'Platinum' a rare hip-hop venture

UPN will try six episodes of drama about music empire

— "Platinum," a UPN series billed as the first network hip-hop drama, is poised to make its debut next month.

Hip-hop already is embraced by movies, fashion and any number of other industries -- try counting the commercials with a rap beat -- eager to reach young consumers entranced by the music or the lifestyle.

But risk-averse networks typically drag their heels at innovation. They certainly try to avoid the sharp edges of cutting-edge culture, and hip-hop has been dogged by its share of social controversy and violence.

Hip-hop and its artists clearly are mainstream, with actress-rapper Queen Latifah hawking Cover Girl cosmetics and boasting an Oscar nomination (for "Chicago") and box-office hit ("Bringing Down the House") and LL Cool J being named 2003's "male star of tomorrow" by a theater exhibitors group.

But it took three years for Ridley and co-creator Sofia Coppola to get "Platinum" on the air, during which time a deal with HBO fell through and the project was at Fox "for a minute," as Ridley puts it. (Coppola's father, Francis Ford Coppola, is an executive producer of the show.)

UPN came through. The network, which already attracts a diverse young audience with black-oriented sitcoms, is trying out six episodes of the drama about an ambitious family's music industry empire.

photo

AP Photo

Jason George, left, stars as Jackson Rhames and Sticky Fingaz as Grady Rhames in a scene from UPN's "Platinum," billed as the first TV network hip-hop drama. The series, which focuses on a family's music industry empire, debuts with a special episode at 8 p.m. April 14 on UPN, Sunflower Broadband Channel 17, followed by a second hour the next night in its regular time slot, 8 p.m.. Tuesdays.

Lalanya Masters, Jason George, Sticky Fingaz, Steven Pasquale, Davetta Sherwood, N'Bushe Wright and Vishiss star in the series, which debuts with a special episode 8 p.m. April 14 (followed by an 8 p.m. episode on its regular slot, Tuesdays, starting April 15.

In the ripped-from-the-headlines style of "Law & Order," "Platinum" intends to explore real issues and conflicts in the music industry through the series' fictional characters, Ridley said.

"The headline is that somebody pulls a gun at a club and Puffy and J.Lo (Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Jennifer Lopez) were there and it's in People magazine. But what happens to the person who got shot or what happens to Puffy and J.Lo when their names are in the paper and they have to deal with it?"

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