MIMO - When Music is Your Fix

Fox Has an “Empire” State of Mind

As if The Butler wasn’t enough.  Lee Daniels, director of the acclaimed movie The Butler, along with his writer Danny Strong, have teamed up with the Fox Network and Brian Grazer (who apparently has a deep love for hip-hop) to create Empire, a new hip-hop drama series.  Think the rags-to-ridiculous-riches story of Jay Z.

Empire is a family drama set in the middle of the hip-hop world. At the heart of the story is Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), a charismatic, savvy hip-hop superstar and music label boss who is on the brink of taking his company, Empire Entertainment, public.  Raised in the break-neck hustle of the streets, Lucious will defend his empire by any means necessary.  Hmm… sounds like a certain somebody from The Roc.

The show re-unites Terrence with his co-star Taraji P. Henson from John Singleton’s rap drama smash, Hustle & Flow. You know, it’s hard out here for a pimp?  Taraji will play Lucious’ ex-wife, Cookie Lyon – a woman who’s landed a tough break.  Her character is described as a “total badass who has just been released from prison after serving 17 years for dealing drugs— money she funneled into Lucious’ then fledgling music empire… She now wants what’s hers,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Her son in the show, Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollet), is a sensitive musical prodigy who is harshly judged by his hip-hop mogul father for being gay.  Sounds like a gumbo of tension there especially with homophobia run rampant in hip-hop. (Wait, did Empire not hear Macklemore’s Same Love song? Guess not.) Empire also stars Gabourey Sidbe and Macy Grey. To top it off, the show is set in New York – that concrete jungle where dreams are made of.

If that isn’t enough to keep you hooked to your TV screen, just stop reading right now. No, wait, keep going. The drama will feature current as well as original music.  Top hip-hop producer Timbaland serves as songwriter and song producer of the show (what!?!?). Strong is attached to write, Daniels to direct. 

Fox exploring a hip-hop drama series is tantalizing enough, but will it be a show that really captures the raw revolutionary culture, tensions, passions, dreams, excess and penniless struggle that is hip-hop?  That would really be exciting to see on network television. Fox obviously thought so; they ordered Empire after a fierce bidding war amongst the top four broadcasters.

It’s about time hip-hop took over primetime TV.  But one simple request: can Jay Z make a guest appearance?

(Photo: Tomdog/Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

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About the Author


Mic check 1,2,1,2. Not the words you expect to bust out of Orange County, California, but that's where Deborah Jane found her funk. Daughter of Guyanese immigrants, Deborah grew up in an all-white suburb where she was one of the only black kids in her school. (Fun fact: She didn't make her first black friend until attending Stanford University). Hip-hop gave her a voice and helped her discover her roots. Now she is an emcee and writer who both spits raps and writes editorials, TV shows and films - especially hip-hop musicals!

At Stanford, she wrote and produced an award-winning hip-hop musical, Strange Fruit: The Hip-Hopera (www.strangefruithiphopera.com) - now in development as a feature film. Deborah also launched her hip-hip theatre webseries, The HOTT (www.youtube.com/TheHOTTtv), published in Urban Cusp Magazine. Currently, she is penning her first hip-hop album, Do You Love Me Deborah Jane? And do you? She truly hopes you all love her.

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Posted in: Featured, Hip Hop Music


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