Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
MC Hammer (later Hammer), real name Stanley Kirk Burrell, (born March 30, 1962) was an early mainstream rapper, known for his "Hammer Pants " (altered Parachute Pants) and catchy hooks on songs like "U Can't Touch This".
MC Hammer was born in Oakland, California. In Hammer's early teens, Charlie O. Finley, owner of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, noticed the boy performing outside of the stadium. Finley named the boy his "executive vice president," and he served in that capacity until 1980. In reality, his job was to report to Finley on what was happening with the team, since Finley did not live in Oakland. A's players named him "Little Hammer" because of his resemblance to slugger "Hammerin'" Hank Aaron.1
Though Hammer wanted to be a professional baseball player, he did not catch on in a professional organization. He instead joined the Navy and, upon his return, began performing music in clubs and started his own record label, Bust It .
Burrell initially refused to sign a contract from Capitol Records. Eventually, he signed to Capitol Records after a substantial signing bonus was added to his contract. His debut album was then re-released as Let's Get It Started. The album eventually went triple-platinum (more than 3 million units sold). The title song, "Turn This Mutha Out", and "Feel My Power" saw heavy rotation on R&B/Hip-Hop radio stations.
His second album, 1990's Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em included the highly successful single "U Can't Touch This", which sampled "Superfreak" (Rick James), "Have You Seen Her" (cover of the Chi-Lites) and "Pray" (sampled from Prince's "When Doves Cry"). During 1990 Hammer toured extensively in Europe which included a sell out concert at NEC Birmingham. Pogus Caesar, a black director interviewed Hammer, and the artist spoke openly about success, life, and religion. The film which included excerpts from the performance were broadcast on One World a multicultural series for Central Television.
A critical backlash began brewing over the repetitive nature of his lyrics, his clean cut image, and his perceived over-reliance on sampling others' hooks for the basis of his singles. He was mocked in music videos by 3rd Bass and Ice Cube. Despite the criticisms, MC Hammer's career remained highly successful. Soon, MC Hammer dolls, lunchboxes, clothing, and other apparrel were marketed. He was even given his own Saturday morning cartoon in 1990 on the ABC network.
After dropping the MC from his stage name, Burrell released Too Legit to Quit in 1991. Burrell took the opportunity to answer his critics on certain songs on the album. Though the album was, by and large, no more critically accepted than his first, sales were strong and the title track was yet another hit. Another hit came soon after, with "Addams Groove" (which appeared on both The Addams Family motion picture soundtrack and the vinyl version of Too Legit to Quit).
Later, Hammer switched record labels and signed with Giant Records. To adapt to the changing landscape of hip-hop, his next album was a more aggressive gangsta rap-style record titled, The Funky Headhunter. Sales dropped from his previous albums and after 1995's Inside Out, Giant Records dropped Burrell from their roster of artists.
Hammer next signed with Death Row Records, then home to Gangsta Rap stars Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. The label did not release any of Hammer's music while he was with them. However, Burrell did record music with Shakur. Their collaborative efforts are yet to be released. After the death of Shakur in 1996, Burrell left the record company.
In 1996, Burrell signed with EMI Records, which saw the release of a compilation of Hammer's chart topping songs. The album, "Greatest Hits", featured 12 MC Hammer hits. In 1997, MC Hammer (who by that time had readopted the MC) was the subject of an episode of the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the VH1 series Behind the Music. In these appearances, Burrell admitted that he was broke after squandering more than $20 million.
In December 1997, Hammer also filed for bankruptcy, having spent the millions in income from the last few years to keep his employees paid and live a life of luxury. His mansion in the Fremont Hills was sold for a quick-sale bargain price. His financial problems rekindled religious feelings in Hammer and he began to record again, focusing on spirituality. The result, Family Affair, was released, but only limitedly. The gospel double album is now a rare collector's item.
Finally, in the wake of 9/11, a new album appeared in 2001, Active Duty (2001). The album was Burrell's first new mainstream release in six years. Hammer donated portions of his profits from the album to 9/11 charities. The album, released on his own WorldHit Music Group label, mainly served to showcase many up and coming artists on the label. It was met with tepid sales figures.
2003 was a busy year for Hammer. He was a judge on ABC Family's Dance Fever , and he starred in The Surreal Life. His popularity on that show led to his signing a development deal with The WB network for a new sitcom based on his current life as a stay-at-home dad.
In 2004, Burrell was to release the album "Full Blast" on his own WorldHit Music Group label. WorldHit Music Group is a part of Hammer's "Hammertime Holdings" company. Other projects, such as a dance video and clothing line, have been long rumored but there is little to no evidence to support this.
2005 started off well for Hammer. He did a Spike Lee directed commercial for Lays Chips during the Super Bowl. As for his album "Full Blast" - it has yet to appear in record stores, although a single "Hard Times" was released off the album in Fall 2004 on VH1 and BET. Hammer appeared at the 2005 Grammy Awards as well, though only as an audience member.
MC Hammer's legacy
After his rapid fall from fame and subsequent bankruptcy, MC Hammer spent most of the latter half of the 1990s as a punchline in the music business. In 2002, Nelly, in his breakthrough hit "Country Grammar", announced his intention to "blow 30 mill(ion) like I'm Hammer"
Recently, he has been cited as a major influence on rapper P. Diddy, who like Hammer has changed his stage name at the heights of fame (a move also copied by Snoop Dogg and Ol' Dirty Bastard among others). Hammer's sampling of large portions of well-known pop oldies (as opposed to short James Brown or George Clinton funk riffs) has shown increasing popularity among rappers.
Hammer's image as a clean living "nice guy" has always been rare in rap music, but has occasionally resurfaced in the likes of Will Smith, Skee Lo and Nappy Roots . Reference: Photograph of MC Hammer, NEC Birmingham 1990. Pogus Caesar []
- Feel My Power (1987) (re-released as Let's Get It Started in 1988)
- Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em (1990)
- Too Legit To Quit (1991)
- The Funky Headhunter (1994)
- Inside Out (1995)
- Greatest Hits (1996)
- Family Affair (1998)
- The Hits (2000)
- Active Duty (2001)
- Full Blast (2004)
Movie and TV occurences of songs
- Addams Family (movie)
U Can't Touch This
- In some episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air
- Used in an ad campaign for anti-bacterial hand cream Purell .
- Used by insurance firm Allstate in a commercial.
- Used in anti-paedophilia commercials.
- A different version, called 'U Shouldn't Touch This' has been used on Sesame Street to warn children off touching things like electric fences and raw sewage .
Predecessors of MC Hammer's music
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