Tracing the careers of hip-hop's three most dynamic stars, this deeply reported history brilliantly examines the entrepreneurial genius of the first musician tycoons: Diddy, Dr. Dre, and Jay-Z.
Being successful musicians was simply never enough for the three kings of hip-hop. Diddy, Dr. Dre, and Jay-Z lifted themselves from childhood adversity into tycoon territory, amassing levels of fame and wealth that not only outshone all other contemporary hip-hop artists, but with a combined net worth of well over $2 billion made them the three richest American musicians, period.
Yet their fortunes have little to do with selling their own albums: between Diddy's Ciroc vodka, Dre's $3 billion sale of his Beats headphones to Apple, and Jay-Z's Tidal streaming service and other assets, these artists have transcended pop music fame to become lifestyle icons and moguls.
Hip-hop is no longer just a musical genre; it's become a way of life that encompasses fashion, film, food, drink, sports, electronics and more -- one that has opened new paths to profit and to critical and commercial acclaim. Thanks in large part to the Three Kings -- who all started their own record labels and released classic albums before moving on to become multifaceted businessmen -- hip-hop has been transformed from a genre spawned in poverty into a truly global multibillion-dollar industry.
These men are the modern embodiment of the American Dream, but their stories as great thinkers and entrepreneurs have yet to be told in full. Based on a decade of reporting, and interviews with more than 100 sources including hip-hop pioneers Russell Simmons and Fab 5 Freddy; new-breed executives like former Def Jam chief Kevin Liles and venture capitalist Troy Carter; and stars from Swizz Beatz to Shaquille O'Neal, 3 Kings tells the fascinating story of the rise and rise of the three most influential musicians in America.
Greenburg, a media and entertainment editor at Forbes who focused on the business success of Jay-Z in his previous book, Empire State of Mind, here widens his scope for a detailed look at the rise of the financial empires built by Jay-Z and his hip-hop contemporaries Diddy and Dr. Dre. Incorporating interviews with such early hip-hop pioneers as Fab 5 Freddy and Starski, as well as many of his subjects' current business partners, Greenburg follows the growth of hip-hop from New York City's "dysfunctional housing projects" in the 1960s and 1970s to Diddy's Revolt network, which brought hip-hop "to fifty-million people between cable, Web, and mobile." Greenburg provides sharp looks at the intricate ways in which Diddy, "the flashy impresario"; Jay-Z, "the brainy lyricist"; and Dre, "the quiet perfectionist..obsessed with sound quality" parlayed their unique skills into hugely successful business deals, such as Dre's cofounding of an electronics company, Beats, that Apple bought in 2014 for $3 billion, and Jay-Z's investment in the NBA's Brooklyn Nets. It's an excellent look at hip-hop that combines cultural and financial history to show what Greenburg, referencing rapper KRS-One, calls "the hip-hopitization of corporate America."