Charles Hamilton on His Cameo in Tonight's 'Empire' Finale: 'It Was Intense'

Charles Hamilton and Rita Ora 650
Photo: Theman Lux
Charles Hamilton and Rita Ora in the video for their single "New York Raining," which will be featured in the season finale of "Empire."

"It was intense," says rapper Charles Hamilton of filming his cameo in tonight'ss two-hour season finale of Fox's runaway hit series Empire. "Taraji B Henson was there and I met Debbie Allen, the director of the show. She said she loved the song."

The track, "New York Raining" featuring Rita Ora, from The Empire Soundtrack (Columbia) is Hamilton's first single. He and Ora flew out to a frigid Chicago last month to film their scene in which they performed the soaring piano ballad.

"It was two degrees out!" Hamilton exclaims. "We filmed it in this theatre. It's supposed to be a rehearsal and they're all watching us perform. I'm actually playing piano live along with the track and I'm rapping, too, but the microphone wasn't on."

Snoop Dogg, Jennifer Hudson, Juicy J and Patti LaBelle also appear in tonight's finale, in which viewers are expected to find out who will inherit Lucious Lyon's (Terrence Howard) Empire Entertainment throne.

While Hamilton says he's not sure whether or not he's signed to the show's hip-hop label, last month the rapper, producer and multi-instrumentalist signed a real-world deal with Republic Records. As Billboard reported, the news came after a dramatic five-year absence from the music industry during which Hamilton battled homelessness, incarceration and suicide before getting diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder.

Rapper Charles Hamilton on His Struggle With Mental Illness: 'I Wanted to Commit Suicide' (Exclusive)

Hamilton's condition is not something he, Republic or his Turn First Artists management team keep secret. "I resisted treatment at first," Hamilton says. "I was a little upset that I had to tell all my problems to a doctor when I'm used to telling my problems to a microphone."

In "New York Raining," heartache isn't the only difficulty Hamilton raps about. Last week, he and Ora shot the video for the song with directors Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini (the film Walking on Sunshine, Wu-Tang Clan's video "The Heart Gently Weeps"); Hamilton plays a leader in the civil rights movement. The video is due at the end of the month.

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Charles Hamilton with
Andrea Thomas in the video for "New York Raining" (Photo: Theman Lux)

Hamilton is currently in Austin, where he has four shows slated at SXSW. Next week he will appear on the Late Night With Seth Meyers show before heading to Europe in April for a handful of dates. His debut full-length is set to be released later this year.


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