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Dr. Dre goes from LA gangster rapper to Forbes top dog

LOS ANGELES--It is a long way from the rough streets of south Los Angeles to becoming the world's richest hip hop star.

But that is the path likely set to be taken by Andre Young — better known as Dr Dre — helped by some very cool headphones.

The 49-year-old rapper turned producer and entrepreneur would top Forbes' hip hop rich list after striking a US$3.2 billion deal to sell Apple the company he co-founded eight years ago, Beats Electronics.

The agreement, which has not yet been finalized, would boost his net worth to some US$800 million, according to Forbes. Some reports suggest Dre could soon become the world's first hip-hop billionaire.

He would pip Sean “Diddy” Combs who was the previous top dog with US$700 million, as well as Jay Z, now in third place with US$520 million, followed by Bryan “Birdman” Williams on US$160 million.

“Hip hop is now central to American popular culture,” Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University in New York state, told AFP after the deal was reported Friday.

“If you get a hip hop artist who can establish a name and a basis of fame and wealth and then they're smart enough to ... make sorties into other parts of the culture ... that seems a typical American story.”

Along the way Dre has discovered and worked with some of the biggest acts in music, including Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Combs and others and pioneered gangsta rap as well as west coast G-Funk.

He has also won six Grammy awards, including becoming the first hip-hop producer to for Producer of The Year in 2001.

But it all started in the tough south LA neighborhood of Compton, where he was born Andre Romell Young in February 1965, to parents who divorced while he was barely out of short trousers.

Compton was well known for gang violence but also for producing hip hop groups and rappers, including gangsta rap group

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