Real Name: Stanley Kirk Burrell
D.O.B.: March 30th, 1962 Oakland, California
MC Hammer was one of the most recognisable rap superstars during the late 1980s and early 1990s, known for his dramatic rise to and fall from fame and fortune and his trademark Hammer Pants. He became a preacher in the 1990s and now works as a television show host and CEO. He lives in Tracy, California, with his wife Stephanie and six children, three boys and three girls.
The Early life
Burrell was born in Oakland, California, and graduated from McClymonds High School. From 1972 to 1980, Burrell served as a batboy with the Oakland Athletics under colourful team owner Charlie Finley, who lived in the Midwest and for whom Burrell was his "eyes and ears." Here he earned his nickname "Hammer." 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 (Patrol Squadron) Forty Seven (VP-47) of Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, as a Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Store Keeper (AK3) until his honourable discharge. Upon his return he began performing music in clubs and started his own record label, Bust It.
His début album Feel My Power was produced between 1986 and 1987 to be released independently in 1987. It was produced by VEH (of Con Funk Shun), and sold over 60,000 copies. In the spring of 1988, a DJ played the track "Let's Get it Started"—a song in which he declared he was "...second to none, from Doug E. Fresh, Cool LL, or DJ Run"—after which the track began to gain popularity in clubs. Hammer received several offers from major record labels after the successful release of the independent album.
Hammer initially refused to sign a contract with Capitol Records, but after a substantial signing bonus was added to his contract, he did. His début album was then re-released as Let's Get It Started. A new video was shot for "Let's Get it Started," and another video was produced in fall of 1988 called "Pump It Up" (a new track added to Let's Get It Started). The "Pump It Up" video was added to the roster of "new wave" hip-hop videos that premièred or re-aired on the premiere season of Yo! MTV Raps. It depicted hip-hop legends Run-DMC getting disrespected by Hammer. The album eventually went triple-platinum (more than 3 million units sold). "Turn This Mutha Out" (the album's biggest hit), "Feel My Power", and "They Put Me in the Mix" saw heavy rotation on R&B/Hip-Hop radio stations throughout late 1988 into 1989.
His second album, 1990's Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em, included the smash single "U Can't Touch This", which sampled Rick James' 1981 hit "Super Freak". Interestingly, despite heavy airplay, "U Can't Touch This" stopped at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart due to the fact that it was released only as a twelve-inch single. Follow-up hits included "Have You Seen Her" (cover of the Chi-Lites); and "Pray", which had a beat sampled from Prince's "When Doves Cry" and was his biggest hit in the US, peaking at #2. The album 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. At the same time, he also appeared in The West Coast Rap All-Stars posse cut "We're All in the same Gang".
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 - criticisms which were are also directed toward his contemporary, Vanilla Ice. He was mocked in music videos by 3rd Bass, The D.O.C., DJ Debranz, and Ice Cube. Oakland hip-hop group Digital Underground mocked him in the CD insert to their Sex Packets album when placing his picture in with the other members and referring to him as an "Unknown derelict". In fact, LL Cool J mocked him in "To tha Break of Dawn," a track on his Mama Said Knock You Out album, calling Hammer an "...amateur, swinging a Hammer from a bodybag (his pants)," and saying, "my old gym teacher ain't supposed to rap." However Ice-T came to his defence 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!" Ice-T 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, and other merchandise was 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 (again, produced by Felton Pilate) 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 (over three-million copies) 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 Too Legit 2 Quit). Hammer set out on tour, but the 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. Despite the multi-platinum certification, the sales were one-third of "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em", and the record company considered it a commercial failure.