They were pink with black stars, the midsection hung low, and the looseness allowed me to move freely and dance.
These were my one and only pair of classic “Hammer pants,” or rather, my only chance at being as as fly as the man who made them famous.
My brother still laughs when he recalls me dancing around the house, singing, “Uh-oh, uh-oh, you can’t touch this,” while trying to do the typewriter.
That’s the kind of effect Stanley “MC Hammer” Burrell had on the culture. Hammer’s style, signature moves and catchy hooks sparked lasting trends, and hits “U Can’t Touch This,” “Turn This Mutha Out,” the raunchy “Pumps and the Bumps,” and of course, “2 Legit 2 Quit” ruled the 1990s.
When performing, Hammer gave his all with non-stop dancing and outsized stadium shows. Because of this, it made sense that his third, and most popular, album was titled Hammer Don’t Hurt Him, because that’s exactly what he did every time he stepped on stage–Hammer killed it.
But Hammer’s influence stretched far beyond his stage show. There were also a few other characteristics that laid the blueprint of his diverse career: innovation, a heart for the community, and helping others. In the 1990s, the pinnacle of his career, Hammer’s staff and payroll included 40 people, many coming directly from his hometown.
The rapper and businessman attributes the foundation of his artistry and giving nature to his Oakland upbringing.
“Oakland has always been known as a socially active city. We’ve always been a village. I was literally raised by that village,” he tells EBONY.com. “I used to walk 8 miles from my house to the Oakland Coliseum and along that journey, I’d run into the dancers, the fighters, and the pretty girls. In the ‘70s there was a live band on every block. The music, dress and dance were the fabric of the city. So I took that, combined it with social activism, and brought that into the artist of MC Hammer and kept the people and community involved.”
Hammer’s career evolution has seen dark days, but it has been successfully revitalized through his love of technology and investing. Today, Hammer boasts an active social media base with of 3.6 million Twitter followers and 133K others who tune-in to his daily happenings on Instagram. Design has also played key roles in keeping his name afloat and his business mentality sharp.
Most recently, Hammer teamed up with Trulia for a unique design experience that allows people to create their own home search anthem. The partnership campaign, “Hammerfy Your Home,” enables the consumer–whether they are looking to buy, rent, or simply window shop–to have fun with their house hunt by turning their dream home into their own custom hip hop song and music video, performed by MC Hammer.
We caught up with Hammer and got the scoop on how he uses technology to build community, how he partnered with Trulia, and of course we had to get the goods on who he’s listening to these days.
EBONY.com: So you’ve partnered with the real estate site Trulia, what made this an ideal partnership for you and your brand?
MC Hammer: I’ve been in real estate for a long time and I always try to stay on the edge. I’m really excited about the partnership with Trulia because it’s centered around technology and the various social engagements it lends itself to. This is real estate going forward with a mobile and social application. It fits my profile and perspective. We collaborated on this idea and how to make this home shopping process fun, energizing and also provide entertainment and creativity. The idea is to look from a design standpoint and how you envision your dream home.
EBONY.com: You mentioned always working to stay on the cutting edge. You’ve been ahead of the curve for quite some time, especially when it comes to social media and being one of the first celebs to really jump onboard and use the platform. How do you strategically use social media to build community and product engagement?
MC Hammer: I actually went on lectures at Harvard, Stanford, Oxford and all the business schools eight years ago, explaining what the implications were and how the platforms could be powerful in creating the narrative of your brand and mobilizing your life so that you become humanized as well. I understood that and thought that was really empowering, not only to artists, but to brands as well and in general. The next two things in tech that I’m excited about is artificial intelligence and machine learning. I want to have an AI company. It’s under wraps right now, but coming soon.Technology is important because it creates the future. We’re able to be a part of the “next” and create things that don’t exist.
EBONY.com: Cool. Now you know I can’t speak to the Hammer and not talk music! Which artists have your attention these days?
MC Hammer: Haha! Right. There are a couple of artists. Drake because of the way he approaches his artistry. He’ll bring a certain vulnerability to his music. He’ll sing songs about him and his father, him and the love in his life, and that vulnerability he brings married to narrative in hip-hop resonates with a lot of people because he allows you to come inside. And his courage to be willing to be on top. It takes courage to be on top. I admire that.
Chance the Rapper: if you listen to his narrative and the subject matter he covers in his music, you can see that he’s strong, courageous and shows vulnerability. He asks some very poignant questions in his music and is still very melodic. The harmony and the melody of the music allows you to also come in closer.
I see Vic Mensa’s potential and where he’s going. Those three are in one category. In another category I like Beyoncé because of her tenacity and strength and for giving 1000 percent to her performances, which is a lost art these days. She’s cut from the cloth of some of us that really like to perform are cut from. I’m a big Beyoncé fan.
EBONY.com: Ok, pretty solid list. Do you see any of the trends you set in the late ’80s and ‘90s playing into the artistry of today?
MC Hammer: The great thing is anytime you see an artist that has a piece of what I’ve already done, you can see it from afar. ‘He’s doing that lil’ hammer right there’ – whether it’s the energy, the swag or the look – it’s a blessing. These last three years, if you watch the award shows, you’ll see variations of the hammer pants. It’s always cool to see that and then every now and then, you’ll see an artist who’s pushing the envelope and it may not be all the way there but you can see where it’s coming from. I’m always appreciative of seeing my influence.
EBONY.com: With the energy surrounding music as of late, are you planning to drop something new anytime soon?
MC Hammer: I’m really not turning loose just yet! (laughs) In a few weeks, I got a new song called “The Plug” and the hook says “I’m the plug/I’m connected to everything you love…
With Trulia and the dancing, I’m playing around until I give you the next project because I have too much respect for the art, performing and the music. Then I turn it up (laughs!) And you know I have my eye on everything that’s of the moment. All the dances, I can do everything that they’re currently doing but still keep it smooth. So, I really made it something you can dance to in the summer time but keep it comfortable. You’re going to be fly but you don’t have to sweat hard and at the same time the song is real sexy.