‘Raising Kanan’ Season 3, Episode 1: The best show in the ‘Power’ Universe is back y’all. And it’s here with a bang.

OPINION: Raq, Kanan and the whole Southside crew are back for more of the ’90s crack-era experience we’ve all come to know and love … on television, of course. 

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

So, boom. The best show in the “Power” universe — the runaway hit series on Starz created by Courtney A. Kemp that we associate with 50 Cent — is far and away “Power Book III: Raising Kanan.” I say this as a person who faithfully watched “Power” and then “Power Book II: Ghost” and has tried with my whole heart to watch “Power Book IV: Force.” I’m a person who wanted Tariq St. Patrick (Michael Rainey Jr.) dead by the time “Power” wrapped but now enjoys the entirely nonsensical and unbelievable shenanigans of both Tariq’s drug-running crew (and thus I want him to live) and that of the Tejada family, headed up by Monet Tejada (Mary J. Blige). 

(L-R) Grantham Coleman, Erika Wood, Tony Danza , Antonio Ortiz, Mekai Curtis, Mark Canton, Sascha Penn, Patina Miller, Malcolm Mays, Hailey Kilgore, Kathryn Busby, Shanley Caswell, and Wendell Pierce attend Power Book III: Raising Kanan Season 3 Premiere + Rap Cypher on November 30, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for STARZ)

But “Raising Kanan” hits different. Created by Sascha Penn, the show is the backstory of a supporting character from “Power,” Kanan Stark (Mekai Curtis). During “Power,” Kanan gets out of prison and rejoins his former proteges, James “Ghost” St. Patrick and Tommy Egan, before meeting a fate he deserved. In “Raising Kanan,” we’re transported back to Queens in the early 1990s as Kanan and his family (and the web of folks around them) make their way up in the drug trade of South Jamaica, Queens. Kanan’s mother, Raquel Thomas (Patina Miller),  is the head of the family and runs her organization with her brothers, Marvin (London Brown) and Lou-Lou (Malcolm Mays). The show is fascinating both for how authentically it represents the early ’90s — from the clothing, language and look of New York City — but also in how it demonstrates how one can go from being a kid to being a major player in the drug game, especially with significant family drama, etc. Season four of “The Wire” will forever be one of the best seasons of television for how it meticulously showed life being altered at every step for young kids who did nothing more than be born. “Raising Kanan” does something similar and I love it. 

We’re in season three now, and baby, we’re gonna get into it. Spoilers and such so you’ve been warned. Here’s a quick recap that is going to leave some stuff out so you have a reason to go watch the prior two seasons. Raquel, aka Raq, has pissed off Kanan with her insane web of self-serving lies (which is how Kanan sees it; he’s not wrong) starting with the fact that Raq tried to have Kanan kill his own daddy. Kanan didn’t know that NYPD Det. Malcolm Howard (Omar Epps) was his daddy, but when he found out, you can imagine what kind of head trip that was. Det. Howard has a partner named Shannon Burke (Shanley Caswell) who, over time, has discovered that Howard was entwined with Raq’s drug issues and has helped Kanan get out of some jams. She got curious and found out some truths and whew, chile … shenanigans. This puts Howard in the position of having to play both sides: keeping his son out of jail, working with Raq to do so and keeping the police off her back while also making his partner look nuts. There’s also Unique (Joey Bada$$) who is another drug player and Raq’s enemy, but they kind of got a thing going on, too. It’s a lot. I left a lot on the table there. 

Now we’re in season three where Raq and all of her organization’s spaces have been shot ALL THE WAY UP. One of the unintended casualties was Jukebox’s mother, Kenya (LeToya Luckett). I love LeToya Luckett and always will, so I’m always sad when she won’t be around any longer. R.I.P. Kenya. Jukebox, aka LaVerne Thomas, is Kanan’s cousin and confidante and is also Marvin’s daughter. She was banoodles, though. R.I.P. Kenya, again, though. 

Point is, where we start in season three is this: Raq’s operation has been targeted by the Italian mob and they showed up hard and heavy. Detective Burke is still digging and trying to expose Howard and the folks complicit in his lies but she’s ready to take her claims all the way. And you know what they say about snitches. Det. Howard finds himself having to make a decision I’m sure he never wanted to make. Rock-a-bye, baby. 

That’s a “New Jack City” reference. 

Kanan still doesn’t rock with his mother, and Lou-Lou is really down bad on Raq and her leadership style as well. Which makes sense since Raq is out here smashing Unique. Listen, Raq is nothing, if not shaky, on her management decisions. The Italian mob folks (hilariously led by Tony Danza) are still trying to take Raq out, and Marvin, well, is as ride or die as they come. I love Marvin, I really do. My man has all of the standard issue trappings of a toxic man but he be trying to do right, I swear he does. 

Look, the first episode of the season is the one that sets up the rest: Kanan and his mother (and father, it looks like) are about to clash all season. Kanan’s attempts to get from under his mother’s thumb are probably going to cause him some hurting. Lou-Lou is looking to have an existential family crisis. Will Raq’s drug empire be able to withstand the pressures from the police and the mob? They were able to put off all the drug issues on the now-dead Crown Camacho (Quincy Brown), but the mob doesn’t care about that. Raq has an empire to build back up and now she’s in cahoots with Unique who’s crazy insane (or insane crazy) drug dealer of a brother is back on the streets. 

It’s about to be a wild ride through the Southside, and I’m here for it and ready to take you on that ride with me. This recap was to set the tone. The rest are about to be about the business. 


Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.

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