Timbaland Exits 'Empire' as Songwriters Rodney Jerkins & Ester Dean Sign On: Exclusive
Calling to mind Marvin Gaye’s seminal “What’s Going On,” “Need Freedom” was born out of a song written for rapper character Freda Gatz. “It started as ‘Free Freda,’ says Jerkins, “as she’s locked up in jail. But once I sat down with Jussie, we started talking about everything going on in the country.”
“I recorded this exactly seven days after Philando Castile was shot,” continues Smollett. “Between the shootings of Castile, Alton Sterling, at the Pulse in Orlando and the police officers in Dallas — not to mention the other numerous killings oer the last couple of years — it was like we couldn’t breathe. What are we doing as a people, a nation; what messages are we sending to the next generation. Then this song came.”
Adds Jerkins, “So we ended up with two versions of the song for the show, ‘Need Freedom’ and ‘Free Freda.’”
Listen to “Need Freedom” here:
It’s all in keeping with Empire’s renewed focus this season on the intense family dynamic that turned the series into a pop culture phenomenon, and ratings leader, during season one. There’s also a push to integrate more of what’s happening in the real world within the storylines.
“Even though it was written for the show, ’Need Freedom’ is a song that sets the tone,” says Shawn Holiday, senior VP of A&R for Columbia Records. “We think it’s important to shed more light on social issues and want Empire to be a part of that.”
Watch Jussie and Rodney in the studio here:
“This show is about family in every single element of the word,” echoes Smollett. “Yes, it’s about the music industry but it’s more about what we go through as a blood family, an American family. The good and bad that every family goes through. All that comes into play this season.”
“Need Freedom” will be available on iTunes tomorrow (Sept. 16).