Dr Dre set to become rap’s first billionaire

RAPPER Dr Dre looks set to become the world’s first hip hop billionaire as he closes in on a deal with technology giant Apple for his headphones.

Dr Dre sports a pair of the distinctive headphones. Picture: Reuters

Beats by Dr Dre, which boasts a music-streaming service as well as an audio equipment arm, is on the verge of being sold to Apple for $3.2 billion (£1.9bn).

Founded by music producer Jimmy Iovine and rapper Dre in 2008, Beats has already become the technology of choice for HP laptops and HTC smartphones and, if the deal goes ahead, looks likely to become part of Apple’s product line-up.

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It is thought that Apple could announce the deal as early as next week – but the US rapper himself spilled the beans in a video posted on Facebook late on Thursday night.

Dr Dre appeared to reveal details of the impending agreement in a video posted online by his friend, the R&B singer-songwriter and actor Tyrese Gibson.

Gibson says to the camera: “The Forbes List just changed. They came out, like two weeks ago, but they need to update the Forbes List.”

Dr Dre, whose real name is Andre Young, appears in the background and says: “The first billionaire in hip hop…”

Although he does not mention Apple, Gibson’s caption for the video, which has now been removed from the social networking site, did name the tech giant. “How did I end up in the studio with Dr Dre ON THE night his deal went public that he did with Apple 3.2 BILLION!” he wrote.

If the deal is completed, it would be by far the largest purchase in Apple’s 38-year history.

Beats is known for its large, bright headphones, offering a bass-heavy sound – and costing between £170 and £390. Its Beats Music streaming service is subscription-only and would continue to differ from iTunes Radio, which is free.

The Apple “radio” service, which allows users to play any tune in the iTunes store, is currently available in the US and Australia, and is expected to be rolled out to the UK in the near future.

Apple has traditionally seen little need to buy technology from other companies, reflecting its confidence in its ability to turn its own ideas into revolutionary products such as the Mac computer, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

However, it has not released a breakthrough product since its former chief executive and visionary, Steve Jobs, died in October 2011.

The innovative void has increased the pressure on Jobs’ hand-picked successor, Tim Cook, to prove he is capable of sustaining the success and growth that turned Apple into the world’s most valuable company and a beloved brand.