Following months of speculation and anticipation, Fox recently dropped the trailer for season two of its ratings juggernaut Empire. A lot has changed since viewers were first introduced to the Lyon family in early January. Head patriarch Lucious discovered his diagnosis of ALS was something a lot less life threatening yet, was charged with the killing his former friend Bunky and finds himself currently incarcerated. This a 180 from the series beginning with his ex-wife Cookie being released from prison. Getting over the closeted homosexual hump, middle son Jamal takes over Empire Enterprises and even manages to get a little Suge Knight-ish during a few episodes. Meanwhile, oldest son Andre is still coming to terms with his bipolar disorder. Empire Enterprises’ greatest threat comes when Hakeem forms an alliance with Lucious’ ex-fiance Annika who is possibly helping a rival record label. Wrapping everything together is Cookie’s power struggle to get the piece of the company that is deserved. As the second season of Empire is surely set possibly break more viewership records, DX is proud to present the next edition of “Empire State Of Mind.”

Does #FreeLucious Accurately Portray Hip Hop’s Relationship With Crime?

Season two of Empire starts exactly where the first ended, with Lucious Lyon being imprisoned for the murder of his former friend and close associate Bunky. As the inner conflict of Empire Enterprises intensifies, the remaining Lyon hold a benefit concert under the theme of #FreeLucious. It’s quite a spectacle as everyone from Don Lemon to Al Sharpton attends in totally self-aware cameos. Before Cookie ascends from a cage in a guerrilla outfit, there’s an interesting exchange between her and Hakeem. Getting ready to perform, youngest Lyon son points out how fake the entire event is considering Lucious did in-fact, did kill Bunky. Cookie’s response: Shut up and perform. Yes, Lucious is legally wrong for his crime. However, to the outside world and millions of fans, he’s completely innocent. It’s actually quite similar to how fans, media and everyone in-between reacts when their favorite rapper gets incarcerated.

We’ve all seen it all before in some capacity. Free Gucci and Free Pimp C among others all were movements built for support of artists behind bars. Many fans cared less about the actual reasons. It didn’t matter if one-half of UGK was incarcerated for brandishing a gun before falling behind on community service once he pleaded no contest. Nor did anyone care if Gucci Mane violated parole by being caught with firearms after his numerous arrests. In the eyes of the people, these were artists targeted by the authorities like many rappers before them. Reasons are fairly complex as well. Hip Hop’s history has always been rooted in the African American community. And therefore, black’s relationship with the police hasn’t always been the greatest. N.W.A. proclaiming “Fuck The Police” came from a very personal place of brutality by those sworn to protect during the crack epidemic. Anyone who saw Straight Outta Compton totally understands how visceral things were. To contrast, law enforcement were faced with an influx of drugs and crime that came along with it as well. For many blacks, police were continuing the same assault on their communities that had reached as far back as Jim Crow era south. Let’s not even forget the disparages in actual sentencing when it comes to African Americans. While gangsta rap became a pop culture phenomenon, law enforcement found itself alongside Hip Hop’s money making sub genre.

By know, we’re all aware of the “Hip Hop Cops” that specifically target rappers. Then there are others like to harass for no real reason. Two years ago, 2 Chainz’s tour bus was stopped and eventually towed to a nearby police station where he was charged for gun and drug possession. Ironically, he beat the case and was inspired to eventually speak out against unjust marijuana laws earlier this year on Nancy Grace. Several months back, Wiz Khalifa found himself tackled to the ground by a handful of police for riding the hood’s favorite new invention, the bi-pedal electric board. With that in mind, the relationship between Hip Hop and the police is adversarial but aggressors come from both sides. There was an uncomfortable feeling as The Lyon family spoke the name of Eric Garner and Michael Brown during the Free Luscious concert knowing very well the head patriarch wasn’t innocent. Maybe having an emotional attachment to a celebrity can be exploited.    

Even from behind bars, rappers are still able to control bits of their empire. Just as Luscious currently runs Empire Entertainment while locked up, having large amounts of money can still keep a machine going despite being handicapped. Gucci Mane has essentially controlled his musical output from prison and Three 6 Mafia member Crunchy Black manages to do the same from his Las Vegas correctional facility. Outside of the music, a recent interview done with Gemstones(formerly going by Geminii) revealed how 1st & 15th Records co-owner Charles “Chilly” Patton still manages Lupe’s career from prison as he serves 44 years for running a heroin ring. For the record, “Snitch Bitch” may be the greatest parody street rap track since “Whoop Dat Trick.” So does this make Howard the undisputed king of Broadway raps?

I wouldn’t be surprised if Fox eventually turned Empire into a travelling tour like they did with Glee  Only a mind as intellectually bi-polar as Terrence Howard could pull of such theatrics. Let’s be real, the  success story of “Snitch Bitch” is the resurrection of Petey Pablo’s career though. Wait, didn’t the “Freek-A-Leek” rapper get dummy time for bringing a loaded weapon into an airport though? Don’t be surprised if the autotuned track filled with sing-song raps nabs a nomination for “Best Original Song” at the next Emmys either. Timbaland’s production alone proves exactly why he still remains one of Hip Hop’s most respected super producers. The “No Snitching” policy hit mainstream after the famous first season of Aaron Mcgruder The Boondocks or the now classic “You Mad” moment on The O’Reilly Factor with Cam’ron and Dame Dash years prior. In reality, rap deals with “No Snitching” as one in many basic rules in police engagement. Then again, Hip Hop is also at a place where former correctional officers can have a successful career.

Current reviews from mainstream critics and audiences have been mixed so far regardless as to how great viewership numbers remained. Last season touched on several serious subjects from mental health to homophobia. Right out the gate, Empire’s second run is tackling criminality in a way that’s unflinching, hilarious, ironic, slightly nuanced and real. Those on the outside of Hip Hop headlines over the past decade can enjoy the sheer ridiculousness of the Free Luscious movement. Everyone else within the know can enjoy understanding something that’s complex and entertaining. Finally serving as the proverbial cherry on top, a soundtrack hitting the right notes. Me, I’ll just be hoping Timbaland utilizes Missy Elliott on the soundtrack. Hell, I’ll settle for Magoo.