Unless you've been comfortably residing under a rock, you'll know that FOX's Empire has quickly risen to become one of the hottest shows on television, due mainly to the brutally realistic view of life in the music industry and beyond. Keeping things real (and interesting), the series has added rapper Sean Cross to the roster, playing himself for the show's second season. You may remember Cross a few years back flanked by Swizz Beatz on the mid-level anthem "Ready Ready." He also dropped off a nice Empire teaser cut "Born to Lose" with Jussie Smollett, Yazz and Swizz earlier this week. Now he's well on his way to bringing his tunes back into the atmosphere, with potentially some more acting roles on the horizon. BET.com chopped it up with King Cross and he was a ball of energy. You would be too if your big debut on a major TV series airs tonight, right?
BET.com: It's so good to speak with you on such a momentous occasion! Season two of Empire and you're on it!
Sean Cross: Aw man, this is epic! All glory goes to the Lord. It's just epic for me right now. I'm humbled and excited at the same time. Mainly humbled.
So break this down for me. A few years back, Swizz introduces us to his new star. Now you're on a hit TV show. That's a decent career jump. How did that go down?
Me and Swizz have been friends for 18 years, and it's been actually a work in the making. We sprinkled a taste of that work four years ago on "Ready Ready," and we were still working on mastering the craft and looking and finding the particular sound. We've found that sound, and as a result of that we're here today with the launching of Empire.
Well, that's pretty fantastic.
It's beautiful. It's a blessing, a real blessing.
Now, I know a few days ago we got "Born to Lose." It doesn't sound like you were born to lose at all, though.
Let me tell you something about "Born to Lose." My content is considered "hardcore consciousness," so a lot of my content is along the conscious spectrum, while relatable to the times of today. When Lee [Daniels] came to us, he said he wanted something different. He wanted something more to the point. So that's how we came up with "Born to Lose." And to the point meaning, what's going on in today's times. That's how we came up with that record.
It's inspirational, though, to people who might feel that they're in a similar situation as the song.
There's still a lot more work to do. That's a beautiful move, but we as people of color are still at a certain place in our lives today. It's a great thing that I have that opportunity, but there are still millions of us who haven't gotten that opportunity. And we're still in these situations we don't deserve. That's what the record talks about, what we're going through as Black people in this country and what Lucious is going through as the owner of a hip hop record label. It's an actual reality. At some point, sometimes when your back is against the wall with bills and so forth, you've gotta do things to get where you've gotta get to handle your business. So that record speaks that particular volume. It's needed right now, because music is monotonous. It's the same repetitive thing and needs to change.
Do you think that's why so many people have flocked to Empire? It's not a reality show, but the subjects are very much rooted in reality. Do you feel like that's why so many people are into it?
Of course! Because the world wants the real! You want the real, don't you?
People are going to flock to what's real. Anything that's fabricated, they're not going to relate to and flock to as fast as the real. Empire is not a fabricated story. It's a story of a man with a dream from poverty — from rags to riches. Every person, every immigrant, everyone wants a piece of that American Dream.
Talk to me about your character on Empire.
I'm me! I'm Sean Cross.
Does playing yourself in a role on an arguably fictitious show, though, require some acting? I assume it does.
Well, acting is an art, just as music. It's all about the characters, but that's not something I had to get into because he's established already. That made things easy for me, because I'm playing myself as an artist, as a person who wants their word to reach the people. So really it was a walk in the park.
So has the acting bug bitten you? Do you want more?
I love acting. Acting is a craft that coincides with music. Pam Grier once told me, "When you guys are on stage, you're acting." So it's the same thing. There's really no difference to compare the two.
When do we get some more Sean Cross music?
We've got a beautiful lineup coming for you guys. First and foremost, we're gonna shoot our two singles, "America" and "Born to Lose." We're gonna follow that with a mixtape. And then after the mixtape, we're gonna do a six-song EP with a visual for every record. It's just bringing back beautiful entertainment to the business!
(Photo: Chuck Hodes/Fox)