The best part of Empire, Lee Daniel’s smash-hit television series, is undoubtedly the fabulous, ruthless Cookie (played to perfection by Taraji P. Henson). Along with her husband, Lucious, Cookie co-founded the record label at the center of the show; after spending 17 years in jail, she is determined to reclaim control over her share of the business.
Cookie’s journey at the helm of a major record company bears remarkable similarity to that of Lydia Harris, who played a pivotal role in the founding of Death Row records, which represented the likes of Tupac and Snoop Dogg. “I really see my own life [in Cookie’s],” Lydia said in an interview with Vanity Fair.” Harris’ husband, Michael, was a major drug dealer, and sought to legitimize his fortune by investing in Death Row. While Harris was in jail, Harris represented his interests in the company. She told Vanity Fair that she also was responsible for giving input on the artists who went on to produce some of Death Row’s biggest hits. “There wouldn’t have even been a Death Row Records [without me],” she said. “That’s what everybody’s missing.”
Death Row raked in a fortune in its heyday, but crumbled after Tupac’s murder in 1996. In 2002, Harris sued fellow Death Row co-founder Suge Knight for her half of the company, and was awarded $107 million. As of yet, Harris has only received a $1 million “good faith” payment from Knight, who has filed for bankruptcy and is standing trial for murder and attempted murder. “I’m not upset,” Harris said. “If [the money] is meant for me to have, I’ll have it. I don’t dwell on that, though.” Perhaps she’s not so similar to Cookie after all.
Read the full story at Vanity Fair.