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MC Hammer: Still Hurtin' 'Em

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 9:10 AM | 2 comments

History has finally vindicated MC Hammer. The rapper holds the honor of being one of the top selling artists in history (Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em was Hip-Hop's first diamond-selling album). He's got an indelible, enduring fashion status that continues to march through the decades (Hammer Pants live). Hammer's even got hits that can rock any party, anywhere if you put them on ("Cant' Touch This").

Fast Forward to present day. Hammer is an icon. He's got almost 2 million followers on Twitter. He a pioneer in technology (dancejam.com), business (equity stake in Cash4Gold) and social media. He even has a reality show (Hammertime) that's introduced him to a totally new market and a record label rooted in the internet. And everything that he ever was is coming back like it never left. The laugh laugh was never so respectful as Hammer (nee Stanley Burrell) remains humble.

AllHipHop and Hammer hold conversation as he scuttles about New York...handing business.

AllHipHop.com: I have to ask you about when you stood up to New York on "Turn This Mutha Out." and then what happened after that with Run DMC, 3rd Bass and things of that nature? From a Hip Hop competitive stand point, to call New York out at that point in the late 80's and 90's was very gutsy and surprising to say the least.

MC Hammer: You have to understand, there has always been a difference between the perception and the reality of who I am. It has always been that way. That's just the way it is. Because I chose to be positive, get my groove on. But as you just stated, you have to keep in mind that it has never been done before. I didn't say, "Here comes me and 10,000 people or me and my crew coming." I had an issue myself because one I respected where the art form was coming from and I wanted that stamp of approval from where the artist was coming from. New York at that particular time was all of Hip Hop. The other places where we was doing Hip Hop, we were trying to get in and get our issue.

So my thing was first of all, I flew out on a plane by myself- '86 went to the Latin Quarters (historic New York club), there was a lot of cats in Hip-Hop that been around that all. I jumped up on stage by myself and said, "I'm MC Hammer" and put my record on "Go Hammer go Hammer go." I went- by myself. When I went back after I started releasing some singles, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't being embraced just yet by the market that I want that respect from. Everything in life when you want respect- I don't care if it's music, sports, whatever it is, you want to go against the best, you want to go against whoever it is at the top.

From my perspective, I'm doing good, I'm hitting hard in Dallas, I'm hitting hard in Cleveland, I'm hitting hard in Chicago, Miami, but they still saying I ain't hitting in New York. Well that's a problem. So I'm going to address that and I did it in a way where it wasn't disrespectful. I'm trying to get ya'll attention so I can come up here and let the people in New York know "It's Hammer time." So that's what that's all about. I had to figure out a way to come in and carve out my niche in this area where I wanted to gain that respect and that validation from. Subsequently down the road, just in New York alone, on one of my albums I sold 1.8- almost 2 million records just in New York without even going anywhere else. So the point of strategy worked. Play a little chess you know.

AllHipHop.com: I heard 3rd Bass had some problems when they came out to Cali.

MC Hammer: It's just ironic that even today- 20 years later, the [MC] Serch cat, he wants his claim to fame to be "I'm telling you Hammer was going to have me putting the dirt somewhere." That's ridiculous. It's ridiculous that you want that to be your claim to fame. But when you only sold about 300,000 something records, you have to grab something. So the only conversation that man can really have with me is to say he was really going to do something to me one time. But other than you can't even say anything because... 300,000 records? Even now, you still ain't even go wood today- you're under gold so the only thing I can say is wood. Even 20 years later you still really can't address me. The conversation we have is only because he can come talk to you as you gon' do an interview but relevantly speaking the groups that I've created sold more records than him. All of them. Oaktown's 357. B. Angie B. Sold more records than that cat. It's the only time I've addressed it and it's going to be the last time I addressed it. It's ridiculous. I didn't know who that dude was. Put your foot in your mouth, said a couple of things, you let your smooth taste fool you, you thought the running man was more than a dance, whatever it was and I addressed it the way I always address it with any and everybody historically. Just addressed it and kept it moving. That's all.


AllHipHop.com: You mentioned sales. You are the firs rap artist to go diamond [10 million sales]. What are your thoughts on the state of the industry now? Sales are very shaky now and diamond sales are a thing of the past pretty much- for any artist just not Hip Hop.

MC Hammer: The price point of music is not correct relevant to the system. We need to adjust that because the cats who actually control this business are going in the wrong direction. If everybody is seeing music is assemble, they can download it for free or whatever the case is, how are we going to raise the price? We have to keep a hustler's mentality with this, we don't even have to get all complex. The product's price... man keys are going for less now. They're going to get you customers. It's the same thing here. The price should be going the other way.

If we let them continue to dictate the terms ain't nobody really going to make any paper. So it's time to make an adjustment and I"m going to participate with a few people in trying to re-adjust the model. That's the bottom line. To make it more in line with 2010, 2011. You should be able to get X amount of records for X amount is price. I also want to help people to get in album mentality again and move them away from just the single mentality. It's just not price points, but the quality in the product is going to help dictate that. So that's my thoughts on that.

AllHipHop.com: From what I understand you have a label now, correct?

MC Hammer: It's a social media driven label so the whole concept was before there was a Facebook, before there even was a YouTube. I used to go and meet with certain individuals to say "I want to build a community around the music it's self." So take a music product and build a community as we know today around the content of a song. So if you have a song about whatever it is, then build a conversation and a community around that song, make the interface friendly, grow that community and then serve the people the music at the right price point. So I've been trying to do that for about 5 or 6 years. That's why I got ahead of the curve on social media because I was trying to figure this out. I saw the direction we were going in and I realized that we needed to make some adjustments.

AllHipHop.com: What are thoughts on skinny jeans being that your Hammer pants were super baggy?

MC Hammer: Skinny Jeans (laughs). My thoughts on skinny jeans are you can wear whatever jeans you want to. I'm not a follower like that. I might have on my baggy jeans today and I'll have on skinny jeans tomorrow- I do me. Cats don't dictate what I wear and what somebody else should wear. So whatever you want to wear, do you. I wear everything. It's according to how I feel. If I want to have on some skinny jeans, I'll put them on. Fat jeans, I'll put them on. I'm not attacking anybody based on their exterior because I'm really about what's in your heart. I don't care how you dress yourself up, do you.

AllHipHop.com: I asked you that because the commercial you guys had was hilarious.

MC Hammer: Yeah we're poking fun, we're poking fun. We're not clowning skinny jeans, we're just having fun with that on that commercial. I have some straight leg skinny jeans myself. But no doubt I love all jeans. I like them both.

AllHipHop.com: Everybody wants to go pop now it's across the board now for the most part. Those that don't are probably in a funny predicament from a sales and even fan base stand point. From a historical stand point, how do you feel about that? Do you feel vindicated in some way?

MC Hammer: I would say that's the beauty of time. If we are granted time things seem to work them self out. The time allowed them to work them self out. You didn't see me and haven't seen me in any interviews historically saying "Oh I was right." Man I don't have time for all that. Even from my perspective, it is what it is. The fact is that early on I thought it would be important to diversify. I thought it would be important that if you have the opportunity to do other things outside your core, in other words, instead of just saying "I'm only getting the best dollar right here from this", instead of letting the label and others get all the dollars everything else and only leaving the artist a dollar, and they're walking away with 9 or 10, taking endorsement money, taking the tour support money, and leaving you saying you don't participate in that stream, but you old. So early on, I diversified. I got involved with endorsement deals, cartoons, toys- everything that I could because I realized that it's my brand, my music, my marketing and promotion that's creating the value for someone else to get that revenue. So why not me get it myself?

Early on, there was a lot of talk about that but it was more about envy and jealously more than anything. It wasn't every cat wanted to make as much paper as they can, but it was Hammer versus four different marketing machines. Keep in mind, I'm on one label. There were four other labels at that time trying to get their artist to number one or make a impact big enough to make it on that level. Keep in mind that one of my albums went number one in January. If you understand this you'll really get what I'm saying here. My album went number one in January and then in July, I was still number one. So six months plus a cat had to go every Tuesday and report to his boss. From all the other labels, from all the other marketing budgets. So it's me, my team, and my marketing budget against four other marketing budgets- literally millions of dollars. "How do we dislodge Hammer from number one? I have some paper, I have some paper. I'm buying ads." Let's say AllHipHop is a physical magazine, I'm buying a whole lot of ads at AllHipHop. "Come on Chuck I'll buy an extra page when you review Hammer's record and say it's hot and the momentum has changed."

So I had to go against four machines at one time because of the impact that I was making. So naturally some of things they would point out was like "You know what, dude's a sell out and get that money." He literally repeated that and said "Yeah he's a sell out for getting money." Then we know down the road cats were saying "Man getting money, that's called ballin'." And then the rest of history. You'll never hear me cry or none of that about it, but when we talk about it. You have to understand in it's proper perspective it wasn't nothing but some envy and some hate. A lot of hate. I wasn't never really mad about it. I understood it when you get on top, you're going to be the champ. You have to deal with all the dudes who want the belt. Even if their employees or they work on the staff, they still have to answer because if they can't get the belt then they're going to lose their jobs. So how are you going to keep explaining every week? I caused a lot of cats a lot of problems and I enjoyed that too by the way.

AllHipHop.com: So a lot of people forget where your hustle game started, they just see the end result of what it was. Can you speak on that just a little bit?

MC Hammer: The whole get down started in my trunk, pressing my own records, riding to LA, getting into the clubs, dealing with KDAY (Los Angeles radio station that was first to play Hip-Hop), (DJ) Greg Mack back then and the whole Get Down and really trying to create the buzz necessary to make records sell.

AllHipHop.com: A lot of people talk about grinding is there any way to sort of grind backwards? Can the hustle work against you?

MC Hammer: Can a hustle work against you? Only to the extent of your success. I never met 50 [Cent]. All this time we've passed, we haven't really crossed. He would be the perfect example of a cat who hustles- I have a lot of respect for him all the way around. When I do see him I'm going to say it him. I have respect for his hustle. He's not overrated, but even after all his success, he's underrated. I study people in the game. 50 is a smart cat. As a man who understands his Hip-Hop, the sport that this is, and the business that this is, I'm not talking bout the one thing that everybody would say he took the stock in Vitamin Water. That was obviously a good move, but 50 made a lot of good moves before that and after that. This game is really complex and the inter workings of this game is not necessarily for public consumption. When I see a young cat like 50 and I watch him make his moves and I watch him survive, I have to say I respect his hustle. The only time the hustle works against you means you're winning. There ain't no grinding backwards and losing. The only way we can say that is that you're so much on top, here they come. The champ has to defend the throne. Somebody wants the belt, but that doesn't mean you have to give it to them. You have to keep grinding. You have to keep reinventing and you have to stay sharp.

This game can drain you. You have to stay sharp.

AllHipHop.com: You were primarily a positive Hip Hop artist. What are thoughts on Hip Hop now? You gave up a little bit of everything, but for the most part positive with songs like "Pray."

MC Hammer: I did songs like "Pray" because that's who I am. Cats Whoodni, LL [Cool J], they'll tell you that they knew me as the holy ghost boy before I was MC Hammer. In the midst of my life in Oakland, in the middle of all that hell, I always wanted a piece of heaven so I believe in God, Jesus and the power of prayer. I don't believe that no man, no style of music, no movie can ever get me to bow down and say I don't. If I want to make a record and say "We have to pray," I say from my perspective. "What are you going to do about it? I'm going to do a record called 'Pray' and I'm going to put on a robe and have people from the choir. If you have a problem with it, see me after the song and I'll see you outside. I'll get down with you then pray for you."

That's how it went. I just didn't say this is what I do. This s what I've actually done. So those records came as I reflection of the spirit man of my heart. I think that there has been other artist who have done some similar things. Tupac would make a song that might be abrasive while making a point, and turn around and say "Dear Mama" or "I shed so many tears." So To have these contrasting emotions from a public stand point, they're real because nobody is in one mood all day long. There are some people who are atheist and don't believe in God and that's alright as long as that's your belief. If you wanted to express that in a record, that's your right. Nobody really has the right to say that you can't express it.

It's a great opportunity right now, for a rapper, an artist, a movement to come along that will address the pain of the nation. Cats that are going to address with those clever rhymes, great hooks and melodies that are going to express what the world is going through- in particular with losses of jobs, foreclosures, a perspective on life, romance, fathers, death, incarceration. Done in a way that's clever. The game is in a severe decline. They can pull the cord on the game right now. Music ain't gon' never stop- of course we gonna keep making music and it's gonna be out there. But if the business model doesn't exist, what is it? What do we have? Because this is just business. These cats aren't going to support what we do as a art form if they can't make any money off of this. Let's increase the creativity.

AllHipHop.com: We have a running serious where it's the Top 5 Dead or Alive rappers. Can you give us your top five, do you have a top five?

MC Hammer: I don't really have a top 5. What I'll say is the number one and the number two spots for me personally- every time I hear a song from Pac it goes right to my heart. That's gonna always be number one. When I hear Biggie [The Notorious B.I.G.] spit, I can never deny that man's metaphors and delivery and it's crazy. So if there is a one and a two, there it goes right there. The rest of the cats, I respect everybody. There's some cats with some lyrics, but there's also some cats out there who didn't sell a lot of records, who could be on that same list. So when we same Top 5, we're really saying Top 5 cats who had visibility, marketing opportunity to be heard. You know there's a lot of factors that go into that. I keep mines at that top two right there. I'm West Side for life.

AllHipHop.com: Did you have any influences in Hip Hop? You were always in a vacuum as far as what your style was like- lyrically and the way you dressed. Obviously James Brown...

MC Hammer: There you go. You also know that early on, if you can remember Grand Master Flash and Melly Mel- the way they dressed, very flamboyant. It's funny how cats that came after cats who laid it down first try to tell them how they should have dressed before they even got there. It's ridiculous, it's nonsense. When I came along, I already seen Grand Master Flash and Melle Mel. I flew to New York myself and literally walked the streets with Melle Mel. He saw me at the Latin Quarters and yelled out to me in The Marriott, "Go Hammer, go Hammer go!" I went over to him and said "What's up Mel" and he said "Man I was Latin Quarters last night and that thing you were doing that 'Go Hammer go Hammer.' Man If that market that right you can be big man." I was so gassed up behind that, but what I was saying is they had a flamboyant style- they dressed a lot like Parliament Funkadelic. I'm a showman.

So I was definitely influenced by the freedom, the way they dress, and to be honest- because I approached it a little differently at the time and I was trying to make my mark, but I would not be who I am if Run DMC wasn't one of my greatest influences. I hate to say this because he's not even that far away from me but LL Cool J- that's my man. That cat used to inspire me because keep in mind, he didn't talk about killing anybody, but he was hard without saying he had to kill anyone. Without him saying in his lyrics that he has to kill anybody, he was aggressive and he had that fire. I can feel him. So LL and Run DMC were some of my greatest influences. There's a whole other group of cats that I balled inspiration from just by the way they carry their self, their swagger. Whoodni's swagger was second to none. Them cats put on some leather, tilted them hats to the side, and got at them women. I subsequently made records like "Have You Seen Her" and all that because they already paved the road saying you can be romantic with this here. So there's a lot of cats that I balled different abilities from.

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MC Hammer will aways be one of my favorite emcees. He flow might have been rough from time to time. In recent years he might choose some ?uestionable production, but his easily one of the smartest, down to earth, and nices guys in Hip-Hop. His energy, showmanship, and lyrics are all his own. Thanks for posting this interview.

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MC Hammer was an Entertainer, the guy used to give it all in the stage every single time! But he isnt the one to be talking about saving the Genre. Well, every little bit helps, thats true, but cmon..

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MC Hammer is a more versatile artist than most of today's rappers so I think he has the right to give advice to save the industry, what he's basically saying is that you have to do more than one thing to be successful and I agree with that, he paid his dues and he deserves some credit for that, he was more than just the "U Can't Touch This" rapper image with the baggy pants that he's been labeled with, he was the total package when it comes to performing, having creative videos, and being versatile with his music, he talks about many different things in his songs on his albums just like Will does, even Boyz II Men credit him for them working on becoming better artists when they would tour with him in the 90s....

Edited by bigted
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I had this incredibly long reply but the power went out and I certainly don't have the time to type it out again. But the overall point I wanted 2 share is that MC Hammer was never a "single" rapper. He definitely was about full albums. His 1st was loaded with singles. Let's Get It Started and Turm This Mutha Out were HUGE. They Put Me In The Mix and Ring 'Em are west coast Hip-Hop classics. Not 2 mention The Thrill Is Gone and Feel My Power. Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em had a TONS of hits...U Can't Touch This, Here Comes The Hammer, Pray, Have U Seen Her, Dancin' Machine, and Help The Children. Too Legit To Quit had 2 Legit 2 Quit, Addam's Groove, This Is The Way We Roll, Do Not Pass Me By, Good To Go, and Gaining Momentum. Even with The Funky Headhunter he had It's All Good, Pumps And A Bump, and Don't Stop. Each album had it's own vibe.

I have always believed in the album. A handful of songs created in a certain time frame...all different, but created together for one purpose. A team of producers, the thank u's, the credits, that photography and art...it's all part of the album. Look at today's commercial rappers. They don't even last for an album. That have one hit single that sometimes is followed by another single or 2 that might get a little attention only for piggy backing their 1st single. But after that, they are gone. Young Joc. Hurricain Chris. J-Kwon. Where are these guys? Gone.

Think about Big Willie Style. That album screams Fresh Prince for 1997-1998. To fans like us, the pictures from that era, the sound of the album, etc. That stuff is iconic in our minds because FP works on making good albums...not hit singles. That's why Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em and Big Willie Style sold over 10 million albums and every Hip-Hop fan knows about them...even if they don't like Fresh Prince or MC Hammer.

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Well said AJ

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