Cultural appropriation as it’s technically defined, is taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions or artifacts from someone’s culture without permission. In most cases, it’s mainstream culture borrowing cultural elements from people of color, who have been marginalized by racism, stereotypes and global oppression.
1. Elvis $300 Million
Elvis Presley is by far one of the biggest cultural icons. Even in death, he is still hailed as “The King of Rock n’ Roll.” This doesn’t always sit well with people, particularly the African-American community, because Elvis owes much of his musical influence to black artists like Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton”, who he stoled his hit “Hound Dog” from with no credit. Presley even said he was largely influenced by blues musician Arthur Crudup, the originator of his song, “That’s All Right.”
2. Eminem $242 Million
In a 2002 article in The New York Times, the reporter says that Eminem was “a salvation of an art form that has been corrupted by the focus of Bentleys, yachts, and Cristal Champagne.” You never saw Eminem appropriating black culture. Yes, the style of his music is prominently made and created by black artists, but Eminem is never trying to be someone that he’s not. Eminem writes lyrics about the struggles that ordinary people deal with on a daily basis: addiction, divorce, parents, regrets, the list goes on and on. Plus, if you’ve ever watched 8 Mile you know that Eminem had a hard childhood. He had a shitty mother and lived close to poverty until he made it big. That’s what makes him so relatable. Teenagers growing up in the suburbs loved his music and so did those growing up in the city. Everyone could relate on some level.
At the same time, there is no doubt that Eminem has had so much success because of his race. In the same New York Times article, Eminem addresses his privilege in “White America” rapping, “Let’s do the math — if I was black, I would’ve sold half”, pointing out his album sales compared to black rappers. He is completely self-aware of his privilege, but he’s also aware that he’s talented and is actually making great music.
3. Justin Timberlake $230 Million
4. Adele $125 Million
5. Beastie Boys $75 million
6. Pitbull $50 million
7. DJ Khaled $50 Million
8. Psy $45 Million
9. Big Bang $33 Million
10. Iggy Azalea $10 Million