This year, Billboard introduces the R&B/Hip-Hop power Players Hall of Fame to recognize those whose influence over art and commerce is everlasting. Our first two honorees have played crucial roles in the evolution of hip-hop’s culture, its growth to global domination and its expansion into all aspects of the worlds of business and entertainment.
Andre “Dr. Dre” Young
He has been hip-hop’s master architect for over three decades, a beat-maker and kingmaker for N.W.A, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar. The label Dr. Dre founded in 1996, Aftermath, has logged 31 albums on the Billboard 200 and 124 songs on the Hot 100, with its catalog accounting for over 112 million album consumption units.
Beats — the company he co-founded with Jimmy Iovine in 2008 — expanded Dre’s horizons, allowing him to shape not just what we hear, but how we hear it. Beats grew from headphones and speakers to a subscription streaming service in 2014, the same year that Apple acquired the company for $3 billion — $2.6 billion in cash and $400 million in stock vested over time (which would be worth $971 million today).
In 2015, Dre and Ice Cube partnered to produce the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton, netting an Academy Award nomination and a box-office take of over $200 million. The film’s companion album, Compton — effectively Dre’s third solo studio set — debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, earned a Grammy nom and helped launch Anderson .Paak, thereby extending Aftermath’s legacy.
In 2017, the four-part HBO documentary The Defiant Ones chronicled Dre and Iovine’s rule-breaking partnership and respective rises, winning a Grammy for best music film. Iovine remembers Dre’s singular focus when he was making The Chronic in 1992: “You couldn’t buy him out of that studio, no matter how broke Dre was. They were in trouble; they had five lawsuits. But he would rather it not come out unless it’s really what he wants it to be. And everything he does, he does like that.”
Sean “P. Diddy” Combs
Sean “P. Diddy” Combs isn’t the first to recognize hip-hop’s influence on global culture and commerce, but few have taken it farther. He began as a can’t-fail-won’t-fail hitmaker — his label, Bad Boy, has placed 70 albums on the Billboard 200 and 102 songs on the Hot 100, and has generated 63.4 million album consumption units. He has expanded his empire to include clothing, beverages and TV. And through it all, he has consistently grown his own brand.
Twelve years ago, he leveraged his power as a pitchman for an ownership stake in Cîroc vodka, entering a 50-50 profit-sharing deal with Diageo, then the world’s largest distiller. In 2014, he and Diageo purchased the mega-priced luxury tequila DeLeón in a 50-50 deal.
The following year, Combs moved from liquor into the sports-drink market when he teamed with Mark Wahlberg to invest $20 million in AQUAhydrate, an alkaline water brand. In September, Alkaline Water Company acquired AQUAhydrate in an all-stock deal that put its valuation at an estimated $50 million.
In 2016, Combs sold a majority stake in his Sean John clothing line, which he founded in 1999, to Hong Kong-based Global Brands Group, which counts Calvin Klein and Katy Perry among the labels it owns and licenses, for $70 million. On the TV front, the cable network that he launched in 2013, REVOLT, underwent a restructuring last year but still gives him a reach into about 50 million homes. And though Fox’s music competition The Four, for which he was a panelist, wrapped after two seasons, he has announced a 2020 reboot of the 2000s reality series Making the Band with MTV.