The “Power Universe” (yes, this is a thing) expands with the Power Book III: Raising Kanan’s season premiere. With Power Book II: Ghost that follows Riq (Michael Rainey Jr.) after he smoked his own dad currently chilling, we take a trip back in time in Power Book III: Raising Kanan to see how Power’s notorious boogyman Kanan Stark (50 Cent) became the man we loved to hate and a thorn in Ghost and Tommy’s side.
The First Time Kanan’s Name Rang Bells
Before we get into what made Kanan the stone-cold killer/druglord we met in Power, we meet him as a young lad growing up in Southside Jamaica Queens. The season premiere opens up in 1981, with baby Kanan scrapping with some bullies in the park.
We immediately learn that Kanan isn’t the tough guy we know him to be as a kid. Still, he does have some heart as he does try to fight back while getting his young a** handed to him while his cousin, a young Jukebox, yes the dirty cop with no chill played by Anika Noni Rose in seasons 3 and 4 of Power watches in horror as Kanan gets knocked out for his money. When Kanan eventually gets up, he puts on the jets and runs out of that park like he’s Forest Gump all the way home.
It’s here we meet his mother, Raquel Thomas (Patina Miller), aka Raq, a no-nonsense drug dealer, where we can assume Kanan gets his ruthlessness. When we are introduced to Raquel, she and her boyfriend Outpost, another drug dealer, is bagging up some product, but she puts that on hold to talk to Kanan, who jets upstairs to his room to cry about the beating he endured at the hands of his bullies.
Raquel isn’t here for the crying and is just supplying Kanan with nothing but tough love telling her son he shouldn’t show off his money. She eventually grabs one of Kanan’s socks, fills it with batteries, and informs her son they will take a trip to the park to have a word with the bullies. When they arrive at the park, Raquel hands Kanan the stuffed sock and tells him to handle his business because if he doesn’t, he will have to deal with her.
Kanan calmly approaches the bullies, lets them both have it, and pounded them with the sock as the other kids watched in horror and shock. This will be the first time Kanan’s name rings bells in Southside Jamaica Queens, and it won’t be the last time.
We fast forward to 1991, and now Kanan (Mekai Curtis) is 15-years old. He’s not in the streets yet doing what his momma does, but he damn sure wants to, but his mother has other plans for him. Teenage Kanan and his mother talk with the principal about taking the admissions exam to get into Stuyvesant High School, one of the most prestigious high school’s in New York City.
The principal has taken the liberty of signing Kanan up to take the test and only needs Raquel’s approval, and she is with it, especially because it means she keeps Kanan away from the streets. But, that’s not what Kanan wants, even though his mother is pushing him for it. Kanan wants in on the family business run by his mom and her two brothers, Uncle Lou-Lou (Malcolm M. Mays) and Uncle Marvin (London Brown).
Still, his mom does her best to convince him that the street life is not for him because she plans for her son. She wants him to become a “CEO or some shit,” but he doesn’t want to be away from his mama.
We also catch up with JukeBox (Hailey Kilgore), who is surprisingly was an aspiring singer growing up, but we are warned by grown Kanan, who is narrating this hood version of The Wonder Years, that she is not to be messed with. We also meet Kanan’s love interest Davina (Lovie Simone). Kanan has had a crush on the young lady for years, but she currently has a boyfriend, hilariously named buck-twenty (slang for a slice across the face), a rival drug dealer. We are sure will that come back into play sometime later in the season. We also get acquainted with young Kanan’s crew.
There’s A War Brewing
Raq runs a pretty tight ship along with her brothers, but the crew’s power will be constantly tested by Unique (Joey Bada$$), who Kanan describes as the biggest drug dealer on the southside.
The premier episode highlights the tension between Raq and Unique immediately after some members of his crew ambush her crew during a meet leading to one of her soldiers getting shot in the leg.
Raq meets up with Lou-Lou and Marvin, who Kanan hilariously describes as always late and hungry to discuss the ambush. Uncle Marvin explains that Unique is trying to move on their territory, and Raq is not having it and feels it’s time to discuss with him.
Before Raq has that one-on-one with Unique, she heads to a nightclub to speak with its owner Hugo about a deal they have in place. Instead, they are greeted by his white publicist and her dog, who clearly has no idea who she is messing with, and insults Raq to her face. Lou-Lou gets his sister to walk away from the situation before it gets out of hand, but Raq would later get her revenge by having one of her boys put the publicist’s dog in the microwave.
Moving along, things will get even testier between Raq and Unique after a driveby scare at their favorite diner. The shooters didn’t shoot at Raq and her family but shot in the air to scare them. When the two druglords finally meet, Raq is understandably upset, but they do manage to come to a truce and divide up blocks between them, one of those blocks being a territory she used to have her crew used to move weight on.
Kanan Enrolls Into The School of Hard Knocks
Kanan is a smart kid, we learned that earlier in the episode, but deep down, he wants to be like his mom and be by her side. He has been paying attention all these years, learning the code language they speak in, and wants to be in the dope game like his family.
Kanan makes that decision while taking that entrance exam to Stuyvesant, where he decides it’s really “f**K school” and fills out all the B columns on his scantron answer sheet. It’s there he decides he wants to be a hustler like his mom and be a part of the family business. In his first act as a baby thug, he decides to run up on one of Unique’s crew members selling on a block he knows his mom used to run.
Kanan has no idea that his mother gave Unique that block to dead the beef between them. Kanan and his boy shoot the dealer as he tries to run away, subsequently killing him. Raq is informed of her son’s actions while on a date with a bartender named Symphony, whom she met earlier in the episode.
When she gets home, she and her two brothers talk to Kanan, who is covered in blood. Kanan explains why he shot Unique’s boy, and Raq explains that she gave Unique that block, much to the surprise of young Kanan. Understandably, she is upset with her son because he has more than likely started a war between the two crews and tells him to take off his sweater so they can dispose of the evidence.
Later that night, Raq is deep in her thoughts about the situation, Kanan comes downstairs to talk, but she dismisses him and tells him to take out the garbage. While he is doing what his mother told him to do, someone from Unique’s crew tries to get some retribution and sprays Kanan and Raq’s home with bullets in a drive-by attempt. Raq comes out of the crib gun’s blazing, and Kanan manages to escape the situation unharmed.
The police eventually show up, and we meet Det. Malcolm Howard (Omar Epps), who Kanan describes as the one cop “who thinks he runs the streets.” Epps presses Raq about what happened, and she doesn’t snitch, saying it was a big misunderstanding. Howard knows she is hiding something. Before he leaves, he tells Kanan to keep his head on a swivel because he knows this won’t be the last time they will try to take him out.
Raq decides to speak with Unique again to see if she can make things right. She hands him some money to give to his dead crew member’s family as a peace offering. Unique accepts it but tells her he is not responsible for people trying to get revenge against her son. It’s at that moment she realizes now that Kanan is now a part of the business.
Raq decides it’s time to have that “talk” with her son. She drives him out to a secluded area to tell him that they are the hunters, never the hunted. She hands him a gun and teaches him how to hold it, and tells him to let off a shot. Kanan pulls the trigger, and Raq tells him that one bullet he just shot will be chasing him forever and that now “he’s in it.” Mom and son both start shooting their guns together, with a grin slowly coming on his face.
Ladies and gentlemen, we just witnessed the birth of the real Kanan Stark.
Photo: Starz / Power Book III: Raising Kanan