The family strives above all else to share their musical gifts with the world. And while the drama, squabbles and murder plots tangle up their lives, the central goal for all of the characters one way or another is to ensure that quality music is a direct result of their blood, sweat and tears. Music is the driving force of this family. In a perfect world, we would all have a curated soundtrack to our lives, but thanks to Empire, the Lyon family does. So let’s dig into the musical highlights of the most recent episode.

The #FreeLucious concert got the show off to a great start. As usual, Empire packs a ton of punch in every minute and we were treated to Swizz Beatz hosting and a DMX-like character rapping about black suffering and the prison industrial complex. I was thrown off by Cookie being a Gorilla in a cage, but the message of the music was something I wish the show could have spent a bit more time on. We got some choice lyrics from the DMX-fashioned character, as well as a Jamal and Hakeem mashup. With the stand out lyric of that musical selection being Jamal’s “Do you live for love?/Do you believe in the creator?”

That’s something deep to ponder as the audience tries to digest the layered meaning in the opening credits of the show. With references to Mike Brown, police brutality and Eric Garner, it was good to have Empire acknowledge that this issue is still front and center in the minds of most people. Some real musicians should take a cue from that very ratchet-inspired freedom concert for Lucious, we need more music with a message. If Empire can make it sound good, so can real artists. I would love to see Don Lemon (who made a brief appearance during this scene) rap, by the way. Dreams for later in the season?

Even while sporting an orange jumpsuit, Lucious manages to discover the next big thing in the form of Frank Gathers’ daughter. Her rhymes are going to be a highlight in episodes to come, I have no doubt. I am looking forward to seeing her either become competition for Hakeem or a welcome collaborator. It will be nice to have someone outside of the Lyon clan giving the musical brothers a run for their money so that both of their projects improve.

Shout to Ms. Lawrence for sannnging to get Jamal to join in on actively supporting LGBTQ rights. I don’t know if the level of queendom was a stereotype or if it was there to highlight that Jamal still has issues. But musically, I was here for Ms. Lawrence. The sequins, the baldness and the piano theatrics. Not sure we absolutely need to see that character again. But it would be great to have that duet really happen.

Jamal finally makes it to the studio as the episode comes to an end and, as usual, he has some powerful feelings and falsetto realness to deliver to the people. Before Cookie interrupts his creative flow he croons, “You won’t get what’s mine.” I assume these lyrics are prophetic. We see him get slapped twice, but close the door on his mama (rude) shortly after. I’ll spare you the metaphors surrounding that moment and pose a question instead.

Will Jamal’s shutting the door on being a good person and his strange loyalty to his dad harm his musical output?

That’s what I’ll be watching for all season. I could see things going either way. Some musicians make the best music when they have a lot of dramatic things going on in their lives, but Jamal seems best when he is happy and fulfilled. I am curious to see what musical selections this dark side of Jamal will bring to the show.

Because Jamal is on the dark side, here are my dream collaborations and/or guest appearances that will suit Jamal’s current #mood:

  1. The Weeknd. He is emo De Jour. We need this combo
  2. Frank Ocean. This is a long shot because he is hiding, but this cameo is obvious for a long list of reasons. We need Ocean’s deep feeling and layered storytelling because these people are a mess.
  3. Miguel. Although Miguel does not make dark music, he has an uplifting message about being yourself and the Lyons need all the help they can get.

Am I the only one that would love a “Drip Drop” remix before the season wraps?

Honorable mention goes to the gospel references. Because these people most definitely need God in their lives with all the mess surrounding them, including Chris Rock playing a cannibal while having a gospel brunch. Becky even spoke life into the theme all these people need, especially Jamal (who is being all kinds of evil).

Until next week, que the Donnie McClurkin, “We fall down but we get up,” for Jamal is just a sinner who fell down.