Dr. Dre has got the beat in more ways than one. What started out as a mission to elevate headphones' audio performance has evolved into a multifaceted sound empire. Launched in 2008 in partnership with Monster Cable Products, Beats by Dr. Dre is the brainchild of R&B/hip-hop producer extraordinaire Dre and Interscope Geffen A&M Records chairman Jimmy Iovine. Since locating this relatively untapped musical vein, Dre and Iovine have watched a host of competitors jump onboard: Skullcandy with Roc Nation, Quincy Jones and AKG, 50 Cent's SMS Audio line, Soul by Ludacris and RZA's Chambers venture.
But Beats still holds the commanding edge. According to NPD Group, the company was the leader in the headphone category with 53% of 2011's $1 billion market. And although Beats is parting ways with Monster at year's end, the franchise shows no signs of slowing down. Within the last four years, the Beats technology has expanded beyond headphones into cars (Chrysler's 300 S sedan and Dodge's 2012 Charger), computers (Hewlett-Packard PCs and laptops) and, most recently, smartphones (HTC, which purchased a $300 million majority stake in Beats last August). And according to an Associated Press report in March, Beats was in talks to buy subscription music service MOG. Late last year, Dre proclaimed his intention to take a hiatus from music, leaving fans to wonder if his long-awaited Detox will ever be released. But Dre still has his finger on the pulse of what's happening. His latest protégés at his label, Aftermath Entertainment, are Slim the Mobster and Kendrick Lamar. - Gail Mitchell