Empire1According to a published report by Billboard, Grammy® Award- winning producer, Timbaland, who helmed the songwriting team for Empire since its inception, has exited. Tim’s replacement is four-time Grammy® Award-winning songwriter/producer Rodney Jerkins as supervising music producer and chart-topping songwriter Ester Dean who has penned hits for Rihanna, Usher and Beyoncé to name a few.

“We were happy to work with Timbaland during the first two seasons,” says Shawn Holiday, senior VP of A&R for Columbia Records, which releases Empire’s music. “But we wanted to take a different approach for season 3. We dealt a lot with family drama in the first season through songs like ‘Good Enough’ when Lucious Lyon threw his son Jamal in the trash can. TimbalandThat was a very emotional music moment. So we’re going for the same success with upcoming songs like ‘Mama,’ about Cookie being the backbone of the family, and a duet with Jussie Smollett and Mariah Carey.

rodney_jerkinsOf bringing Jerkins and Dean onboard, Holiday adds, “Rodney is a dynamic, multi-format producer experienced in urban, rhythmic and pop and Dean excels at writing big songs with catchy hooks.”

To round out season 3’s music team, Holiday revealed that Empire has also recruited Grammy-winning songwriter Johntá Austin (Carey’s “We Belong Together,” hip-hop soul queen Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You”), Makeba Riddick (Beyoncé’s “Deja Vu,” Rihanna’s “Rude Boy”) and Jesse St. John. Singer/songwriter Ne-yo, who joined the team last year, is also returning.

Among new music featured in the first half of season 3, there is also no shortage of guest stars, from Mariah Carey, Biz Markie and French Montana to Birdman, Taye Diggs and acting legend Phylicia Rashad. Rapper Xzibit will also join the cast as Lucious Lyon’s rival Shyne Johnson. Empire debuts on FOX next Wednesday, September 21.