MC Hammer: Still Hurtin’ ‘Em

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 […]

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 (, 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. I have to ask you about when you stood up to New York on “Turn This M#### 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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


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.