Four years ago Jay-Z issued a lyrical taunt to his fellow rappers: “What you call money, I pay more in taxes.” Turns out his line was more than just a boast.

Jay-Z pulled in $63 million over the past 12 months, earning him his second straight hip-hop cash crown. His income level places him in the 35% tax bracket, which means he’ll pay Uncle Sam about $22 million this year–a sum greater than the total earnings of any other rap star besides second-ranked Diddy.

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“Jay-Z is in a league of his own right now,” says Ryan Schinman, chief of Platinum Rye, the country’s largest buyer of music and talent for corporations. “There are very few artists of any genre, not just hip-hop, who’ve created such brands for themselves.”

The top 20 earners on this year’s Cash Kings list racked up about $300 million
in earnings, an average of $15 million per artist. Remarkably, the total is
roughly the same as last year, despite a troubled economy and a music
thrown into flux by new technology

“There aren’t many artists selling 250,000 albums in the opening week, and
that used to happen all the time,” says entertainment attorney Donald David.
“The rise of iTunes means people don’t have to buy whole album … and that has
changed the business dramatically.” Forbs

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