memories of the ’80s – MC Hammer

Hanging around the baseball stadium and with a strong resemblance to Hank Aaron, little Stanley Kirk Burrell would be motivated to follow his dream and become one of the pioneers of rap and hip hop.

The young Burrell would re-sell stray baseballs in the parking lot of the Oakland A’s, putting on a show with dance and music.

His flair was noticed by the club, who soon hired him as a batboy, which he would do all through highschool years, soon becoming an announcer too.

Burrell was soon be compared to Aaron and nicknamed Hammer, as that was Aaron’s nickname. He tried to become a pro baseball player but after not making the cut, he entered the US Navy for three years.

After leaving the Navy, and doing shows around Oakland, CA and surviving a failed record deal, Burrell borrowed $20,000 from two former As players to start his own label Bust It Productions, to produce, record and distribute Oakland-grown rap artists.

Burrell had already started using the moniker MC Hammer, after going on the road with the Oakland As as a master of ceremonies. In 1986, he released his first album Feel My Power, and thanks to his and his wife’s efforts in doing all the marketing themselves, the album became a club hit in California.

Capitol Records pestered the performer until he signed with them. adding $1.75 million to the Bust It Productions budget and led to his first major album release, a revised edition of Feel My Power with additional tracks, selling two million copies.

Friends with Arsenio Hall, MC Hammer used his friend’s show as the platform to debut You Can’t Touch This, the first single from his third album in 1989. The album, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, was a reference to his put-downs about other rappers in his songs.

The song was recorded on a modified tour bus, while promoting his first big label release with production and recording by producers Felton Pilate and James Early. With the strength of the single You Can’t Touch This, the album roared up the Billboard charts and became the first rap song to crossover to the pop charts.

To date, this song has been used, covered, included in compilatons and soundtracks and is the best-selling rap song of all time.

As the decade turned to the 1990s, MC Hammer’s initial status was overshadowed by his pop culture popularity and the long line of detractors said he was a sell-out for his less than apparent hardcore songs. But its his dedication to his music that should be noted, for a kid who stood in a parking lot throwing out beats and selling baseballs.


About Waheeda Harris

A pop culture junkie with a penchant for exploring our planet.
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