MC Hammer

  • Rapper born Stanley Burrell in 1962 in Oakland California.
  • Burrell lived in a housing project with his mother, brothers and sisters. They lived near the Oakland Coliseum, where baseball’s Oakland A’s played ball. He sold stray baseballs on the street and danced while accompanied by a beatboxer. At 11 years old, the A’s hired him as a clubhouse assistant and batboy – he did this for 7 years. Reggie Jackson, then playing with the A’s, nicknamed him Hammer, because he looked like Hank Aaron, who also had the Hammer nickname. Later, he took the nickname M.C. for being a Master of Ceremonies at clubs that he would perform at when the A’s were travelling.
  • After serving in the Navy, he and Jon Gibson formed a Christian rap group named Holy Ghost Boys. They wrote several songs, and the song The Wall was released by Gibson as a solo artist in 1988, becoming Contemporary Christian Rap music’s first major hit.
  • In the mid-80s, Hammer was rapping at small venues. A record deal fell apart, and he borrowed $40,000 from two former Oakland A’s baseball players, starting a record label. He sold his records from the trunk of his car. In 1986, he released his debut album, Feel My Power. A San Francisco radio station started playing the song Let’s Get It Started. It became a local hit on the radio and at dance clubs. A second single, Ring ‘Em, also was popular. Gaining momentum, he hired a troupe of dances and musicians for a stage show. In 1988, a record executive saw his performance, and he was signed to a record deal.
  • His first album on this deal was Let’s Get It Started, which largely was a re-issue of Feel My Power. The album peaked at #1 on the R&B Album chart, and was certified 2x platinum. Three singles reached the top 5 of the Rap Singles chart – Pump It Up, Turn This Mutha Out, and They Put Me In The Mix.
  • Hammer wanted his next album to be more musical than the standard rap sound. In 1990, he released Please, Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em – a playful title that referred to his tendency to disrespect other rap artists in his lyrics. The album became the most successful pop-rap album of all time, the first hip hop album to sell over 10 million copies in the U.S., and the first rap album ever to reach #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. It included 3 singles that crossed into mainstream music – U Can’t Touch This, Have You Seen Her and Pray reached #8, #4 and #2 on the Hot 100 chart respectively. U Can’t Touch This won 2 Grammy awards.
  • The rap music world started to criticize Hammer’s clean cut image and his reliance on samples from other artists (Please, Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em is full of hooks originally done by Rick James, Prince, Marvin Gaye, James Brown and others). Despite this, he continued to be highly successful with tours, dolls, lunchboxes and even his own Saturday morning cartoon, called Hammerman. 
  • He answered his critics with the lyrics in several songs in his next album, Too Legit To Quit, released in 1991 – dropping the M.C. from his moniker. The album was a success, certified 3x platinum, with the title track and Addams Groove (also was the theme song to The Addams Family film) reaching the top 10 of the Hot 100.
  • Hammer’s next album was 1994’s Funky Headhunter. The album was edgier and was missing the pop sound that Hammer had on earlier albums. As such, he lost fans that preferred the pop-rap sound, and he failed to gain fans from hardcore hip hop fans. The album managed to be certified platinum, and the single Pumps and a Bump peaked at #26 on the Hot 100 chart, his final song to reach the top 40. In 1995, he released Inside Out V (again as MC Hammer with a return to his pop image), with little success. By 1996, his lavish lifestyle had caught up with him, and he filed for bankruptcy. Turning to his Christian roots, 1998’s Family Affair was mostly about faith and family values – only 1,000 copies were made.
  • Four more studio albums were released during the 00s, and a couple of non-album singles were released in 2010 and 2011. While Hammer is no longer the face of rap music, you can still see him perform – he has a tour underway now, performing with other retro rap/R&B acts from the 90s – his first U.S. tour since 1991.
  • The baggy pants artist was a phenom in the 80s and 90s, helping to bring hip hop and rap music to the masses. Here is his classic, U Can’t Touch This, with its infectious Rick James hook. I dare you to try not to tap your foot to this song! Hammer Time!

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