"Mainly my peers. They never say anything (negative) to me, of course; they would say it to magazines and newspapers. Sure, there were naysayers, but that was because they knew in their hearts that once this was presented, theirs would be a lost art form, as far as their presentation. I mean, if you can see Hammer and his production, why would you want to see one guy walking back and forth, side to side?"
Hammer's desire to take possession of the hardest-working-man-in-show-business belt developed from modeling himself in large part on the man who owned the title--soul legend James Brown, who was "relentless in his entertaining, giving you everything he had. That's what I like to do. James put on the big shows, the well-thought out shows, the big productions, and I do the same. I would have to say that there are a lot of parallels between the two of us."
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday March 24, 1991 Home Edition Calendar Page 95 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 17 words Type of Material: Correction
Photographer's name--Lori Stoll's name was misspelled in the credit for her cover photograph of M.C. Hammer last Sunday.
As a preschooler, young Stanley Kirk Burrell used to watch Brown on TV and mirror him, draping himself in a sheet as the nearest possible replica of Brown's exit cape.
The Burrell family--both parents and seven children including the youngest, Stanley Kirk--lived on welfare, so commerciality as well as art necessarily figured into any musical plans. Recalls brother Louis Burrell, Hammer's manager and the president of his record company, "Hammer has always worked with me, 'me' being one of his older brothers, we were always trying to find things to do together to try to earn money. The determination has \o7 always\f7 been there."
The "Hammer" tag was bestowed during his tenure as batboy with the Oakland A's, one of whom likened his looks to those of legendary ballplayer Hammerin' Hank Aaron. Many years later, in starting up Bust It Records, the budding entrepreneur leaned on these connections to borrow $20,000 each from A's outfielders Mike Davis and Dwayne Murphy--an investment that, after Hammer's rapid rise and allegedly slow repayment, led to bitter accusations, a lawsuit and finally an out-of-court settlement this year.
After dropping out of college, Hammer spent three years in the Navy, where his instincts for self-discipline--the carefully controlled tight ship of his massive touring company is well known--became cemented.
Once out of the service, Hammer took up both Bible study and rap with dual fervor, and with a friend formed a short-lived gospel-rap duo, the Holy Ghost Boys. Isolated Christian anthems--such as the catchy, devout "Pray," a surprise Top 5 hit last year--still show up in his repertoire, which is otherwise chock full of typical rap boastfulness and a smattering of sex and pro-community social concern.
"I'm one to know without a doubt, the music business is fine and a 9-to-5 job is fine and watching the news is fine and dandy. But when it all comes down to bottom-line factors, I know that God is the answer, and I believe that prayer can change things," he declares.
Through prayer, perseverance, talent or just plain hustling, things did change for Hammer and in rapid succession.
Hammer sold his first single, "Ring 'Em," on the barely existent Bust It Records label, out of his car. A debut album, "Feel My Power," sold more than 50,000 copies out of the box, spectacular for a homegrown effort. Capitol Records picked it up and, with a few new tracks, re-released it as "Let's Get It Started." Remarkably, it went platinum--selling more than a million units.
Touring incessantly, Hammer recorded most of the follow-up, "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em," on the cheap and on the road--on a tour bus equipped with a studio. A third album is nearly done, recorded the same way, 13 tracks put down in the midst of the whirlwind "Don't Hurt 'Em" tour. It'll be out late this year or early in 1992, complete with an accompanying all-new image to confound the wanna-bes, he promises.
In the meantime, there's the day-to-day business of Bust It, which is now "in partnership" with Capitol. Two acts, Special Generation and Joey B. Ellis, have already achieved a measure of success, and Louis Burrell--the president of the label, to brother Hammer's chairman--promises that in less than a year, Bust It will be established as a "full-scope" label replete with heavy-metal and mainstream pop signings, not just hip-hop.
Bust It has offices in Los Angeles and New York, but the "corporate headquarters" remains in Oakland, where Hammer's black leather-filled office has a view of the Oakland Coliseum.
"Bust It/Capitol Records"--it's always referred to here as Bust It/Capitol, not just Bust It, the association with a corporation being of apparent great pride--"being in Oakland is an inspiration to the youth here," Burrell says. "Here's Kirk Burrell, here's Louis Burrell, they are from the streets of Oakland, they evolved into something. Being here enables us to build a legacy, something that someone down the road can be inspired by, and that's why it's very important for us to remain here in Oakland, to be an inspiration.