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Fox’s ‘Empire’ could offer a different look at hip-hop

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 23: Lee Daniels and Taraji P. Henson attend the screening of "From The Rough" at ArcLight Cinemas on April 23, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images) Lee Daniels and Taraji P. Henson attend the screening of “From The Rough.” Daniels will direct Henson in “Empire.” (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

There’s going to be a new show about hip-hop this fall, and the chance the buzz surrounding it will stem from a leaked sex tape is thankfully infinitesimal.

The third season of “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” opened with a bang thanks to the release of a sex tape featuring two of the reality show’s cast members. It has since become the most-pirated sex tape of all time, according to TMZ.

With the backing of Fox, “Empire,” a new hip-hop drama that’s been ordered to series, won’t have to resort to the sort of guerilla marketing that involves Vivid Entertainment.

“Empire” appears to piggyback off of “Nashville’s” model. It will have original music, with Timbaland slated to write and produce songs, and it will be a show about the music industry.

Terrence Howard will play Lucious Lyon, the head of a record label, and Taraji P. Henson, his co-star from “Hustle & Flow,” will play his drug-dealing ex-wife who’s been released early from prison thanks to good behavior. Lee Daniels (“The Butler”) co-wrote the script with Danny Strong, and will direct.

Much of television’s offerings that currently feature high black visibility are reality shows such as “Love & Hip Hop,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Basketball Wives,” “R&B Divas,” “Braxton Family Values,” “Mary Mary,” “Black Ink” and, until recently, “Tia & Tamera.” Part of their success with black audiences has been due to the dearth of scripted shows with black characters — “Being Mary Jane,” “Scandal,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “The Game” have all established loyal black followings.

“I think you’re seeing the viewership increase because of more opportunities for African-Americans to see themselves and their experiences reflected back to them,” Esther Franklin told the Hollywood Reporter. Franklin researches media and consumer habits of African Americans and other minority groups for Starcom MediaVest Group, where she’s an executive vice president. “I don’t see it extending on broadcast, but this will continue to play out on cable,” she said.

While largely black audiences have been behind huge ratings bumps, particularly for VH1, the networks have been loath to acknowledge it, something that also happened with “Scandal.”

Fox also ordered “Red Band Society” to series, a nursing drama that will star Octavia Spencer.

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on issues surrounding race, gender and sexuality.



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