For Taraji P. Henson and 50 Cent, the Twitter beef over Fox’s “Empire,” which premiered Wednesday night, is on!
The rapper and Henson, who currently stars in the show, have engaged in an online back-and-forth over the inspiration, content and marketing of the show.
Before it even premiered, Fiddy claimed the marketing liberally borrowed from that of his own Starz series, “Power.” He began the feud by posting to Instagram, in a since-deleted post, “I like Terrence Howard and Taraji Henson. I don’t like that they would copy the Marketing.”
And this week, Henson replied on Twitter:
Both need to chill. Neither should even begin to approach taking credit for an American archetype or the rags-to-riches character arc that inspired both narratives. Obviously 50 Cent has a big ego, but dude, the story of a person who has done morally questionable things only to become successful, rich and famous is well-worn territory. Come one, Fiddy, you already know that; it inspired your music career and helped catapult your first studio album, “Get Rich Or Die Tryin'” into the stratosphere, but does he think it’s only OK for him to do it? Henson stars as Cookie in “Empire,” which had me thinking about Tweeting #EHMPIRE halfway into the first episode. Her character is Terrence Howard’s ex-boo and former partner in hustle. Howard plays Lucious Lyon, a gangster-rapper-turned-record-label executive. In the first episode, viewers were introduced to both as Henson was released from prison after doing time for drug dealing and Howard heard from doctors that he has ALS and only a few years left to live. Here is the central tension of the series: Henson wants her company back, to get paid because she provided seed money and feels owed because it skyrocketed after she was locked up, but Howard is not cooperating and instead wants to give the business to one of his three sons before he passes away. The problem with Fiddy taking credit for the inspiration — aside from it being ridiculous — is that he can keep it; the “Empire” premiere was not really very good. Aside from ignoring a litany of narratives that roughly cover that same territory, from the works of Charles Dickens to Horatio Alger Jr. 50 Cent’s Starz series “Power” is a similar show about the music industry, money, lust, power and greed; all the things American viewers want to watch in a television drama. And what was up with all the flashbacks on “Empire?” The first episode included several of them Can we get a handle on the present day before going back to the future? Plus, there was a completely contrived reference to President Barack Obama wanting to have lunch with Lyons. Yeah that dialogue sounded true … not! In any case, no matter who copied whom first, the premiere was a big yawn. Maybe it will get better? Though Henson’s Cookie character was likeable — she was sensitive and savage at the same time, like a beautiful and ferocious lioness — the show lacked any real substance. I am a big fan of both Henson and Howard, and 50 Cent for that matter. “Empire” could certainly improve, but damn Fiddy, isn’t the get-rich-or-die-tryin’ mantra to respect another’s hustle, not crap on them for getting money? And hey, at least the marketing worked: Nearly 10 million viewers tuned into the premiere, giving Fox its highest series debut since 2012’s “Touch.” Unfortunately, the acting seemed unbelievable, and what was up with Howard’s clothes? I know he plays a music mogul, but who was his style modeled on? Certainly not real-life industry players — 50 Cent, Jay-Z or Sean “Puffy/P. Diddy” Combs. Howard looked more like some cool-cat from the 1970s than a supposed gangster-rapper-turned-music-fiefdom executive. Hopefully “Empire” will find that slow, soulful groove it is looking for, and maybe 50 Cent will chill and let his show be judged on its own merits without criticizing someone else for adding to, and being inspired by, an archetypal American, up-from-your-bootstraps character and story arc. Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.