My main takeaway from last night’s Empire is that until that brat Hakeem does right by Cookie, everything he does ought to crumble—starting with that texturizer in his head.
Episode 4 started with Lucious asking Hakeem a seemingly simple question, “What do you want?” His response was a bunch of rap clichés, which isn’t really an impediment from success as an emcee, though work ethic makes a load of difference and Hakeem has very little of it.
Lucious stresses this while bringing up rapper Titan, who is described as “the most authentic artist since 2Pac.” About that: How many more times is 2Pac going to be used as the benchmark? Never mind the part about ‘Pac basically playing Bishop from Juice for half his career.
In any event, with the loss of Four Four, Empire Entertainment needs another rapper. The target becomes Titan and the opportunity to sign him intensifies when Titan finds himself locked up. Anika, or Boo Boo Kitty as Cookie calls her, wants to make this happen—especially after Lucious reveals he has ALS. Bless her heart for having good intentions, but she asks questions like, “Who’s filling up the hip-hop blogs?” She should be doing something else for the label, like planning Mýa’s comeback.
Cookie is obviously the better choice for surrogate, though Lucious wants her to stay out of it. Lucious told Cookie to worry about Jamal who he says is presently, "Waving his little rainbow flag around telling everybody he doesn't need my money." That’s a fantastic read, Lucious. It’s rude as hell, but well done all the same.
As for Jamal, he’s currently living in Bushwick, circa 1994. This show makes Bushwick look like the hood section of hell. It’s definitely not the Bushwick we see on Girls, but hey, there are many neighborhoods in major cities that are Lena Dunham on one street and the real Rick Ross on the next over.
Ever prideful, Jamal refuses to accept any financial help from Cookie. He wouldn’t even take a check from his father for work he actually did. Not accepting money you actually worked for out of pride is some rich people shit. They can afford pride; the rest of us would’ve taken that shit immediately to the bank.
Outside of his pride, Jamal finds himself creatively stifled. Cookie doesn’t have the time for such talk, pushing him to push himself and get back to recording. At one point, we see Jamal finding inspiration from the mean streets of Bushwick. My dude was basically recreating a Michael Jackson video in one scene. Shamon, Jamal. Shamon.
When Cookie isn’t getting her son together, she’s assisting Tiana in her quest to become a star. Tiana reached out to Cookie to do for her what she did for Lucious way back when. This upsets Boo Boo Kitty, but her bougie ass will deal.
Speaking of high saddity, she did join Lucious on meeting with Titan’s cousin with the hopes of snatching Titan from his current label. The end result was brief conversation interrupted by a drive-by. Everyone ducked besides her! I’ve run from bullets before and it’s pretty simple strategy: they shoot, you duck and/or run.
That said, we’re having drive-bys in New York City? I know gas prices are low right now, but that feels weird. Maybe they were in the 1994 version of Bushwick where Jamal and bae just moved to.
Lucious and Boo Boo Kitty failed, but Cookie didn’t. Cookie went to Titan’s mama, who is deep in the Nation of Islam. In a sign of respect, Cookie showed up to the house using a pashmina as a hijab. She also had on short sleeves and a very short skirt, but you can’t win ‘em all, you know?
Titan’s mom was receptive, though Lucious was concerned as to whether a connection with the NOI would be damaging to where his label going public. Then there’s the part about the NOI killing his dad. The conversation then shifted to Cookie explaining what being locked up does to you, especially when people forget about you. Lucious said he never did that to Cookie, but Cookie and the rest of us all know better.
Ultimately, Lucious did find his way into the jail Titan was being held at. This happened after an old acquaintance stomped his way into Levictus to threaten Lucious to not take Empire public or face his past being exposed. You can’t push a man who gets a conk like that. When will people learn?
Turns out, Titan looks as old as Lucious, but since the story is very much influenced by 2Pac (‘Pac’s mom was a Black Panther, Titan’s mom is an NOI mama) I guess he might as well look 40.
Meanwhile, Naomi Campbell returned to the episode and continued to gross me out by having sex with Jamal. All I could hear was R. Kelly classics watching those two in the tub. Hakeem’s girlfriend, Tiana, walked in on them, only she doesn’t care about the infidelity so much as she does Hakeem’s other flaws. Tiana is about business: She wants Jamal to be professional and to respect his mother.
Hakeem refuses even though Lucious himself told him to respect Cookie. Anyone who dislikes Cookie is an enemy of mine.
Before I go, a few things:
All hail Porsha for saying she gave HR a dead person’s social security number because “I don’t do taxes.” Republicans, that’s the kind of person you need to be targeting if you ever want to boost your sad tally of minority voters.
To the costume department: I disliked that white dress y’all put Gabby Sidibe in.
My bad on mistaking Anika as Lucious’ wife. They were just shacking up and now they’re formally engaged. Mazel tov, y’all.
Hakeem, fall into a ditch.