Lucious Lyon is the CEO of Empire Entertainment. Dubbed the "King of Hip-Hop", he's a talented artist who started his business with money him and his ex wife made running drugs.
When Lucious is diagnosed with ALS, he realizes that he is running out of time to groom one of his 3 sons to take over the family business. Each of his sons has different attributes and drawbacks: Andre, the oldest, has a shrewd mind for business, but lacks the charismatic personality Lucious feels is vital. Jamal is a musical prodigy, but he's sensitive and doesn't crave the spotlight, Lucious is also embarrassed by Jamal's "choice" to be gay. Hakeem is the youngest son, he's a gifted musician and Lucious' favorite, but he craves fame and he doesn't put any value on hard work.
Things are made even more complicated when Lucious' ex wife, Cookie, is released from prison. She's been behind bars for nearly two decades, having taken the fall for the drug business that got Empire Entertainment off the ground. Now that she's been released, she wants what she feels is owed her... half of the company she helped finance.