FOX’s Empire is arguably the breakout television hit of 2015. While the music and the soap opera dramatics have attracted viewers in droves, Empire is also a source of fascination for hip-hop fans: The show consistently mimics, and sometimes satirizes, reality. Terrence Howard’s character, Lucious Lyon, is a one-time rap star who has moved from the vocal booth to the boardroom to head up a hugely profitable media empire called, obviously, Empire.
Meanwhile, the show’s creators have acknowledged that they drew inspiration from a couple of real-life rappers and musical artists. Lyon is a unique composite of many real-life stories, with a few new twists. The fictional world of Empire aside, plenty of powerful MCs have set the standard for rap mogul-dom in the modern world. Here are the MCs Who Built Their Own Empires.