Forbes has released a list of top hip hop moguls. These are businessmen (all men so far). Only two, Russell Simmons and his meetings with John Edwards and candid comments on Barack Obama along with P.Diddy and his Vote or Die 2004 GOTV initiative have thrown real weight into politics.

Wouldn’t it have been interesting if P.Diddy or Russell Simmons had been invited to keynote at the YearlyKos Convention? Or maybe even Common, Mos Def, Ludacris, Dead Prez, Kanye West or some of the other enlightened artists. Crazy idea? Maybe, but these are real people with real dollars, some of whom have shown real interest in progressive causes. Hip hop reaches millions (black, white — all colors) with its messages. Yes, some of the messages coming out of hip hop are toxic — sex, drugs and rock and roll sells. Let’s not point fingers at hip hop without also looking at the wider and whiter history of popular music in the modern era.

Like the majority of African-Americans, chances are, at least a few of these influential artists have strong feelings about the Iraq war, healthcare, the environment and other issues impacting our nation. Could they be further tapped as contributors, strategists and spokesmen that appeal to a younger generation? Say what you want about Vote or Die, but the fact is that (for a lot of reasons) 2004 featured one of the highest participation rates for voters under 25 in history. Youth voting surged by 11 percentage points in 2004.

Should African-Americans consider asking more of these leaders (for better or worse) that have risen from our communities than just blingin and singin?

[...snip from Forbes: Hip Hop's Cash Kings]Jay-Z also owns the 40/40 Club sports bar franchise, with locations in New York and Atlanta, and a small stake in the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. (He’s often photographed in courtside seats alongside his girlfriend, pop superstar Beyoncé.) Plus the native New Yorker (from Brooklyn’s hardscrabble Marcy Projects) collects income from blue-chip endorsement deals with Budweiser, Hewlett-Packard (nyse: HPQ – news – people ), and General Motors (nyse: GM – news – people ). All told, Jay-Z banked an estimated $34 million in 2006, earning him the top spot on Forbes’ first-ever list of hip-hop Cash Kings.

Unlike traditional music genres like pop, rock and country, whose artists generally make the bulk of their money selling albums and touring, hip-hop has spawned an impressive cadre of musicians-cum-entrepreneurs who have parlayed their fame into lucrative entertainment empires. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who nabbed the No. 2 spot on the list, presides over G-Unit, a diverse portfolio of businesses that includes apparel, ringtones, video games and even a line of fiction. All told, “Fiddy” as he is known to fans, made an estimated $32 million last year. “I’m creating a foundation that will be around for a long time, because fame can come and go or get lost in the lifestyle and the splurging,” he told Forbes last year. “I never got into it for the music. I got into it for the business.”

At No. 3 is impresario Sean “Diddy” Combs, formerly known as “Puff Daddy,” who lords over Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group. That enterprise is responsible for TV series like MTV’s Making the Band franchise, the Sean John clothing line, the bestselling Unforgivable cologne and a pair of restaurants called Justin’s, named after one of his sons. The Bad Boy Records label, backed by Warner Music Group (nyse: WMG – news – people ), released albums last year by Danity Kane, Cassie and Yung Joc. Last year, Diddy himself released his first album in four years; Press Play debuted at the top of the U.S. pop and rap charts. All told, Combs made an estimated $28 million last year. (Representatives for Diddy, ever the showman, insist that figure is much higher.)

Generally, the most successful “hip-hopreneurs” run their own labels, taking a cut from the artists they sign. Both Eminem ($18 million) and Dr. Dre ($20 million) boast Interscope-backed imprints; both helped produce and release 50 Cent’s last two albums, which have sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Fifty owns his own G-Unit label which produces artists like Young Buck and Lloyd Banks, among others.

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