MC Hammer (later Hammer) (born Stanley Kirk Burrell in Oakland, California, on March 30, 1962) is an American rapper who was popular during the 1980s and early 1990s, known for his dramatic rise to and fall from fame and fortune, his trademark parachute pants, and for leaving a lasting influence on hip hop culture and music. He became a preacher in the 1990s and now has his own television program. He lives in Tracy, California with his wife Stephanie and six children.
From 1972 to 1980, Burrell served as a batboy with the Oakland Athletics under colorful team owner Charlie Finley, who lived in the Midwest and for whom Burrell was his "eyes and ears." Reggie Jackson, in describing Burrell's role for Finley, took credit for the "Hammer" nickname:
Hell, our chief executive, the guy that ran our team, uh, that communicated [with] Charlie Finley, the top man there, was a 13-year old kid. I nicknamed him "Hammer," because he looked like Hank Aaron.
Ron Bergman, at the time an Oakland Tribune writer who covered the A's, recalled that:
He was an informant in the clubhouse, an informant for Charlie, and he got the nickname "Pipeline."
According to Hammer:
Charlie said, "I'm getting you a new hat. I don't want you to have a hat that says "A's" on it. I'm getting you a hat that says 'Ex VP,' that says 'Executive Vice President.' You're running the joint around here." . . . Every time I come down to the clubhouse, you know, Rollie would yell out "Oh, everybody be quiet! Here comes Pipeline!"
Burrell wanted to be a professional baseball player, but he did not catch on in any professional organization. He instead joined the Navy, where he served with Patron Forty Seven (VP-47) of Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, as a Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Store Keeper (AK-3) until his honorable discharge. Upon his return he began performing music in clubs and started his own record label, Bust It.
His debut album was Feel My Power (1987), produced by Felton Pilate (of Con Funk Shun). The album sold over 60,000 copies, which led to several offers from major labels.
Burrell initially refused to sign a contract with Capitol Records, but after a substantial signing bonus was added to his contract, he did. 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 "Super Freak" (Rick James); "Have You Seen Her" (cover of the Chi-Lites); and "Pray" (sampled from Prince's "When Doves Cry"). The album eventually went on to become the first hip-hop album to reach diamond status, selling more than 10 million units. During 1990 Hammer toured extensively in Europe which included a sold out concert at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. With the sponsorship of PepsiCo, PepsiCo International CEO Christopher A. Sinclair went on tour with him in 1991.
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. However Ice-T came to his defense on his 1991 album OG: Original Gangster: "A special shout out to my man MC Hammer; A lot of people diss you man, but they just jealous. Fuck em!" Many considered this to be strange, given Ice-T's usual stance against "selling out", but he later explained that he had nothing against people who were pop rap from the start, as Hammer had been, but only against rappers who switch from being hardcore or dirty to being pop rap so that they can sell more records.
Despite the criticisms, MC Hammer's career continued to be highly successful. Soon, MC Hammer dolls, lunchboxes, clothing, and other apparel were marketed. He was even given his own Saturday morning cartoon, Hammerman.
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 better accepted (critically) than his first, sales were strong and the title track was a hit. Another hit came soon after, with "Addams Groove" (which appeared on both The Addams Family motion picture soundtrack and the vinyl version of 2 Legit 2 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 record titled, The Funky Headhunter. (The accompanying video to The Funky Headhunter's first single, "Pumps and a Bump", was banned from heavy rotation on MTV with censors claiming that the depiction of Hammer in Speedos was too graphic.
In 1995, Hammer released the album Inside Out, which critics claimed was unfocused. The album sold poorly (peaking at number 119 on the Billboard Charts) and Giant Records dropped him from their roster. Because of dwindling album sales and a garish lifestyle, Hammer, who was $13 million in debt, filed for bankruptcy on April 3, 1996.
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, which saw the release of a compilation of Hammer's chart topping songs. The album, Greatest Hits, featured 12 former hits and was released in October, only six months after his bankruptcy.
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 had already used up most of his fortune of over $20 million. Much of this money was spent on a large mansion that Burrell had built in Fremont,California, 30 miles south of where he grew up, along with keeping an entourage that numbered as many as 20-plus individuals. Much of the money, up to $1.4 million dollars, was used to forge the entrance, which comprised of two gold- plated "Hammertime" gates. He also confessed to losing millions in indulgent pursuits like horse racing and careless spending sprees on obscure, over-priced items like antique golf clubs, Etruscan sculpture and gold chains for his 4 pet rottweilers. VH1 also produced a dramatic movie about his life in 2001 entitled Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Hammer released the patriotic album Active Duty on his own WorldHit label. He donated portions of the proceeds to 9/11 charities. In 2004, he released the Full Blast album. Neither album managed to peak on the Billboard Charts.
In the 2005 MTV Music Video Awards, MC Hammer made a surprise appearance in the middle of the show.
In February 2006, the first single off Hammer's new album Look 3X was released. The Scott Storch produced song was titled "Look" and a music video was produced for it.
Hammer now frequently posts about his life on his blog "Look Look Look."
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 2000, Nelly, in his breakthrough hit "Country Grammar", announced his intention to "blow 30 million like I'm Hammer".
However, he has also influenced the industry. Hammer's sampling of large portions of well-known pop oldies (as opposed to short James Brown or George Clinton funk riffs) has increasing popularity among mainstream rappers, particularly Diddy's Bad Boy Records stable. Other examples include Eminem's Like Toy Soldiers which samples nearly the entire chorus from Martika's similarly-named 1989 hit.
Hammer's catchphrase, "Stop! Hammer time!" is considered something of an Internet phenomenon, appearing in various spoofed error messages in the Windows XP operating system. Notoriously, British TV presenter Mark Lamarr interrupted Hammer repeatedly with this phrase in an interview filmed for "The Word", much to Hammer's annoyance.
Hammer recently performed a self-parody role in a television ad for Lay's potato chips. Some kids lose their baseball over the fence of a neighbour apparently infamous for not returning lost toys, so they throw him a bag of chips to appease him. He throws back their ball, their dog, a car belonging to one kid's dad, and MC Hammer, still dressed in golden sparkle shirt and parachute pants. MC Hammer instantly breaks into the chorus of "U Can't Touch This." The kids then toss Hammer back over the fence. He also appeared in an ad for Nationwide Insurance which made fun of his sudden fall from fame and wealth.
Hammer also began the trend of rap artists being accepted as mainstream pitch men. Prior to Hammer, it was virtually unheard of for a Hip-Hop artist to be seen in a major commercial spot. Hammer had ad deals with companies such as Pepsi and Taco Bell and was openly dissed and called a "sell-out" by fellow rappers. Today, many rappers appear in various major commercials and market their own clothing lines, such as Jay-Z, Nelly, and P. Diddy. Ironically, two of Hammer's biggest detractors, LL Cool J and Run D.M.C., appeared together in a Dr. Pepper ad during Super Bowl XXXVIII. Ice Cube, another one of Hammer's biggest detractors, has since become an upper-tier movie star and producer.
While due to the rise of gangsta rap, the nice guy image in rappers (Similar to Hammer's) has become less common, it has returned somewhat in the likes of Will Smith, Kanye West, Nelly, and Lupe Fiasco.
Hammer reaffirmed his Christian beliefs in October 1997 and now has a television show on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Hammer has officiated at the celebrity weddings of actor Corey Feldman and Susie Sprague on 30 October 2002 and Mötley Crüe's Vince Neil and Lia Gerardini in January 2005.
* Feel My Power (1987) (re-released as Let's Get It Started in 1988) #30 US
* Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em (1990) #1 US (21 weeks at #1, 10xPlatinum)
* Too Legit to Quit (1991) #2 US
* The Funky Headhunter (1994) #12 US
* Inside Out (1995) #119 US
* Greatest Hits (1996)
* Family Affair (1998)
* The Hits (2000)
* Active Duty (2001)
* Full Blast (2003)
* Look 3X (2006)
* "U Can't Touch This" (1990) #8 US
* "Have You Seen Her?" (1990) #4 US
* "Pray" (1990) #2 US
* "Here Comes The Hammer" (1991) #54 US
* "Too Legit To Quit" (1991) #6 US
* "Addams Groove" (1991) #7 US
* "Do Not Pass Me By" (1992) #62 US
* "This Is The Way We Roll" (1992) #86 US
* "Pumps And A Bump" (1994) #26 US
* "It's All Good" (1994) #46 US
* Stanley Burrell has performed on USO tours for men and women of the Armed Forces.
* Hammer's "Too Legit to Quit" video includes several cameos of superstar athletes from that time. They include in chronlogical order: Jose Canseco, Isiah Thomas, Kirby Puckett, Rickey Henderson, Deion Sanders, Roger Craig, Chris Mullin, Roger Clemens, Lynette Woodwardand, and David Robinson.
* Is still very close friends with Deion Sanders.