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MC Hammer

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There had been hit rap singles and albums before him, but MC Hammer was the man who truly brought rap music to a mass pop audience. Armed with a flamboyant wardrobe (particularly his trademark baggy parachute pants) and a raft of sampled hooks lifted straight from their sources, Hammer's talents as a dancer and showman far exceeded his technique as an MC. Still, he had an ear for catchy source material, and that helped his second album, Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em, become the best-selling rap album of all time. Even if he was never able to duplicate that level of success, and even if his street credibility was virtually non-existent, Hammer still broke down numerous doors for rap music in the mainstream, demonstrating that hip-hop had the potential for blockbuster success in the marketplace. MC Hammer was born Stanley Kirk Burrell in Oakland, California on March 30, 1962. A member of a strongly religious family, he landed a job as a bat/ball boy for the Oakland Athletics baseball team, where he entertained fans by dancing during breaks in the game, and earned the nickname "Hammer" for his resemblance to all-time home run leader "Hammerin'" Hank Aaron. An aspiring ballplayer himself, he failed to catch on with a professional organization following high school, and enlisted in the Navy for three years. Long a fan of funk and soul, he became interested in hip-hop upon returning to civilian life, and began performing in local clubs; with the financial help of several Athletics players, he also started his own record label, Bustin' Records, and recorded a couple of popular local singles. With ex-Con Funk Shun mastermind Felton Pilate producing, Hammer recorded an album titled Feel My Power in 1987. After impressing a Capitol Records executive with his already elaborate live show, he was signed to a multi-album deal, the first of which was a revamped version of Feel My Power retitled Let's Get It Started. Producing an R&B hit in "Turn This Mutha Out," Let's Get It Started went double platinum. Still, nothing could have foreshadowed the phenomenon of Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em, the 1990-released follow-up. Its first single, "U Can't Touch This," blatantly copped most of its hooks from Rick James' funk classic "Super Freak," yet Hammer's added catch phrases (and young listeners' unfamiliarity with the original song) helped make it a smash. "U Can't Touch This" dominated radio and MTV during 1990 in a way few rap singles ever had, and won two Grammys (Best R&B Song, Best Solo Rap Performance); save for a quirk in its release format -- it was only available as a 12", which cut down on its sales -- it would easily have been the first rap single to top the Billboard pop chart. The next two singles, "Have You Seen Her" (a flat-out cover of the Chi-Lites' '70s soul ballad) and "Pray" (built on the keyboard hook from Prince's "When Doves Cry"), followed "U Can't Touch This" into the Top Ten, eventually pushing sales of Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em past the ten-million mark and making it the number one album of the year. Still, a backlash was growing against Hammer's frequent borrowing (some said theft) of classic hooks for his own hits; hip-hop purists also railed about his often simplistic, repetitive lyrics (indeed, "Pray" set a new record for the number of times its title was repeated during the song, at well over 100). The charges of rank commercialism weren't lessened by the merchandising machine that soon kicked in: endorsement deals, MC Hammer dolls, even a Saturday morning cartoon show. Seeking to counteract the criticism, Hammer dropped the "MC" from his name and used more live instrumentation on his 1991 follow-up album, Too Legit to Quit. While it sold very well (over three million copies) and produced a sizable hit in the title track, Hammer's stage show had become as lavish as his lifestyle; loaded with singers, dancers, and backup musicians, the supporting concert tour was too expensive for the album's sales to finance, and it was canceled partway through. Hammer scored his last big hit with "Addams Groove," the theme to the film version of The Addams Family, and then paused to reconsider his approach. In 1994, he returned with The Funky Headhunter, a harder-edged, more aggressive record that went gold, but failed to win him a new audience among hardcore hip-hop fans. On 1995's Inside Out, Hammer seemed unsure of whether he wanted to appeal to pop or rap audiences; the album flopped, and Hammer was let out of his contract. In 1996, Hammer filed for bankruptcy, his taste for luxury having gotten the better of his dwindling income; his mansion was sold at a fraction of its cost. The crisis prompted a religious reawakening, and he began to write new material with an emphasis on spirituality and family. The album Family Affair was slated for release on Hammer's own Oaktown Records label, but plans were aborted at the last minute; only 1,000 copies were pressed, and were never distributed nationally, save for limited Internet downloads. Several projects were rumored to be in the works, including another album (War Chest: Turn of the Century) and a soundtrack to the film Return to Glory: The Powerful Stirring of the Black Man, but none ever appeared. Finally, Hammer released a new album, the patriotic-themed Active Duty, through his own WorldHit label in late 2001. ~ Steve Huey
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Stations Featuring
MC Hammer

    Halloween

    Halloween
    1 song

    '90s Pop

    '90s Pop
    1 song

    Shuffle Hits

    Shuffle Hits
    1 song

Albums by
MC Hammer

Top Songs by
MC Hammer

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   U Can't Touch This
  3.   Too Legit to Quit
  4.   Addams Groove
  5.   Pumps and a Bump
  6.   Turn This Mutha Out
  7.   Pump It up (Here's the News)
  8.   Here Comes the Hammer
  9.   Pray
  10.   Let's Get It Started
  11.   Dancin' Machine
  12.   Have You Seen Her
  13.   Good to Go
  14.   He Keeps Doing Great Things For Me
  15.   They Put Me in the Mix
  16.   It's All Good
  17.   Brothers Hang On
  18.   Work This
  19.   This Is the Way We Roll
  20.   She's Soft and Wet
  21.   One Mo' Time
  22.   Oaktown
  23.   Living in a World Like This
  24.   Do Not Pass Me By
  25.   Count It Off
  26.   Ring 'Em
  27.   Let's Go Deeper
  28.   It's All That
  29.   Time to Go
  30.   Tell My Story
  31.   Sleepin' on a Master Plan
  32.   On Your Face
  33.   Nothing But Love (A Song For Eazy)
  34.   Lovehold
  35.   Keep On
  36.   Intro
  37.   I Hope Things Change
  38.   Gaining Momentum
  39.   Find Yourself a Friend
  40.   Everything Is Alright
  41.   Don't Stop
  42.   Crime Story
  43.   A Brighter Day
  44.   What's the Difference?
  45.   Sanctified Slide by Prime Minister
  46.   You're Being Served
  47.   The Funky Headhunter
  48.   Tell Me (Why Can't We Live Together)
  49.   Sultry Funk
  50.   Street Soldiers
  51.   Somethin' For the O.G.'s
  52.   Releasing Some Pressure
  53.   Luv-N-Happiness
  54.   I Need That Number
  55.   Help Lord (Won't You Come)
  56.   Goin' Up Yonder
  57.   Feel My Power
  58.   Don't Fight the Feelin'
  59.   Clap Yo' Hands
  60.   Anything Goes on the Dance Floor
  61.   Black Is Black
  62.   Break 'Em Off Somethin' Proper
  63.   Yo!! Sweetness
  64.   That's What I Said
  65.   Son of the King
  66.   Cold Go M.C. Hammer
  67.   Bustin' Loose
  68.   Help the Children
  69.   It's Gone
  70.   Somethin' 'Bout the Goldie in Me

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