Empire has begun its second season, following the huge success of the first, and the Fox phenomenon is only getting bigger thanks to a formula that combines hip-hop, drama, and absurdness into one bundle. In the second season, we find Luscious Lyon locked up on murder charges, but he essentially moves around much like I imagine Gucci Mane does. He’s able walk around freely, kill a man, and record new songs.
Did we mention that his prison entourage includes Petey Pablo? Due to the power of social media, Petey was trending last week with just his presence in the background. (It’s also worth noting Chicago’s Montana of 300 had the same trending topic treatment this week). In episode two, his role is expanded when Luscious somehow is able to make music and features an autotune-wielding Petey hook. How did he get all the equipment inside? I guess Luscious has some El Chapo-level connects.
The latest effort is “Snitch Bitch,” another “fake” song from the show that winds up being released in real life. Putting out these songs have made Empire more than just a TV show. It’s aiming to break new ground. It’s unclear if Empire can create a new hip-hop star, but they’ve sure sold a lot of singles and the soundtrack moved 110K first week. Just the fact that artists like Petey Pablo and Charles Hamilton have been seemingly brought back into conversation after years in the background displays the show’s power.
Fascinatingly, the stage for Petey’s appearance on the show was being set a decade ago. The story is mind-blowing. In 2005, Terrence lost his credit cards and ID around the premiere for Hustle & Flow and naturally didn’t have any cash on him, so Petey loaned him a measly $200. Terrence paid him back, of course, but he also got interest: a guest spot on Empire. Not only has he appeared in two episodes thus far, the first night they reconnected had Petey write four of Luscious’ songs coming out this season.
Speaking to WRAL, Petey recalled his conversation with Terrence: “He told me ‘there’s something I want to bring to this Empire element that I can’t find anywhere else. You have that, and I need it.” Without Petey’s pen game, there is no “Snitch Bitch.”
As Empire continues to dominate, I wonder if the people involved understand their growing power in the music industry. It’s no longer just an entertaining TV series. Empire has helped push a few artists back the hip-hop conversation, and has started branding artists like Hakeem and Jamal (who both aspire to do their own music outside of the show). These songs and full-length soundtracks are selling more than most hip-hop artists are. They’re living up to the show’s title and still growing.