moves got him where he's at right now not music he made two decades ago. The target demographic buying these $300 headphones are probably not even familiar with his old music.

    • DOshow

      You're trippin. If Dr. Dre wasn't an influential rapper and producer his brand simply wouldn't sell. It has everything to do with his music and so does his product. Your logic is completely off. Your comparison to Oprah dropping a rap album being the same is completely off the mark as well. FAIL!!!

  • Anonymous

    Good looks on this editorial. Like how you guys have been doing more where you voice your opinions and your involvement in the comment section (not talking about the fake ones obviously).