With you there's always strings. Or more like ropes that choke everyone around you.

Hakeem to Lucious

A High Hope for a Low Heaven
Season Two, Episode Six
Air date: November 4, 2015
Writers: Robert Munic
Director: Mario Van Peebles
Premiere: 11.68 million
Be True
True Love Never

A High Hope for a Low Heaven is the sixth episode of the second season of Empire and the eighteenth episode overall. The episode aired on November 4, 2015.

Lucious and Cookie must put aside their differences and work together as parents to protect their family and keep them out of danger. Jamal does his best to get back in the studio and break away from being defined solely as a gay artist, while Hakeem struggles with how to feel and act like a man. Meanwhile, Andre works to shut down a division at Empire, until he discovers a disciple in the midst of Lucious' Gutter Life Records.


The episode begins with Hakeem being hauled out of the van he was kidnapped him, with a sack over his head. He is thrown on the sofa, and the kidnappers change their attire and masks. The kidnappers mention that they should have kidnapped Jamal, as he is the most talented brother. Hakeem manages to get the sack off, and notices bull tattoos on all three of their backs. When he provokes them by calling them a bunch of punk ass cowboys, he is pistol whipped in the head so hard, he begins to bleed from the corner of his left eye.

Cookie, Lucious, and Jamal discover that Hakeem has been abducted.

Becky, on the other hand, is on a rooftop with her lover, J Poppa. He tries to get her to stay, but she refuses, as she cites she needs to be at work first thing in her morning, working with her new boss, Andre.

At Lyon Dynasty, Cookie is frantically trying to reach Hakeem, but to no avail. She is unable to go through with their rehearsal due to his absence, but after trying to call him a second time, she receives a video of Hakeem being restrained. Believing it to be the work of Lucious, she dismisses it.

At Empire's recording studio, Jamal is performing a song while Lucious plays the piano. He abruptly stops singing the song as he cannot focus, since Michael cheated on him. Lucious tells him to put his emotions and feelings into the music, and begins to play the piano again. However, the session is interrupted by Cookie, who berates Lucious for his underhanded tactics. Lucious sees her phone and states that he did not do this; he and Cookie then leave to get Hakeem back, telling Jamal to stay put or else he will be grabbed too.

Lucious and Cookie head to a drop off zone in the hood, where they are prepared to pay the $400,000 ransom demanded for Hakeem. When the kidnappers call, Cookie tells them they've got the money, but Lucious asks for a proof of life. When the kidnappers send a video of Hakeem as proof, they tell Lucious to drop off the money in a trash bin near a welding spot, and that they'll drop Hakeem off three blocks west.

Andre, on the other hand, is at Empire trying to rebrand the Gutter Life label, as he is now its President. He asks Becky what they need from the artists; when Becky begins to list stuff as talent, Andre shuts her down, telling her not to read from Empire's intern manual. He asks her to set up a meeting with every single one of Gutter Life's artist, telling her that if they're not up to his newly imposed standard, they will be cut. Becky looks up at the Gutter Life roster, where her boyfriend J Poppa's name is listed.

Lucious and Cookie wait at the drop off zone, with Lucious telling Cookie not to get excited. However, as a van arrives, Cookie rushes and flings the door open, only to find no Hakeem. Lucious yanks the driver out of the van and throws him to the ground, as Cookie presses her heel to his throat. The driver tells them that he was paid $1,000 to drive the empty van here, and that Hakeem was let out earlier. When Lucious and Cookie ask what the kidnappers looked like, he hesitates but adds that he doesn't know, prompting Lucious to stomp on his face with his shoe.

Hakeem, who is freed, wanders the streets in a dazed manner, still bleeding from his wound. Anika is also walking throughout the city, crying as she is talking to her mother on the phone on how she has nothing anymore. As she

Hakeem approaches Anika for a romantic encounter.

opens the gate and heads to the front door of her house, Hakeem waits in the side; he pulls her in and kisses her, and pushes her against the door, as Anika smiles and welcomes the affection.

Later that night, Hakeem walks into Lucious' house, where his parents and brothers are waiting for him, along with a doctor. They pester him with questions, but he rebuffs at them angrily, stating he's fine. The doctor asks to check him over, but Hakeem tells him that all he has is a jacked eye; the doctor, however, tells him he wishes to check for "other signs of abuse", implying sexual abuse. As Hakeem is led to another room, Cookie notices that Anika is calling him, but Andre tells her to leave him alone for now. Hakeem enters the other room and takes off his shirt, where Cookie notices scratch mark across Hakeem's back from his intimate moment with Anika. After being checked over, the doctor states that he's fine. Lucious pays the doctor and sends him on his way, but Hakeem lashes out at his father, claiming that they pretend to be a white pickett family when in reality, they're the opposite. He also blames his parents, telling them that he wouldn't have been kidnapped if he wasn't their son. He then leaves Lucious' house, with Lucious telling Cookie to give him a few days off.

The next day, Jamal angrily notifies Lucious that the Staples Center has passed on him, since he's just a gay artist. Jamal is furious that Empire's marketing him has been promoting him as solely a gay artist, and wishes to fire them all. Lucious vetoes his decision, but tells him to put his emotion in his music. As he sings, a man is seen watching from the corner of the door. When Jamal finishes, the man claps - revealed to be named Jameison Hinthrop. Jamal

Jamieson Hinthrop and Lucious push their troubles aside for Jamal's artistry.

hired him to help promote him as more than a gay artist, as well as because he is a member of the board at Staples Center. Lucious, however, is furious to see him. Jameison reveals that Lucious almost signed with him when he left Beretti, but abandoned the deal when he found out he was gay. Lucious tells Jamal that he didn't need Jameson, just as Jamal doesn't. Lucious also mentions how Jameson doesn't work with artists anymore, and that he just throws lavish parties and manipulates candidates. Jameison tells him that he does that to help LGBT people, and tells him that the moment he found out Lucious Lyon had a gay son is when he believed there to be a god. Jamal tells Lucious that whatever beef the two of them have, they'll have to put aside, as Jameison can truly help Jamal. Jameison sticks his hand out, albeit in an effeminate manner; Lucious stares at it for a bit, but firmly shakes his hand, and then lowers it.

At Lyon Dynasty, Hakeem is watching as Mirage a Trois is rehearsing their song ("Runnin'"), however his hearing is distorted and he is unable to successfully rehearse. He then lashes out at the girls for ruining the song he wrote, adding that they sound like static.

Andre, on the other hand, is interviewing all of Gutter Life's artists. He asks P Buster who his musical inspirations are, to which P Buster adds that "any hardcore negro from the streets", Freda doesn't answer any of his questions, just sitting there chewing her gum; Crank Master pulls out a joint, to which Andre dismisses him; his last and final interviewee is J Poppa. Andre asks whether the J in his name stands for Jewels, Joints, Jigga, or anything else "hood". However, he tells Andre his name is Job, as in the Book of Job. This surprises Andre, who recites scripture. J Poppa states the page number. Andre asks him what the "Poppa" stands for, to which Job states that he's a preacher's grandson and the Poppa is showing love to his Grandpoppa, who kept him off the streets and helped him develop his music. Andre asks whether Job has ever thought of using the word of the Lord into his music, and then stands up and offers his hand. Job is surprised, but shakes it, having passed Andre's test.

Cookie is over at Lucious' house, arguing about Hakeem's ordeal. Lucious tells her that this is simply a by-product of the business, and that the only reason she never had to worry about it before is because he covered them with a blanket of security when they were at Empire. Cookie asks whether Lucious is actually using this to drag them back to Empire, but Lucious tells her that he doesn't want her at Empire, only Hakeem. Cookie rebuffs him, and leaves, taking a bottle of wine with her, leaving Lucious to stare at a photograph of himself and Hakeem.

Meanwhile, Hakeem is trying to escape into his music and practice his rap verse, but is once more distorted, clearly traumatized by his kidnapping. He lashes out, and manages to punch a mirror. He calls Cookie, but Cookie simply tells him that she's in a meeting with security, and he hangs up on her. However, she is not lying, as she is in a meeting with Laz. Laz advises that she should hire the same people who kidnapped Hakeem and jacked Tiana as security, but she refuses, asking if he's serious. Laz tells her that when he used to be a rookie cop, 15 years ago, snatch & grabs were all the rage in the music industry, but right before the police force could crack down on it, it all went away - because the labels were the ones orchestrating the snatch & grab. Cookie tells him that she doesn't want those wolves at Lyon Dynasty, but Laz tells her that he'll be there to protect her from wolves, dragons and lions (Lyons). Cookie laughs, telling him that it's the Lyons he needs to watch out for. He tells her that he can handle the Lyons, including the lioness, and then kisses her. She smiles, and tells him to set up the meeting.

Cookie then goes over to Jamal's place, where Jamal tells her that he's worried about Hakeem. Cookie considers canceling the Big Apple Jam (an upcoming event) but Jamal tells her not to, as the event would be a big deal for Lyon Dynasty, and promises her that he and Andre can help bring Hakeem back on track, telling Cookie that she should keep the train on the rail. She genuinely is surprised and thanks him for his concern for his brother and her label.

Cookie then sets up a meeting with the guys who snatched Hakeem and brings him with her, since she thinks he needs the trip in order to feel like "a man" again. However, as they walk in, Hakeem pulls out a gun, asking the guys who's a little bitch now (a callback to when the kidnappers called him a little bitch after pistol whipping him). Cookie pleads with Hakeem not to pull the trigger, and walks in front of him, telling him that if he pulls it, she'll take the bullet, as she'd rather die than lose him. One of the guys slowly begins to reach for his gun, but as Hakeem lowers his, Cookie grabs it, spins around, and pushes it against the leader's forehead. He tells Cookie that their security fee is now being doubled, but she fiercely tells him that if he messes with her, her family or her artists ever again, they won't ever hear the knock on the door (Cookie threatening to kill them). She then says "welcome to my street, bitch!" (another callback, this one to the video the men uploaded after snatching Tiana's purse and marking the Dynasty label).

That night, J Poppa is performing at Laviticus. Jamal praises him, but asks how his "wand" is working for Becky, who adds that it works for her and hits all her walls, and that she can barely stand after intercourse with him. Jamal and her simply laugh at the situation, and Jamal goes off to talk to Andre. He asks Andre if he's spoken to Hakeem; Andre tells him he hasn't, but that if Hakeem falls the two of them will pick him up. Jamal praises J Poppa, and Andre tells him that Job is his Archangel Michael, which is why he's willing to overlook his relationship with Becky for now. Jamal tells him that a lot of musical deals have been made in bed and to let Becky have him, but Andre tells him that while it isn't a problem now, it may be in future. As Job continues to perform, he adds a new section to his song. Both Becky and Lucious wonder what the hell was up with that, but Andre proudly tells them that it's Romans 7, verses 15 through 16. Becky wonders if Andre understands what Gutter Life means, and Lucious wonders whether Andre is making his decisions as President using the Bible or from a business standpoint. Andre assures him it's purely business. Jamal tells Lucious that he's heading to one of Jamieson's parties (implied to be an LGBT party), and asks Lucious if he wants to come; Lucious simply tells him "been there, done that", evoking surprise from Jamal. Lucious then goes up on stage and introduces Freda Gatz as the next act. As Freda raps, another artist begins to boo her, calling her a corn muffin and telling her to get her ugly ass back to Brownsville. She looks towards Lucious, who simply tells her to focus, but she kicks him in the face, knocking him out, and then flees. Andre then decides to drop her from the roster for kicking someone in the face, but Lucious tells him that it isn't up to question, and that she stays. Andre is disappointed, adding that he's in charge as President, but Lucious tells him that he put Andre in place, not in charge.

At the Big Apple Music event, Cookie is telling the girls to perform as if their lives depended on it, adding that sex sells. The girls wonder where Hakeem is, who happens to be outside in the alley, listening to the track with earphones. Lucious pulls up to the alley, where he plays Hakeem a beat, and offers it to him on a USB with no strings attached. Hakeem takes it, but then tells him that with him, there's always strings - in fact, there's ropes, that choke everybody. Hakeem then drops the USB on the ground and walks back inside. Lucious storms in after him, furious, and orders the girls to get out. He yells at Cookie that he offered Hakeem an olive branch and Hakeem shut him down, proving that Lucious really did have strings attached. He berates Hakeem for not being a man, and tells him that he should have pulled the trigger. Cookie intervenes, telling Hakeem that if he listens to Lucious, he'll end up in jail. Lucious, however, adds that it would be a small price to pay if it meant Hakeem growing a sack. Jamal and Andre walk in and order Lucious and Cookie to leave, telling them that they'd talk to Hakeem. Hakeem tells them that while they tormented him, he did nothing. Jamal tells him that it's brave of him to keep his cool under those circumstances, and Andre commends him as well, telling him that the three of them are already on top of it because they handled being the children of Lucious and Cookie Lyon. Jamal adds that he and Andre would have done the same in his situation, causing Hakeem to finally crack a smile. The three brothers then put their heads together as Mirage a Trois begins to perform. Hakeem goes out to spit his verse, but sees Lucious, who grins evilly at him. The music becomes distorted, and Laura ends up freestyling a verse while also keeping Hakeem's head turned to her instead of towards Lucious, to sell the idea that it's a part of the routine. Staring into Laura's eyes gives Hakeem his resolve; with his game back up, Hakeem manages to perform successfully, as Cookie, Andre and Jamal watch proudly. Lucious, disappointed and upset that he failed to break Hakeem, leaves.

That night, Hakeem is throwing a celebration at his apartment, where he thanks everyone for their support, Chicken for sticking with him and Laura for having his back. However, they are interrupted by a knock on the door; Hakeem opens it to see Anika, who is surprised to a see a party going on. Anika tells him that she's been worried and came to see if he's alright, but Hakeem replies he is and attempts to dismiss her. Anika and Laura lock eyes, and Hakeem simply tells Anika that now isn't a good time and shuts the door on her.

Freda, meanwhile, is walking home on the streets where she runs into Lucious. She apologizes to Lucious for messing up, as he gave her a chance and she blew it, and tells him that she wouldn't blame him if he dropped her from the label. Lucious tells her that he isn't, and adds that they're both cut from the same tree, and that he identifies more with her than with any of his three sons. He then tells her that he made a beat for her, and opens the passenger door for her to get in. Lucious gets in as well, and plays the beat for her, adding verses of his own. Freda joins in and spits her own freestyle, and Lucious laughs, impressed.

Cookie shows up to Laz's apartment, where she tells him to make her forget about everything that happened this week. As they began to kiss passionately, Laz takes his shirt off; however, on his back he sports a bull tattoo, revealing to the audience that he is part of the group that jacked Tiana and kidnapped Hakeem.


Original Songs

Song Title Performer(s)
Runnin' Hakeem Lyon and Mirage a Trois
You Broke Love Jamal Lyon
Ear 2 Tha Street J Poppa
Boss Freda Gatz
Boom Boom Boom Boom Lucious Lyon and Freda Gatz

Featured Songs

  • The Pressure - Jhene Aiko


Main Cast

Guest Cast

Recurring Cast

Major/Highlighted Events


  • This episode was initially scheduled to air on October 28, 2015, but was postponed by a week due to the World Series.
  • For the sixth time in a row, a member of the main cast is not present in an episode; in this episode, it is Kaitlin Doubleday, who portrays Rhonda Lyon, as well as Serayah, who portrays Tiana Brown.
  • This episode garnered 11.68 million viewers upon its premiere, compared to the last episode's 12.28 million viewers.
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