The platinum-selling rapper caused quite a stir Sunday when he tweeted (really that sentence could have ended there, but we’ll go on) about being “53 million dollars in personal debt”—a shocking pronouncement even for him, a professional agitator, because…well…you’d just assume that his balance sheet tells a different story. Just look at his lifestyle!
“He isn’t actually in $53 million in debt,” a source close to Kanye and wife Kim Kardashian tells E! News. “That’s the money he’s spent over the past 13 years on fashion, his films and music videos. It’s not debt per se. He always invests in himself and that’s where that number came from.”
West unwittingly suggested as much when he tweeted yesterday, among other things, “perhaps a fashion group will cover the 53 that I’ve invested over the past 13 years…” He also noted that of course he’s “personally rich and I can buy furs and houses for my family…but I need access to more money in order to bring more beautiful ideas to the world.”
So apparently Kanye just needs a brush-up on what “personal debt” means before he throws such a term around next time. Because really, his predicament—if, in fact, this qualifies as a predicament—isn’t that unusual. (And happily, we know his wife ain’t a gold-digger—Kim keeps her considerable finances separate. Coincidentally, Forbes put her 2015 earnings at $53 million.)
There’s a reason why so many celebrities, artists especially, are always hustling. Simply, it can cost money to make money.
Putting aside Kanye’s lavish taste for a moment and sticking strictly to business, the 38-year-old rap star has earned millions but is certainly no stranger to shelling out big bucks for the sake of his art.
Since 2003, the year cited by West himself as the year the investing in question began, he has put out six No. 1 albums, his debut, 2004’s The College Dropout, “only” reaching No. 2. So there’s some dough.
As recently as 2014, he was No. 20 on Forbes‘ list of the top 100 highest-paid celebs and sixth on the mag’s list of Hip-Hop’s Cash Kings with $30 million. He dropped off the master celeb list the following year, but he didn’t have an album out or do a major tour in 2015.
While lately he’s been included in stories about the simplification of music videos, as it becomes less necessary to break the bank for what amounts to an online-only spectacle, West is on the list of the most expensive music videos ever made—twice. 2006’s “Touch the Sky” cost about $1 million and 2007’s “Stronger” ka-chinged in at $1.2 million.
But what about all the touring, where musical acts really make their money these days?
His Yeezus tour made $25 million for 18 dates in 2013, according to Billboard, landing the elaborate road show behind only Paul McCartney‘s $40 million for highest-grossing act of the year. But the 50-foot-high mountain and custom 60-foot LED screen that went everywhere Kanye did probably cost a few dollars. Not to mention, Kanye has always been a visual showman, and ever since his College Dropout Tour in 2004 he has gone all out to make his concerts a theatrical experience.
And that flair for the dramatic extends into all branches of his artistry.
There’s also a reason why Yeezy Seasons 1-3 are prohibitively expensive for the average shopper: The designer would like to make his money back, and then some (just like every other markup king or queen in the fashion business).
“I’m not H&M. I don’t have giant factories. How can I get the price point to where I need it to be if I’m bringing an eight-person design team,” West explained to MTVupon the release of Yeezy Season 2 last October. “It’s gonna take time to get there. This is what I’m sayin’ when you don’t have the right tools … This is the question that everybody asks. It’s like, if you had the Céline design team, the Nike design studio, and the Zara factory, could you do everything that you thought you could do? What would everyone’s answer be to that? Yes.”
Hence a $185 men’s tank top or a $940 jacket.
Meanwhile, that’s just the manufacturing. As you may have heard, Kanye unveiled Yeezy Season 3 at New York Fashion Week last, er…week. All the way back in September 2013, Business Insider estimated that putting together a runway show on the industry’s biggest stage can cost upward of $460,000, presuming you’re going all out (ya think?) and that was factoring in $15,000 to $50,000 for just the space at Lincoln Center. And that was almost three years ago.
Kanye chose Madison Square Garden for his show, which doubled as a premiere listening party for his seventh solo studio album, The Life of Pablo. For starters, it costs a reported $150,000, ballpark, to rent out New York’s most storied arena, and that’s one model has been to hair and makeup or one non-Kardashian celebrity has been splashily seated in the front row.
So it’s safe to say that Kanye’s spending large on his fashion ventures.
And, finally…Kanye’s cost of living. The day to day. Grooming. Travel. Etc.
Last fall, Rihanna‘s father told Heat magazine that Kanye was apt to drop $500 on a haircut while he was touring with RiRi back in 2010. “Kanye just loves the fresh look,” Ronald Fenty divulged.
He may have traded down since then in the barbershop department, now that he’s got a wife and two kids, but since he has joined forces with one of the most famous women on the planet, the hoi polloi are only paying more attention to his finances these days.
First, there was the $3.3 million proposal in 2013 that included at least $200,000 to rent out AT&T Park in San Francisco; $25,000 for an orchestra; $20,000 to light up the scoreboard and other amenities included in your standard lavish-proposal deal; however much to make sure all of Kim’s loved ones were at the park; and $2.5-$3 million to slip a 20-carat rock on her finger.
Theoretically, their 2014 destination wedding in Italy was a relative bargain at $2.8 million—though that didn’t include the cost of hosting their nearest and dearest in Paris for the week leading up to their nuptials.
The couple are currently busy renovating the $20 million home they bought in Calabasas with the most high-end of finishes after deciding not to move into a Bel-Air mansion they purchased in 2013 for $11 million.
But as West pointed out when he realized that people were starting to think he had troubles that might make him seem like more of a regular person…he’s a rich guy. His net worth is still estimated to be $145 million—and even if that vague Internet figure is off by $100 million, which it probably isn’t, he’s still rich.
And either way, Kim can buy her own furs