Five Bay Area Hip-Hop Stars Who Should Be Really Stinkin' Rich

cash4gold_mc_hammer.jpg
Is this what it takes?
On Tuesday, Forbes published its list of hip-hop's 20 highest earners: Jay-Z at number one, naturally, with $63 million, and Senegalese crooner Akon edging out Lil Wayne by a milli -- Weezy's cash-accruing steez have been impressively unabated by his recent jail sentence, but Akon owns a diamond mine. Most importantly: not a Bay Area cat among them. (Compton native Dr. Dre clocked in at number five with $17 million, but that's the farthest north we get on this fair coast.) So what's the deal? Armed with some hunches and no data to back them up, we've rounded up some candidates whose "diversified revenue streams" might, lord willin', qualify them for the top 50.

1. Dan the Automator
Not a rapper, but the wiz behind more instant-classic hip-hop albums than -- well, more than you've made: as Deltron 3030 with Del tha Funkee Homosapien, as Dr. Octagon with Kool Keith, as Handsome Boy Modeling School with Prince Paul, as Lovage and/or Crudo with Mike Patton (!), and as a producer for everyone from Cornershop to Kasabian to Ben Lee. Also: Gorillaz. Need we say more?

2. MC Hammer
Needs no introduction, really, except maybe you haven't been following his career since his untouchable phase. Quoth Wikipedia: "Hammer became a preacher during the late 1990s, was a television show host and dance judge, is a record label CEO, and as of 2008 works as a co-creator of a dance website called DanceJam, while still performing occasionally at concerts and other social media, ministry and outreach functions. In addition, he is executive producer of his own reality show called Hammertime which airs Sundays at 10 PM EST on the A&E Network." And let's not forget that Purell commercial.

3. E-40
This Vallejo pioneer was hyphy before hyphy was hyphy. What? Right. Took him about a decade to break out of the California scene, first by way of the dirty South, and finally to national radio, albeit only twice (see "Tell Me When To Go," produced by Lil Jon and featuring Keak da Sneak; see also his guest spots on DJ Shadow's critically panned hyphy experiment The Outsider and on the Lonely Island's Incredibad, where he plays Carlos Santana). E-40 owns used to own a Fatburger in Pleasant Hill, and a nightclub. He still owns a designer cognac brand, and remains on the grind: this March saw the simultaneous release of Revenue Retrievin': Day Shift and Revenue Retrievin': Night Shift. Surely at least some of that was reportable income.

4. Too $hort
If the world were fair, Too $hort would get royalties every time anyone used the word "beeyotch." The world's not fair, but $hort has still sold 11 million albums domestically. He also owns Up All Nite Records, whose flagship act, Berkeley quartet The Pack -- featuring newsworthy loudmouth Lil B -- has been garnering, uh, hella press.

5. 2Pac
Sure, he was born in Harlem, but he did attend Tamalpais High School. And he's been dead since 1996, too, but at 75 million albums sold -- more of them released posthumously than prehumously, and some of them going quatruple quatropple platinum -- his estate still makes serious bank.

Honorable mention: The Coup
Oakland's avowedly communist political rap stalwarts have an anti-capitalist streak longer than the Bay Bridge: see their 1998 Steal This Album (later rereleased, somewhat puzzlingly, as Steal This Double Album). That hasn't stopped them from licensing songs to Superbad and a couple of video games. They'd probably reject any high-grossing rap club that would have them as members anyway, and so much the better -- not everyone gets, as Biggie put it, to blow up like the World Trade.

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