Considering how big FOX’s Empire surprisingly expanded over the first season, the hip-hop drama’s Season 2 swell is anything but unexpected. FOX has officially confirmed that Empire Season 2 will expand its run of episodes from the first year, also adding a new musical voice to the soundtrack behind the scenes.

FOX bosses confirmed to reporters that where Empire Season 1 unfolded over a modest 12 episodes, Season 2 would in fact expand to a grand total of 18. And while the series will keep its Wednesday at 9:00 PM timeslot, Season 2 will be structured in two halves with a major cliffhanger in between.

Announcements of Season 2 guest stars included Chris Rock, Lenny Kravitz and Alicia Keys, though FOX boss Gary Newman spoke to TVLine of keeping Empire in its Wednesday home:

We’d be crazy to move it. The show really was appointment television in a way that’s kind of unprecedented in this day and age. So it didn’t make any sense to us at all to move it.

Elsewhere, FOX also confirmed that hip-hop artist Ne-Yo will join Timbaland in writing music for Season 2, though no plans for Ne-Yo to actually appear on the series has been set, despite past mention of his desire to do so. Empire will return for Season 2 this fall on FOX, but will Lucious and Cookie keep ratings from crumbling?

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