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MC Hammer Biography

Home > Music > M > MC Hammer > Biography

Birth Name: Stanley Kirk Burrell
Born: 1962/03/30
Birth Place: Oakland, California, U.S.
Years Active: 1986–present
Genres: Hip Hop, Dance, Gospel

M.C. Hammer (or simply Hammer) (born Stanley Kirk Burrell March 30, 1962), is an American rapper, entrepreneur, and actor. He had his greatest commercial success and popularity from the late 1980s until the mid-1990s. Remembered for a rapid rise to fame before losing the majority of his fortune, Hammer is also known for his records, flamboyant dance movements and trademark Hammer pants. Hammer's superstar-status made him a household name and pop icon.

Hammer also became a preacher during the late 1990s, was a television show host and dance judge, is a record label CEO, and as of 2008 works as a co-creator of a dance website called DanceJam, while still performing concerts at music venues and assisting with other social media, ministry and outreach functions. Hammer is considered a forefather and innovator of pop rap, and was the first hip hop artist to achieve diamond status for an album. Hammer was later considered a sell-out rapper due in part to over-exposure and as a result of his increasingly gritty image as the landscape of rap changed.

As a youngster, Hammer sold stray baseballs and danced with a beatbox at the Oakland Coliseum parking lot to earn money for games sometimes. Oakland A's team owner Charles O. Finley saw the 11-year-old doing splits and hired him as a clubhouse assistant and batboy as a result of his energy and flair. He received the nickname “Hammer” because he looked like “Hammering” Hank Aaron.

Billing himself as “M.C. Hammer,” he recorded his debut album, “Feel My Power,” which was produced between 1986 and 1987 and released independently in 1987 on his Oaktown Records label Bustin’. It was produced by Felton Pilate of Con Funk Shun. Soon after, he signed with Capitol Records.

Once signed to Capitol Records, Hammer re-issued his first record (a revised version of “Feel My Power”) with additional tracks added and sold over 2 million copies. “Pump It Up,” “Turn This Mutha Out,” “Let's Get It Started” and “They Put Me in the Mix” were the most popular singles from this album which all charted. But not quite satisfied with this first multi-platinum success, Hammer's music underwent a metamorphosis, shifting from the standard rap format in his upcoming album.

Hammer’s third album “Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em,” was released in February. It included the successful single “U Can't Touch This” (which sampled Rick James' “Super Freak”). It was produced, recorded, and mixed by Felton Pilate and James Earley on a modified tour bus while on tour in 1989. Despite heavy airplay and a #27 chart debut, “U Can't Touch This” stopped at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, the album was a #1 success for 21 weeks, due primarily to this single, the first time ever for a rap recording on the pop charts. Follow-up successes included “Have You Seen Her” (a cover of the Chi-Lites) and “Pray” which was his biggest it in the U.S., peaking at #2. The album went on to become the first hip-hop album to earn diamond status, selling more than 18 million units to date. The album was notable for sampling other high-profile artists and gave some of these artists a new fanbase.

After publicly dropping the “M.C.” from his stage name, Hammer released “Too Legit to Quit” in 1991. Hammer answered his critics within certain songs from the album. Sales were strong, with the title track being the biggest hit single from this record, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album peaked in the Top 5 of the Billboard 200 Albums chart. Another hit came soon after, with “Addams Groove,” which appeared on both “The Addams Family” motion picture soundtrack and the vinyl and cassette versions of ‘2 Legit 2 Quit,” reaching #7 in the U.S.

In 1993, Hammer began recording his fifth official album. To adapt to the changing landscape of hip-hop, this album was a more aggressive sounding album entitled “The Funky Headhunter.” He co-produced this record with funky rapper and producer, Stefan Adamek. This harder-edged, more aggressive record went gold, but failed to win him a new audience among hardcore hip-hop fans.

In 1995, Hammer released the album “V Inside Out,” which critics claimed was unfocused, as it was unclear if the genre was pop or rap. The album sold poorly, peaking at #119 on the Billboard 200.

Hammer signed with Death Row Records, then home to Snoop Dogg and his close friend, Tupac Shakur. The label did not release any of Hammer's solo music while he was signed with them. However, Hammer did record tracks with Shakur and others, most notably the song “Too Late Playa.” After the death of Shakur in 1996, Hammer left the record company.

In 1996, Hammer and Oaktown signed with EMI, and saw the release of a compilation of Hammer's chart topping songs prior to “The Funky Headhunter” album. The album, “Greatest Hits,” featured 12 former hits. Since then, several compilation album versions of his “greatest hits” have been produced.

In 1998, Hammer released his first album in his new deal with EMI, titled “Family Affair,” because it was to introduce the world to the artists he had signed to his Oaktown Records as they made their recording debut. The record was highly promoted on Trinity Broadcasting Network but featured no charting singles.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Hammer released his studio album, “Active Duty,” on his own World Hit Music Group label to pay homage to the ones lost in the terrorist attacks. The album followed that theme, and featured two singles, “No Stoppin' Us (USA)” and “Pop Yo Collar” (featuring Wee Wee). The album, like its predecessor, failed to chart and would not sell as many copies as previous projects.

After leaving Capitol Records and EMI for the second time in his career, Hammer decided to move his Oaktown imprint to an independent distributor and released his ninth studio album, “Full Blast,” which was completed in late 2003 and released as a complete album in early 2004. The album would feature no charting singles and was not certified by the RIAA.

After going independent, he decided to create a digital label to release his tenth studio album, “Look Look Look.” The album was released in February 2006 and featured production from Scott Storch. The album featured the title-track single “Look Look Look" and would sell much better than his previous release.

Hammer released a new track “See Her Face (She Got It)” in February 2011 via Flipboard and world premiered during an episode of “Oprah.”

To date, Hammer has sold more than 50 million records worldwide. He has won three Grammy Awards for Best Rhythm and Blues Song (1990), Best Rap Solo (1990) and Best Music Video: Long Form (1990).