In Hip Hop there has always been a long obsession over who is king or queen. Every music label perceives itself as familial and dynastic in nature, trying to secure itself as top and the fans take sides by pledging their undying allegiance to their favorite label, at least till the best new thing comes along. Until recently television has never captured the epic drama that is Hip Hop but Fox’s innovative new show “Empire” created by Lee Daniels, (“The Butler” & “Precious”) is the first of its kind.
At the center of “Empire”, is a family in complete disarray. Lucious Lyon (played by Terrance Howard) is king of his hip-hop kingdom and rules it with an iron fist. He’s a drug dealer turned rapper turned record label tycoon, but when he discovers that he has a terminal illness (ALS) he informs his three sons that one of them will be named a successor thus causing Empire Records to be up for grabs. Meanwhile, Lucious’s ex-wife Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) who was imprisoned for 17 years is released and tries to insert herself back into the family she lost and the business she helped start. From the first scene, the chemistry between Lucious and Cookie is undeniable making things difficult for Lucious’s girlfriend Anika (Grace Gealey) who also runs A&R for Empire.
Lucious and Cookie’s oldest son Andre Lyon(Trai Byers) is Empire’s financial guru who secretly struggles with a bi-polar disorder. But Andre’s talents are constantly overlooked by his father so he works to create discord between the family. Hakeem and Jamal are the two young prized possessions of the Lyon family who also seem to be at the center of Empires ever evolving conflict. Hakeem Lyon(Bryshere Gray) is a troubled young rapper, frontrunner for the Empire business, favorited most by his dad consistently acts like a spoiled, immature hot head. Jamal Lyon(Jussie Smollett) is a pop singer and lyrical genius who has a hard time earning the respect of his Father simply because he’s gay. The two younger brothers get along fine but its not long before they begin to be pitted against each other for the throne.
Fox’s Empire premiered to almost 10 million viewers and continues to earn even higher ratings than that. What gives this show its edge is it’s music. Taking tips from Fox’s other big hit “Glee”, Lee Daniels brings in famed producer Timbaland to help orchestrate Empire’s musical narrative instantly giving it real hip hop credibility. It’s the music that draws in the younger audiences but it’s the incredible storyline that keeps you watching.
Whats most compelling about this new series is it offers us a look inside a world that so often is veiled and misunderstood. It tackles hot button issues in the hip-hop community like masagony, homophobia and violence in its lyrics, offering unique insights that bring you a little closer to understanding its controversial nature.
It’s often said that competition is great for business, except if you’re a Lyon, then it becomes a matter of survival of the fittest. Empire is very similar to shows like “Revenge” & “How To Get Away With Murder”, it sucks you into its mysterious, intricate and troublesome world, revolving around the truth that music, family and business never mix well. It’s array of complex character motives and intriguing take down plots keeps you begging this question, whose going to come out on top? Whose going to take the crown?
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