WXTX Special Report: Hotlanta Empire

Published: Nov. 20, 2015 at 2:32 PM EST|Updated: Aug. 11, 2016 at 12:02 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) – What is it like to live the Empire Lifestyle?

"The dream is real, you know. The hustle is just hard."

Audiences saw the dramatic finale for season two of the mega hit show "Empire" on Fox 54 on Wednesday night.

Two weeks ago we took you behind closed doors of local music studios for an up close and personal look into the music world.

This time we take another look at that struggle, only this time we're taking you to Atlanta where the stakes are even higher and find out what it takes to climb to the top in "Hotlanta Empire."

Now that season two of the Fox hit show "Empire" has come to a dramatic end, fans are left wanting more off the cuff dramatics from the Lyon clan.

"Empire is realistic and unrealistic at the same time," said recording artist Tori Rossi. "It shows people a little bit inside music industry, but doesn't generally show you which is good because people have this whole different scenic view of what the industry really is."

The climb to the top of the music world isn't easy, according to Rossi. She's been singing and writing songs for years and admits the music industry as portrayed on the show Empire can be a bit shady.

"The reality of it is there's going to be slimy people, there's going to be," Rossi said. "It's a rollercoaster ride. It's going to be good days, bad days."

Another big fan of the show is Pop and R&B artist Stephanie Ming.

"That show, shows the top of the food chain to me," Ming said. "There's so many levels of a pyramid and to me Empire is at the top of that pyramid which means it may be that grimy, I don't know, but it's also that fabulous."

But don't be fooled by the glitz and glamour you see featured on the show.

Even Lucious Lyon, the head of Empire, started from humble and illegal beginnings.

"You look at people like Russell Simmons, Sean Puffy Combs and the list goes on and on," said executive record producer Teddy Bishop. "These people did that. They started in their garage or the basements of their homes, even myself, as a producer, I didn't start in a studio like this, I started in my bedroom and so the dream is real you know the hustle was just hard."

But the hustle has paid off for Bishop with Icon Music Group in Atlanta. He's worked with some of the best in the music world today.

Mariah Carey, the late Aaliyah, the group Jagged Edge out of Atlanta, Janet Jackson at one point – a lot of people.

So what's it like working with Bishop, a producer who has worked with Aaliyah, Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston, Usher?

"Terrible," laughs Ming. "I always joke with him, no it's like a blessing. He has been the biggest coach, the biggest mentor, the biggest friend. To say friend in this business has taken me eight years."

And now Bishop is working with the group Kontraband Muzik, who describes their sound as a mixture of Ne-Yo, Disco and Pop.

They too are big fans of the show "Empire," and while much of their music can be found on ITunes, their climb to the top isn't easy.

"You'll find yourself in a situation where you keep thinking you're going to get that opportunity and you do, but you never know which ones are legit," said lead singer Nate Davis. "This is a game where people are promising a lot of things and you're not getting them."

"One thing that I have noticed on that show is that there are a lot of people willing to do things for artist, but I feel like there are always that, they want something in return," said singer and guitar player Davey Heritier.

However, the business isn't all bad – there is an upside to it. But artists who want the dream to become reality must put in the work and be willing to go the distance.

You may remember this face – it's season 3 American Idol finalist, LaToya London.

Although the winner of that season of American Idol was Fantasia Barrino, LaToya hasn't stopped performing her way to the top.

Now with Icon Music, LaToya is not only singing but currently acting in Tyler Perry's latest play called "Madea on the Run."

"Artist definitely did deep and figure out what is your extra thing and make it shine," London said.

And like the character "Cookie" on show "Empire" played by actress Tariji P. Henson, London is dead set on making her dreams come true.

"I like the way she doesn't let anything stop her," London said. "Whether it was 17 years in the pen, whether it's you know, I just got fired and now I have to break off and start my own thing."

It's a sacrifice every one of these Atlanta artist are willing to do in order to become a star.

To hear more of the music from the Atlanta artists we featured in this special report, go to the Facebook page for Icon Music Group.

As for the show "Empire," Fox executives say you can expect even more family drama from the Lyon clan when season three begins.

And join the conversation on social media by using #HotlantaEmpire.

Copyright 2015 WXTX. All rights reserved.