MC Hammer: Hip-Hop's Biggest Seller Talks Michael Jackson, James Brown And The Impact Of The Bay!
(AllHipHop Features) It is hard to fathom the impact of MC Hammer. The entertainer, born Stanley Burrell, was born to shake up the world and that is exactly what he has done. One of Hip-Hop's eternal top-selling artists, Hammer managed to push millions of physical units when most rappers were struggling to sell gold. His 1990 album, P.lease Hammer Don't Hurt Em, alone has sold upwards of 18 million units. MC Hammer continues to be an icon and he's reuniting with two other seminal urban groups, Tony! Toni! Toné! and Digital Underground. The acts and more will convene at the 'Bay Area Reunion' Concert on Thanksgiving Eve, November 27, 2019. (Click here for tickets)
In this 2-part edited interview, Chuck Creekmur talks to the man about new music, a new movie on his life, working with incomparable legends, challenging Micheal Jackson and what MJ really told him they should do.
AllHipHop: First of all this reunion show with Tony! Toni! Toné! it sounds incredible. How do you feel about that?
MC Hammer: Well, I mean the whole idea was, to celebrate, you know, where we from - celebrate Oakland, celebrate Bay Area with a focus on the East Bay and the contribution to the industry and entertainment that comes out of out of Oakland. And so this reunion of brothers. We all came up together. We came up at the same time, so it's not just the one reunion, but it's the reunion of the sound and the soul of the town, you know, and, and so all that is happening.
AllHipHop: It's interesting because the Bay is very special. It's very unique and a lot of people, especially from the East coast would lump you guys together, not really understanding the dynamics. Can you talk about what's special about the Bay?
MC Hammer: The Bay is the whole region that covers everything. You can cover everything going all the way up to Vallejo all the way down to the cities, San Francisco, San Jose. All this encompasses the Bay Area, Oakland obviously, Within the Bay area, you've got The Town, and you got Oakland. And specifically, our life, our music, our history, everything from going all the way back to the Pullman Porters to activism, to the Black Panthers, to our musical legacy, to music being as popular, live bands being as popular in the 70s as basketball. Every house had somebody in the house to play guitar, played the drums, played the piano in they household. It was big. And so all of those elements I just named to you, in Oakland, that was, that was our lifestyle. We have a unique experience that even if you might be from the Bay Area, you didn't have an Oakland experience, it's a little bit different. And so we love the Bay and we are located in the Bay, but we are specifically The Town, Oakland.
AllHipHop: I went to Oakland for the first time last year. I was told there have been a lot of changes there. What might those changes be? Actually most cities have a lot of changes going on, but let's specifically with Oakland.
MC Hammer: So what you just said was most cities have a change going on. That's the reality of the country. It's changing. Change is happening in every major city through the expansion of the tech business. And in many cases some businesses that have left the country whether it's the auto industry. All that is changing the culture and new business is coming. And with that new business comes new people and the economic dynamics change. And so the ethnicity and the culture of these cities and we not excluded from that change. The demographics over the past 20 years in Oakland has changed just like a lot of cities throughout the country.
AllHipHop: For this particular event, I see several legendaries from the area are going to be there. Who else would be there? I know obviously Tony Toni Tone, who else.
MC Hammer: Digital Underground. They are bringing their unique funk and party that comes with them. And again, the culture of The Town. And obviously some surprises. But it is a celebration of the Bay area. It is a celebration of Oakland and the East Bay. And so you don't know who will pop up, but we got a lot of people who have come through these doors and through this experience and we got that unique sound that unique swag, that unique dance, everything that makes us and that unique lens on life that comes with being from Oakland.
AllHipHop: Now, one thing I've always appreciated about you is that you have pioneered a lot and you have almost always been ahead of the curve. What would you say right now your legacy is?
MC Hammer: I'm not the right person to frame my legacy, my legacy. It's better if you were to say what my legacy is, then if better said by you, because now we, we got hindsight as a lens. And so with that lens, it's right there in plain view. But I don't wanna I don't want to be the one to articulate at this time, I'm not going to articulate it. I'm very comfortable and very proud of the things that I pioneered and the doors that I opened. I've got my own quote, "leaders lead and different ain't the same" And so you know, from my beginning I wanted to be a leader and I wanted to be different and I, I've been able to accomplish that well, my career in every aspect.
AllHipHop: Are you still into the technology game?
MC Hammer: Deeply. Which will be another thing that you could speak to. I started 20 years ago. I don't want to go into that, but you, yeah, I'll leave that for you to put that in with however you write and you can do all, that cause it's all there. That's what I'm saying. We talk about any element of what my legacy is from all aspects, you know, it and pretty much everybody knows it at this point.
AllHipHop: I personally like where Hip-Hop is right now, but what are your thoughts on it since to this day, have the record for the most selling Hip-Hop album of all time with Please Hammer Don't Hurt Em where we are now. Streaming is very popular. The labels are now fully recovered I would say, well, maybe not fully, but they've recovered a lot within the last decade from downloads and streaming. Now they're really making money again.
MC Hammer: I love the truthfulness and the transparency of the artist is I said earlier, so I'm thinking artistically we in a good place because the artists say who they are and what they about and they make their songs. And I like a lot of artists because I like truthfulness. I like the transparency and the truthfulness in the art. Right? Business is in a good place, but it's a science. It's a science from an artist standpoint on how to best leverage the current business. And day to day. You have to continue to fine-tune your business model, right? Both artistically and the business of music is in a good place right now and the opportunities that are good.
AllHipHop: Are you are still proud of still having the album sales record with Please Hammer Don't Hurt Em?
MC Hammer: I'm extremely proud of it. Especially proud of the way it was done. The timeliness of it. the fact that w when we say even in American when we say the album with selling diamond, we talking about in a real album cycle. And that you would have to explain to your readers what an album cycle is, but you are talking about from the time it came out and then 18 months later in the life of an album is no more than 24 months max. But because you have enough hit records and videos and tours around that, when you complete that one cycle to, to sell 10 million in a cycle in the one album cycle, Not over many years. We are extremely proud of that. From the video to the dancers, to the marketing, to the radio, to the management, to the community that it represented to the topics that I covered. You are talking about at the height of the crack era, to be able to, to have songs like "Help The Children," "We Got To Pray" and "Black is Black," you see that I've covered a lot of subjects in my unique fashion. Collectively now over time, 400 or 500 million people what I had to say.
I'm proud of the underlining production and artists that I chose to do the collaboration with from the sampling standpoint too, speaking with those artists to telling them how much I was inspired by their music. So if you look at Please Hammer Don't Hurt Em, you'll find that James Brown, Rick James, The Chi-lites, Prince, the Jackson 5, Barry White. You look at what I did and the way I did it, I took the most soulful artists in the history of R&B and soul music and put a twist on it and gave it a whole different spin, but still kept alive the soulfulness.
Rick James, the Chilites, James Brown, Barry White, Earth, Wind & Fire. I took the most soulful artists in the history of soul music. Black music took my glow machine ll the beats myself, produced all the beats, took my drum machine and laced it and got my DJ Lone Mixer we shot sliced, both and this what "Hammer Time" is, this is what Please Hammer Don't Hurt Em is and made that into pop music.
AllHipHop: That's, that's amazing now that you just broke it down. We can't fathom that in this present day. Maybe certain artists might be able to pull that off, but very few and most would be in the 40-years old and up crew if they tried, which most wouldn't if they tried.
MC Hammer: My relationships with the artists because I did the fusion or collaboration with them, the effect it had on their lives., The thank you I got from the Chilites. "We appreciate man, we got a check for $800,000, you know what that did for us?" Earth, Wind & Fire called me when they was praying one day at a live show we did together. And they said, Hammer, can you come pray with us? They said we want you to know, at the time we got to check from you cover our song, we got a check for $1 million. We were broken up as a group and time. We put the band back together with that million dollars and we'd been on tour ever since. It's 15 years now Hammer, so we just want you to pray with us and we want to take, thank you.
Being able to, you know form a relationship the Godfather of Soul (James Brown), an intimate friendship and relationship and at the end of the day, when he went home to heaven before I could even get there, I got there a day later, but it was all laid out for me to make sure that Hammer to enter into my home, my house. Those friendships and relationships that came from, Please Hammer Don't Hurt Em, to 2 Legit 2 Quit, to other things that I did with the godfather. For Rick to say, man, thank you Hammer..watch this, I'm in about $10 million now. I don't know what to say, man, but thank you. So the relationship, the effect. That's my real answer to you. Am I proud, man? I couldn't be prouder. I couldn't be prouder.
And when you feel performing in 2020, especially the way we gonna treat that even now at the Oracle. I'm going deeper into the Please Hammer Don't Hurt Em next year on that celebration (30-year celebration).
AllHipHop: I remember you infamously challenged Michael Jackson to a dance-off almost. It's almost audacious to even think that somebody's challenging Michael Jackson to a dance-off. I mean, that's pretty cocky. I have to say.
MC Hammer: There was a lot of business that, and me and Michael was excited about it. Somebody just tweeted about it and they were talking about how Michael's camp was trying to figure out how we can make this happen. Not as a dance-off, cause that's not the conversation me and Michael had. I put that out there for public consumption. What I was getting at is the world's greatest tour ever. Michael Jackson and MC Hammer, "Whose Bad?"
This is what Michael and I had a great discussion about and we were trying to figure out how to make it happen. , I made it clear to the public he's always been one of my biggest inspirations ever. Him and the Godfather of Soul. The whole thing was if I say I'm challenging Michael to a dance-off we might just see how much interest we can generate for this tour. I said Michael you know who's bad? Me and you, cause we gonna have all the, all the money. He keeps me busy. You never know. I think other than Michael, we can never lose.
Can I tell you got to tell you what Mike was telling me was? He said, "I like it Hammer, but it can't be Hammer versus Michael. See, we can't never be against each other." I say "you, right Mike, you right."
AllHipHop: People want to know about you and new music and some have specifically mentioned gospel music. If that is still in your arsenal of music that you're putting out?
MC Hammer: The new album, it's called Scars Over Bars. And I deal with a lot. And so in its totality, it will cover a lot of current events and things that are going on and positioning everything. We gonna always be able to dance and party in groove off Hammer music together. That's my soul. But we will deal with how do we get through issues when mental health is an issue? How do we get through pain, so it was other things that I've covered throughout this, throughout the project that the totality of a man or a woman or human being. As a culture and the people as well. So is there, it's all there. I'm going to drop it in in the first quarter, but I'm going to start leaking out music from it as early as next month. Okay. All right. [inaudible] Okay.
AllHipHop: There was a movie about you in my think the early 2000's. I don't know if you had anything to do with it, that was so long ago. But I was wondering if you were with would consider another one that spoke in a more modern fashion to your story.
MC Hammer: That was 20 years ago. And I did have a lot to do with, I was one of the executive producers on that. Without going into detail, I feel like man, if they willing to call this a life story at this point that good. Cause I'm going to get about two or three more of these. So the answer to your question is I didn't want to do it is a new trend as a trend right now, right? Because that is the trend, right? However, because of the things I've been doing on the business side in Hollywood and the film industry right now and the relationships that I have the best way to say it is, is I now have a very deep and personal relationship with a director that I love.
Telling my story and it would all the layers and the depth of my story with him, that's very interesting to me because of the type of filmmaker that he is and the approach. And knows the culture of this area extremely well. And I'm being coy cause I don't want to name his name like that cause that's not the thing to do. But I'm saying I will place the life story in his hands.
AllHipHop: Any last words you have for the people on this momentous event celebrating Oakland and the Bay?
MC Hammer: I just want to say it's once in a lifetime. I last played the Oracle (now called the Oakland Arena) probably 20 something years ago. There's a chance we won't ever get to do this again. Come celebrate the moment and everybody else around you in the entire Bay. We just want to celebrate that right now and love each other. That's what we want to do.