“It shows how viable our culture is,” said Northern California rapper Iamsu.
Even Fab 5 Freddy, one of hip-hop’s founding fathers, is down with it. “There’s going to be things that we disagree with, but it’s just good that they made an effort to put our culture on a world stage,” wrote the legend to me in an email. “Empire affirms the power of this urban culture that grew out of the hood and extreme poverty here in New York.”
With Empire, hip-hop’s past and present, from Sugar Hill Gang to Frank Ocean, have made it to the mainstream not just through abstract stories, but with direct references. “They cleverly alluded to scenarios that have taken place in real life,” Fab 5 Freddy wrote. Even if “at times it’s more like where the business was in the late ’90s and early 2000s, when record sales still dominated.”