Hip-hop lifestyle magazine and website Complex unveiled its list of the 25 Most Powerful People In Rap (Right Now), naming Cash Money label heads Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams No. 1. Jay-Z, Kanye West, Joie “I.E.” Manda and the pair of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine also rank in the Top 5. The magazine compiled the list with the help of hip-hop personality Reggie Osse (a.k.a. Combat Jack), noting that it seeks to answer the question “Who are the artists, booking agents, radio suits, DJs, A&Rs, label execs, and (yes) editors who everyone else can't say no to?”
“Between concerts, major labels, independent artists and terrestrial radio, streaming services, artist management and legal, the entertainment business has become a constantly shifting matrix of power,” Complex notes in the intro. “But power, in rap, is different.”
Birdman and Slim Williams, who are co-founders and co-CEOs of Cash Money, locked in the top spot thanks largely to their Young Money Entertainment imprint, which houses Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne. Complex notes that the brand has sold over 500 million units worldwide, making the label the leader in rap today.
Jay-Z follows at No. 2, thanks to his role as CEO of Roc Nation and his own acclaim as a hip-hop artist. Manda, president of Def Jam Recordings, follows at No. 3, while Dr. Dre and Iovine, chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M and CEO of Beats Electronics, score the No. 4 spot. Although the latter pair’s business ventures, including Beats by Dre, are highly cited, Dre’s Aftermath label, which includes Kendrick Lamar, helped bolster the duo’s success, according to Complex.
West, who founded G.O.O.D. Music, trails at No. 5. Sean “Diddy” Combs, Warner Music Group president of A&R Mike Caren, Atlantic Records president of black music Michael Kyser and Warner/Chappell president of creative “Big” Jon Platt are also highlighted at the top of the list. Questlove comes in at No. 12 and Grammys agitator Steve Stoute claims No. 13.
Not all of the 25 honored are rappers and well-known personalities, though. Some of the less famous -- but no less influential -- include Theo Sedlmayr, a lawyer who has represented Eminem, Rick Ross and 50 Cent; Lee “Q” O’Denat, founder of WorldStarHipHop; Pitchfork Media founder Ryan Schrieber; and Rap Radar co-owner Elliott Wilson.