"I need you to sing like you're going to die tomorrow."
Thus were we introduced to Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), the self-made hip hop mogul and roaring lion at the centre of 'Empire' - the drama that's shaken the US from its booty and brought hip-hop kicking and purring to our screens.
'Sing like you're going to die tomorrow' - Lucious inspires the artists in his unique fashion
When Lucious wasn't inspiring his artists in the studio, he was facing the news of a deadly illness and deciding which of his three sons - Andre (no talent), Jamal (no interest) or Hakeem (no control) - should be the inheritor of his crown. And straight away, despite all the bling, we had a classic Shakespearean framework.
And then Cookie entered the frame - Lucas's ex-wife straight through the prison gates after 17 years, sentence served, lipstick intact - and we were plunged into 'Dynasty' territory, firmly in the footsteps of Alexis Colby's disruptive, unexpected entrance, but with Taraji P. Henson's own unique style and delivery. Sassy doesn't begin to cover it. Expect gongs to come this lady's way at Awards Season.
Passionate powerplay between Cookie and Lucious Lyon in 'Empire'
But if the elements were familiar, the themes were unmistakably modern - with Lucious's middle son Jamal a very un-hip-hoppy gay man, something his mother vowed to support, while his father struggled with homophobia and a record industry that no longer makes artists any money. Not to mention an old friend who suddenly got his memory back about Lucious's not so lustrous past.
In the US, this series was given a second one less than a fortnight after it debuted - which means there's not going to be much spare time to sit through every episode at least twice and experience again the drama, the debacles, the poetry and politics all tied up in this deceptively glossy package.
'Empire' continues on E4.