An Abridged Glossary to Season 2 of 'Empire'

Empirecast
The cast of "Empire." James Dimmock/FOX

Shakespearean hip-hopera and Emmy Award-nominated family drama Empire returns Wednesday to Fox for its highly anticipated second season. Empire's first season made history, both in ratings (the show's average weekly audience approached 15 million people) and in diversity (seven of its eight leads are people of color). It was rightfully praised too for its fierce women leads and for its culturally transgressive references to contemporary issues, Black Lives Matter among them.

Set in present-day New York City, Empire explores the wheelings and dealings of the Lyon family, particularly Lucious (Terrence Howard), who founded and runs the notorious hip-hop label Empire Enterprises along with his ex-wife, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). When we meet Cookie, she's just finished serving time in prison for possession of drugs with intent to distribute (the money she and Lucious used to get Empire off the ground). She comes back with a vengeance, right as Lucious is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease (falsely, it turns out) and begins grooming one of his three sons to inherit the Empire throne when he's gone.

When we last left the Lyons' den, Lucious had just been imprisoned for killing his former best friend, Bunkie, and Cookie finally had a high-ranking position at the company she helped start. The oldest of their three sons, Andre (Trai Byers), and the youngest, rapper ingénue Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), were helping their mom plot a hostile takeover against the R&B crooner middle kid, Jamal (Jussie Smollett), who had been given the kingdom by his father, despite their disagreements over Jamal's homosexuality.

And if you think that's some prime-time soap high drama, Lucious's former head of A&R and current fiancée, Anika Calhoun (Grace Gealey), had just been—surprise!—caught in bed with Hakeem, but it serves Lucious right: The Lyon patriarch had revealed that he was the father of the daughter that Jamal's former wife, Olivia (Raven-Symone), had recently brought to the Lyon mansion.

While the Empire family tree isn't as convoluted as, say, a Gabriel García Márquez novel, viewers who haven't rewatched the first season since it aired could be forgiven for failing to keep track of all the characters' alliances, enemies and backstabbing as they all lurch toward seizing the empire.

Robert Ham's new companion book, Empire: The Unauthorized Untold Story, is of some help. It breaks down the show with episode-by episode analyses while comparing the fictitious record label empire to the empires of Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar and King Lear. Yet Ham says he was initially drawn to Empire upon hearing that Timbaland would be producing its musical numbers, some of which—like Smollet's "You're So Beautiful" and "I Wanna Love You"—have become hits in their own right (and landed him a recording contract with Columbia). "My interest in the show was mainly a musical one," Ham says.

Though he has yet to see the new episodes himself, Ham speculates that viewers can expect to see Jamal, Empire's new CEO, in the hot seat this season. "It'll be one of the most interesting things in the second season to see if Jamal turns into his father," he says. "How conniving and evil he can get?" In the book, Ham makes the astute observation that Lucious and Jamal's freestyling together isn't so much a father and son reconciling their differences but a transference of power in a way. We'll see if this rings true.

Below, a condensed glossary to help refresh your memory (or introduce you to the world of Empire) before Season 2 gives you more than you can handle.

ALS (n): An abbreviation for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease that causes nerve cells to degenerate and the brain to cease controlling muscle movement. Also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, Lucious is incorrectly diagnosed with ALS in Season 1, causing him to prime one of his sons to take over Empire after his death.

Anika (n): The former A&R head at Empire Enterprises and Lucious's onetime fiancée. Sneaky and calculating; it's unclear whose side she is on.

Becky (n): Lucious's former assistant who gets promoted to head of A&R upon Anika's unceremonious exit. Played by Gabourney Sidibe.

bipolar disorder (n): A mental disorder that eldest Lyon son Andre battles. What Cookie refers to as a "white person problem"; Lucious denies it exists altogether.

Billy Beretti (n.): The CEO of Creedmoor Records, Empire's rival. Played by Judd Nelson, Beretti was Lucious's former mentor and made him famous, but the two had a bitter falling-out.

Boo Boo Kitty (n): A term for someone who is just average. Cookie's derogatory nickname for Anika.

Bunkie (n): Cookie's cousin and a childhood friend of Lucious's. When he attempts to extort $3 million from Lucious for spying on Cookie in order to pay off his gambling debt, Lucious shoots and kills him.

"Bye, Felicia!" (sent., archaic): From the 1995 film Friday; a condescending way to signal someone's exit. What Cookie says to Anika upon revealing to Lucious that she's been meeting with their rival, Billy Beretti.

bougie (adj): A derivation of bourgeois, a term used to describe something or someone attempting to be ostentatiously upscale.

Camilla (n): Played by supermodel Naomi Campbell, Camilla is a distinguished British fashion designer who secretly dates Hakeem. When she begins to make decisions about his musical career, Lucious attempts to pay her off so she will disappear from Hakeem's life, though she vows to come back. See: side piece.

Chicken (n): The androgynous and sole female member of Hakeem's crew, and a formidable DJ in her own right. Played by AzMarie Livingston.

Cookie (n.): "The heart, soul and balls of Empire," according to author Robert Ham. The matriarch of the Lyon family and a brilliant music producer. Often reminds the family how she made a sacrifice for them by going to prison.

'Dre (n.): A nickname for Andre Lyon, the oldest of the three sons. Frequently expresses his insecurity about being the sole member of the Lyon family without musical talent, but is a genius at business matters.

drop (v): to release, in regards to an album. A common trend among contemporary rappers—notably Azealia Banks, Angel Haze, Kendrick Lamar and Drake, among others—is to drop an album ahead of release, often due to differences between the artists and their respective record labels.

fake-ass Halle Berry (adj., pejorative): A nickname that Cookie has for Anika.

Frank Gathers (n.): A drug kingpin and a former employer of Lucious and Cookie's who comes back into their lives. Played by too exciting a guest star to mention by name. Do some Google digging if you must know.

hairy dingleberry (n.): A piece of feces that remains clung to the hair of the respective body part that spurned it. How Lucious refers to his frenemy, Creedmoor Records CEO Jimmy Beretti.

ho (n., pejorative): A derogatory term for a prostitute, or a lady who enjoys sex. See: thot.

hot (adj): A slang term for "awesome," frequently used by Hakeem, Jamal and Cookie, especially in relation to a song or a beat.

'Keem (n.): A nickname for Hakeem, the youngest Lyon son, who is a gifted rapper but bears the naïveté and braggadocio of, say, Justin Bieber.

King Lear (n.): William Shakespeare's tragedy and an oft-cited Empire influence that is referenced in the series' first episode. When Lucious begins to prepare one of his three sons to take over the company, Jamal asks: "What is this, King Lear?"

Lucious (n.): The cunning, cold-blooded patriarch of the Lyon family, and the founder and CEO of Empire Enterprises.

Lyon (n.): The family behind Empire Enterprises.

Porsha (n.): Cookie's straight-shooting, fast-talking assistant, and the one who typically alerts her to digital trends. Played by Ta'Rhonda Jones.

'Mal (n.): A nickname for Jamal, the middle son of the Lyon clan.

music, the (n.): The sweet sounds that Empire touts itself as championing, though the many power grabs suggest otherwise.

nookie (v): Slang term for having sex, as in "If you want Cookie's nookie, ditch the bitch."

Ray Rice (v): To beat unconscious. A reference to Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice, who beat his then-fiancée (now wife) Janay Palmer and dragged her out of an Atlantic City casino elevator in 2014. When she's ejected from a board meeting, Cookie fires back at Lucious, asking if he's going to "Ray Rice" her.

Rhonda (n): Andre's conniving albeit supportive wife, a Lady Macbeth of sorts. Shunned by Lucious because she is white. Played by Kaitlin Doubleday.

rose (n.): A flower commonly associated with romantic intentions. The distinguishing brand of the drugs Cookie and Lucious used to sling in their past life in Philadelphia, which is what causes Cookie to freak out when she receives one on her doorstep (It was, in fact, from Lucious, as a surprise on their anniversary.)

side piece (n.): A romantic interest that is not one's main go-to person, often called upon after midnight on weekdays and after 2 in the morning on weekends. Hakeem and Tiana both have respective ones, much to Hakeem's distaste. See "Camilla."

snitch (v.): A tattletale, someone who rats another person out. What Cookie fears being labeled if she cooperates with the FBI in testifying against Frank Gathers to a grand jury about a murder she witnessed him committing years before.

streets, the (n.): "Not for everybody. That's why they made sidewalks," according to Cookie.

take care of (v.): A euphemism for taking someone out, or killing him. What Cookie enlists an old friend to do when she receives a rose on her doorstep and believes she is being targeted by a drug kingpin from her past.

Tiana (n.): One of Empire's most prolific artists and a pop superstar. Briefly dates Hakeem, but the two sever ties when he finds out she is also dating a woman. Played by Serayah McNeill.

thot (n.): An acronym for "that hoe over there." A disparaging term for a woman who enjoys sex.

Valentina (n.): The leader of an all-Latina girl group that Hakeem is putting together. Played by Becky G.

Vernon (n.): A childhood friend of Lucious and Bunkie's, now Lucious's "yes" man and the guy who makes things disappear. Accidentally killed by Rhonda in the Season 1 finale, after a scuffle with Andre turned violent. Played by Malik Yoba.

viral (adj.): To gain Worldwide Web fame overnight, especially in the form of an Internet video. The only way to describe a video that Andre and Rhonda upload of Tiana and her girlfriend, India, unbeknownst to Hakeem, who is dating her at the time.

wack (adj.): Slang for something unsavory or unappealing and used to describe the songs that Lucious wants his sons to sing, according to his sons.

An Abridged Glossary to Season 2 of 'Empire'