Featured, Music, Pop Culture, Theory & Essay

Empire Is Getting That Pepsi Money. Smart. Very Smart.

For all of its faults – sometimes I feel like the writers behind Empire don’t actually realize that the people watching are old enough to know non-sense when we see it – I do happen to think that Empire is one of the “smartest” shows on television for what they are doing for a few episodes. And here’s why.

During the first season, everybody started noticing whenever famous people managed to make it onto the show. Hell, Naomi Campbell played Hakeem Lyon’s cougar/jumpoff. Naomi freakin’ Campbell. Derek Luke was running security before whisking off to Washington, DC, to work for somebody doing something. Random celeb cameos became part of the Empire excitement, and it worked. It played into the cultural zeitgeist that made Empire a show that you had to see every week.

Well, this season the “thing” that made Empire so hip last season seemed a bit contrived from episode one as we were all supposed to believe that Chris Rock was a hardened criminal; basically, Pookie resurrected himself as a fearmongering murderer from Philadelphia. Nuh uh, no way, no how. But whatevs, I’m here for it anyway.

Oh, and before I forget, Hakeem “No Last Name” TOTALLY got slaughtered in that battle by Freda Gatz. Hakeem was terrible. He better take that shit back across 8 Mile. Hakeem winning that battle was ALMOST as unbelievable as 1) that battle happening in the first place; and 2) Jamal winning that battle in season one singing his R&B tunes in a dingy open mic spot. Sometimes, it’s just best to throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care.

I also like fish and grits and all that pimp shit. Oh yeah-er.

Back to the lecture at hand; while I do think Empire has definitely stretched the limits of my imagination, I have to give kudos where kudos are due. The people behind Empire? Fuckin’ brilliant.

They basically turned last night’s episode (Espisode 8) into an hour long Pepsi commercial. Which if you think about it is what rappers have been trying to do with liquor and clothing brands for years through all of the free publicity in songs and video, except big leagued by at least 1000 percent because you KNOW the folks behind Empire got broke the fuck off.

I have no idea for how much, but let’s be real: hiding subliminal messages in plain sight to urban demographics for an hour convincing them to drink Pepsi? Priceless. Whatever Pepsi paid, it probably wasn’t enough. Queens? Get the money.

On the show, Jamal is one of ten artists vying for a shot to be the face of a new Pepsi campaign. They created a commercial for him – then ran a bunch of Pepsi commercials during Empire breaks – and he had to create a song. The song, necessary for the Pepsi ad deal which would be the biggest opportunity for exposure of Jamal’s career, allowed Empire to create a storyline pitting Lucious against Cookie as they competed to help create Jamal’s sound for the ad.

Jamal, wisely, blended the best elements from both Luscious and Cookie’s notes and tutelage and created what was actually a pretty dope song. I found myself rewinding it to listen again despite the frenetic clashing of styles. But hey, Big K.R.I.T. told me that life ain’t nothing but an EQ of highs and lows, so who am I to judge? As an ATL-ien, I’m a Coke loyalist, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t want to get a Pepsi because they picked Jamal’s song and I felt like my family won.

Then I snapped back to reality and realized I was watching Empire and I live in a Kool-Aid house anyway.

At the same time, I did stand to my feet and do a slow clap for Empire’s realization that since all of these folks are trying to buy into the Empire business, LET THEM EAT CAKE! Or in this case, approach a huge brand who clearly realized that it couldn’t hurt AT ALL to have a relationship turned into an actual storyline. It’s the best type of advertising out there: co-branding that doesn’t seem random that can slide into a show’s premise.

Brav-fucking-o, Empire.

Urban brands and shows have always had what seems to be an unfair relationship with the clothing or any brands they pushed. Black people are trendsetters and even back on shows like Martin, YO! MTV Raps, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, I don’t know if the stars were being paid to push the brands they were wearing or if they were just being cool and keeping the shows fresh and hip with the standards of the day but I always felt like those stars should have been paid handsomely for the styles they ushered into school yards and clubs all over.

Well, Empire took that idea and created the perfect way to take Pepsi’s money without shedding any bit of integrity. And I’m here for it. That’s some smart television. The only way it would have been better is if Boo Boo Kitty took a sip of Pepsi and then looked at the camera as she kidnapped Hakeem’s new virginal boo.

To the Empire?

To the Empire.

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Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • RewindingtonMaximus

    Legacy.

    That’s the word that’s going to define this show. No matter how crazy, goofy, stupid, or plain silly it gets, it already has a legacy. That’s facts. Pepsi money incorporated into the show? Somebody took a page out of the NFL’s hand book, obviously.

  • menajeanmaehightower

    PJ, thoughts on Freda?

    • panamajackson

      I’m not a fan. But mostly because I don’t like her voice. She can spit though, assuming she’s writing any of her own material.

      • DBoySlim

        These days that’s a toss up.

      • menajeanmaehightower

        I like her voice and flow.

        • tgtaggie

          Fantasia loaf is a way way better rapper than Hakeem. Even Cookie know that lol

  • DBoySlim

    I love genius moves like this. I observed how 50 integrated his music into Power. Cross promotion is always the move.

    • QuirlyGirly

      Gotta get that paper!

    • grabo2003

      Maaan, Power trips me up, I am obsessed, still watching first season here in Africa but it’s got me and the wife person hooked. Ghost making questionable choices with Angela, Tommy just spilling secrets to that junkie holly. Yeah and the music is on point and the one thing i like is that it’s not all 50 or g-unit songs on there so props, daps, to Fif for that! Keeps everything fresh.

  • miss t-lee

    When I saw that Pepsi sponsorship angle I was like…welp!
    I can’t believe Boo Boo Kitty went off the deep end. I refuse to believe Hakeem is slanging anything that magical to warrant even half of that.
    We all know Freda won that battle. Hakeem’s “bars” are a hot mess.
    Next week’s preview? Alicia Keys and Jamal on a song? Gonna be vibrato overdose.
    Get your earplugs, ready!

    • Sigma_Since 93

      It’s not that Hakeem has the magic stick…it’s the Lyon family reducing her to who are you status and she’s looking at that baby as payback and a paycheck #wegotogetha

      Freda kept it street….Hakeem kept it corporate. We all know Hakeem paid folks to attend like Ghost does to tweet that Truth is banging tonight.

      I thought Freda was going to win and Wet Wipes was going to dismiss Jamal for working with Cookie thus keeping the kids at odds with one another.

      • miss t-lee

        I mean…she was always “who are you?” status.

        • Sigma_Since 93

          It looked like she had clout within the industry before being dismissed. Now it looks like she can’t catch a cold.

          • miss t-lee

            Clout? She was Lucius’ chick and was A&R before leaving.

      • QuirlyGirly

        Yes, Freda did keep it street and she won that battle. It was a rap battle not a what is hot on the radio battle. I was like *eye rolls

        But I cracking up when Vivica Fox came in and yelled out Lo-re-tha. Just like family to call out your government.

        • miss t-lee

          She sure did! I was like so that’s Cookie’s real name…LMAO

          • QuirlyGirly

            I know- I knew a dude back in the day, his street name was Big Black but his government name was Francis.

            • miss t-lee

              That’s always hilarious.

            • Wow….a black dude named Francis? AND he’s big?

              • QuirlyGirly

                Yes and yes- we was not ready. The neighborhood boys tried to clown his name but it amazing how beating down one dude will silence others. lol

                • I can imagine!! They didn’t want those hands! Imagine saying that you got whooped by a dude name “Francis”. SON!!!

      • JamesInstagram

        I knew it wasn’t going well when Hakeem traded hot bars for foot shufflin’. Only on Fox can a black man sing and dance his way into a rap battle win.

    • I don’t like the fact that they turned Alicia Keys into a Justine Skye Lite (literally). That’s foul.

      • miss t-lee

        I’m not an AK fan anyway so…lol

    • Our ears will be on fire! Am I the only person that thinks Alicia Keys’ vocals SUCK?

      • miss t-lee

        I’d rather listen to nails being dragged across a chalkboard.

      • Janelle Doe

        No, you aren’t.

  • GLAMCAM

    Cheers. Brilliant branding. The shows premise throws me at times but I am still here for it. As bae said, “Damn you watch all the black girl shows?!” Sure do. What is the alternative? White girl shows??

  • Andre Faulkner

    I’m surprised they didn’t end up at a family dinner smacking on some #pattipies….

    • QuirlyGirly

      Man, speaking of promotion Pattie should break old dude off some paper for boosting up her sales.

      • miss t-lee

        Seriously though.

      • Truth! I cackled the entire time watching that review. Him and his bedazzled baseball cap had me in tears.

        • GLAMCAM

          I want that hat!

          • That hat is so Gem and the Holograms! Give him a minute he will probably have an Instgram boutique selling those hats.

        • QuirlyGirly

          Yes and when he screams PAAATTTIE!! I hollered! Some people are just off the chain.

      • JanuaryBabe

        I heard she called him and said “thank you!”……she certainly should give him a break…..Also heard that Jamie Fox contacted him. Fingers crossed!

    • MsSula

      Don’t count it out until the Thanksgiving episode airs! Loll

  • htxgoodfella

    “I also like fish and grits and all that pimp s h i t.” Made me have a moment…

  • I’m not even mad at Boo Boo Kitty. If I was knocked up by some youngster who told me he thinks I’m “dope” and that we’re “homies,” I’d snap too. I would take it out on Hakeem, not the girl. But whatever.

    • YeaSoh

      Yeah but she KIDNAPPED someone… like that was WAYYY out of character for her. Well, there is that fact that this is Empire so scratch everything I just wrote.

      • lol Yeah. On Empire a character could grow wings and start to cast spells and the writers would be like, “This totally makes sense, guys. Right?!” I took it as a very tightly-wound woman unraveling to the point of a kidnapping and a bad wig. I dunno how they will spin her descent into Fatal Attraction, but -shrug-

        • YeaSoh

          She’ll prolly get shot, in the head, at point blank range but then *PLOT TWIST* not die and come back and start her own label that will ultimately bring Cookie and Lucious back together… until the next episode.

          • Maybe she’ll sign Lola.

            • YeaSoh

              Who duh skrippa?

              • Nah, remember the little girl from Season 1?

    • Helga G.Pataki

      Boo Boo Kitty went from well coifed to 27 piece over baby Lyon

      • Yep. Young guys can make you forget your ways.

        • Yes, I learned my lesson. I run the other way when I see one coming.

  • htxgoodfella

    Man, Empire doing something right. I be trying to act like I’m above watching that nonsense, but every Wednesday the nearest tv to me always seem to find its way to FOX.

  • I wasn’t alive for Dynasty…but based on the anecdotes of those that were, this show gives me SO many Dynasty vibes.

    • miss t-lee

      Let me fill you in: That slap she gave ol boy for trying to hit Hakeem?
      Very Dynasty-esque.

    • MsSula

      It is the newest incarnation of Dynasty. Loll.

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