Bryshere Yazuan Gray, or as he is better known, Yazz the Greatest, or simply Yazz, is an American actor and rapper famous for his character Hakeem Lyon in the Fox musical drama series, ‘Empire’. He started rapping at the age of 16, while he was an employee at a Pizza Hut in his home town, Philadelphia. Soon, he was signed to the indie label ‘Raw Life’ and released several singles including ‘Homework’ (2012) and ‘Respect’ (2013). During the struggling years of his life, when he was doing a lot of shows and performing on the street, he met his future manager, Charlie Mack, who got him to audition for ‘Empire’. He has also played the role of Michael Bivins in the 2017 BET miniseries ‘The New Edition Story’. He has been nominated for the 2017 BET Award for best actor for his role as Hakeem. Being one of the hottest up and coming stars of Hollywood, Gray has a thriving social media presence with 3.9 million and 1.31 million followers on Instagram and Twitter respectively.
Bryshere Gray was introduced to Lee Daniels, the co-creator, and executive producer of ‘Empire’ by Charlie Mack. He did a video audition for Daniels, after which he was sent to Los Angeles for a second audition with Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. Gray later admitted himself being “blown away” because of this as he was expecting just the director, Danny Strong, to be there. Mack also introduced him to Will Smith and Jamie Foxx, both of whom Yazz has idolized since childhood.
After the show was picked up by Fox, the pilot was filmed in March 2014 in Chicago. The network ordered a full season for its 2014-15 United States network television schedule on May 6, 2014. The pilot episode aired on January 7, 2015, right after the premiere of the season 14 of ‘American Idol’. The second Season of the show premiered on September 23, 2015 and the third on September 21, 2016. It was renewed for a fourth season on January 11, 2017. Beside Daniels and Strong, Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo also serve as executive producers. In a conversation with ‘Hollywood Reporter’ about the series, Daniels said, “I wanted to make a black ‘Dynasty’. “You sit there and go, ‘No, this (expletive) didn't! Oh my (expletive) God!’”
This was Gray’s first acting gig. His character, Hakeem Lyon is the youngest son of hip-hop mogul Lucious (Howard) and his former wife Cookie (Henson). Having grown up accustomed to wealth and luxury, Hakeem, who was once favoured by his father to succeed him, gradually earns his derision for his lack of discipline, despite the immense talent he inherently possesses. Ironically, Hakeem wants to emulate his father, who he sees as his role model, but falls short as he is neither as ruthless and power hungry as Andre (the oldest son, played by Trai Byers), nor he is as creative and morally grounded as Jamal (the middle son, played by Jussie Smollett). His relationship with his mother, who has returned after spending 17 years in prison, is even more complex. There is a lot of resentment and brewing hatred that Hakeem harbours towards his mother. The only family member he seems to have a good relationship with is Jamal. When asked about the dichotomy between Hakeem and himself or his rap persona, Yazz, Gray replied in an interview to ‘Cosmopolitan’, “Total opposite. That kid is reckless. He has no guidance, you know? Being Hakeem is challenging.”
Yazz has provided voice for several singles in all the three seasons of the show till date, including ‘Drip Drop’, ‘You’re So Beautiful’ (season 1), ‘Chasing the Sky’ (season 2 Volume 2), and ‘Special’ (season 3). He is working on a project with Timbaland (executive music producer of ‘Empire’) that is set to release through ‘Columbia Records.’ Gray is portraying the role of Kholi Styles in the upcoming film ‘Canal Street’. He is also working with Bille Woodruff in Woodruff’s directorial venture ‘Honey 4’.
You May Like
Continue Reading Below
Bryshere Gray was born on November 28, 1993 in Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania, USA. His mother, Andria Mayberry, became pregnant with him when she was a teenager, and in the absence of his father, raised him on her own. Growing up, he witnessed his mother’s abuse at the hands of his father, and was diagnosed with ADHD when he was five years old. He received his high-school degree from ‘Overbrook High School’ in Philadelphia. Gray revealed to ‘Cosmopolitan’ in February, 2015, that his estranged father had reached out to him since he became popular, and that he needed time and needed to grow a bit more before taking any step on that regard. He has a sister named Brianna.
After Gray, and VH1 reality series ‘Love & Hip Hop: New York’ star, Jhonni Blaze, were photographed together in an amusement park, there have been much speculation about their relationship. Nothing, however, has been confirmed nor denied by either Gray or Blaze.