Timbaland has announced that he will step down from his role as supervising music producer on Fox’s Empire, reports Billboard.

Taking his spot for season 3 will be four-time Grammy Award-winning songwriter/producer Rodney Jerkins as supervising music producer and chart-topping songwriter Ester Dean.

“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. That 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 Mariah Carey and Jussie Smollett.”

Jerkins’ best-known credits include Michael Jackson (“Rock My World”), Beyonce (“Déjà Vu”), Lady Gaga (“Telephone”) and Brandy & Monica (“The Boy Is Mine”). Dean, a co-star in the popular Pitch Perfect film franchise, has written for Rihanna (“Rude Boy”), Katy Perry (“Firework) and Nicki Minaj (“Super Bass”).

Of 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.”

Also added to season 3’s music team are Grammy-winning songwriter Johntá Austin (Carey’s “We Belong Together,” Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You”), Makeba Riddick (Beyoncé’s “Deja Vu,” Rihanna’s “Rude Boy”) and Jesse St. John (Britney SpearsGlory album). Songwriters Ne-Yo and J.R. Rotem, who joined the team last year, are both returning.

Season 3 of Empire premieres Sept. 23. An Empire season 3 soundtrack will follow next spring.

Asked about criticism of season 2’s music and storylines, Holiday told Billboard, “We started out with 24 million viewers. That’s like Michael Jordan scoring 80 points in the first half. There’s no way he’s going to score another 80 the second half. We knew some mistakes would be made. But you’re going to see the actors and characters grow more mature and seasoned as music artists. And we feel that we have the chance this season to break an artist from a television show. We haven’t seen that since the early American Idol days.”

PHOTO: PR Photos

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