M.C. Hammer :: Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em :: Capitol Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

Stanley Kirk Burrell holds a unique place in hip-hop history as the first rapper to go diamond - selling more than ten million copies of just one album. Many of today's best-selling and most well respected hip-hop artists have gone gold with ease and platinum several times over, yet that diamond has stayed just out of reach. Shawn Carter has never been higher than 6X platinum with "The Blueprint." Tupac Shakur came close with "All Eyez on Me" at 9X platinum but also benefitted from the rule that double albums count twice, meaning 4.5 million or so copies of the album were sold. Kanye West has never gone diamond. Lil Wayne has never gone diamond. Even hip-hop legends and icons like LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C. have never gone diamond. Just who IS Stanley Kirk Burrell, the man who did what Lil Wayne and Kanye West have never done?

You know him better as M.C. Hammer. That's right - HAMMER.

Go ahead and laugh if you like, but M.C. Hammer paved the way for the success of a lot of other rappers today. In fact if you're in your 30's now think back to your high school days, and see if you don't remember dancing to "Here Comes the Hammer" at a party or having a copy of "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em" in the tape deck of your car stereo. These days people remember the parachute pants, the mockery by other rap artists of the day (even 3rd Bass made fun of him in a video) the silly "Addams Family" song and the failed attempt to go gangster. Back in the day though Hammer was a pioneer, a "super dope homeboy from the Oaktown." He parlayed regional popularity in the Bay with his own imprint into a major label record deal, and soon a whole nation of people wound up imitating his dance moves and memorizing his rhymes. The most famous of Hammer's songs always has been and will be "U Can't Touch This." It doesn't hurt that the song's sample makes the track more memorable, but Hammer was far from a "Superfreak."

"Every time you see me, the Hammer's just so hype
I'm dope on the floor and I'm magic on the mic
Now why would I ever, stop doing this?
With others making records, that just don't hit
I've toured around the world, from London to the Bay
It's Hammer, go Hammer, MC Hammer, yo Hammer
And the rest can go and play
You can't touch this"

Even at his most braggadocious Hammer was very clean and polite. "The rest can go and play." Can they Hammer, really? Aw please Hammer, don't hurt 'em. To be perfectly honest about it you can't even imagine Hammer hurting a fly. Looking at him on the album's cover in a suit and tie, spectacles and a serene smile on his face, it's not hard to imagine that Hammer went on to preach the holy gospel. In fact the only song on Hammer's album that was arguably a bigger hit than "U Can't Touch This" was "Pray." Gospel rappers of the world take note, because Hammer shows and proves how it should be done. Step one - take a loop from a song by Prince (ironically one of R&B's most lascivious acts). Step two - no quoting verses from the Bible, and no claiming to be "gangsters for God." Step three - a catchy hook that gets your point across without being overtly religious.

"All my life, I wanted to make it to the top (that's why we pray)
Some said I wouldn't they told me no, but I didn't stop (that's why we pray)
Workin hard, makin those moves, everyday (that's why we pray)
And on my knees, every night you know I pray
I said we pray (prayyy) aw yeah we pray (prayyy)
We got to pray, just to make it today
I said we pray (prayyy) aw yeah we pray (prayyy)
We got to pray, just to make it today! THAT'S WHY WE PRAY"

In retrospect Hammer's song could be applied to almost any religion, as most major forms of worship involve some sort of prayer. Undoubtedly the non-denominational nature of the song only helped it to reach an even broader audience and hit higher on the Billboard charts, which fueled the rocketship of this album's success. Success is a funny thing though - just ask Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken. Dated references to be sure, but Hammer's fortunes rose like the Dow Jones on "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em" until the inevitable crash came. Hammer deserves part of the blame for simply being out of touch. Compared to his Californian compadres Hammer seemed much too tame - Digital Underground was raunchier, Too $hort was more explicit and N.W.A. told racist cops just where they could stick it. While his clean cut image may have been honest self-portrayal, the lyrics on the songs that didn't chart were at best insipid and at worst nursery rhymes. His re-interpolation of the Chi-Lites song "Have You Seen Her" is infamous as some of the most cornball lyrics ever put on wax, only made more absurd by how soft-spoken and gentle his delivery is on the beat:

"I see her face and I can't let go
She's in my dreams and my heart, so let me know
(Have you seen her?) Have you seen her?
(Tell me have you seen her?) I'm lookin for that love
She's a thought and a vision in my memory
I haven't met her, but tell me where could she be?
(Have you seen her?) Have you seen her?
(Tell me have you seen her?) I'm lookin for that special love, oh love
(Love, oh love, love is a feelin that I need)
Love is a feelin that the Hammer definetly needs, aw yeah"

If just reading those those words makes you want to put your eyes out, listening to them makes you want to put sharp pointy objects in your ears. Hammer's so sappy on this track you could tap him like a maple tree and make syrup for your pancakes. Let's be perfectly blunt - Hammer is not a lyrical genius. Take "Yo!! Sweetness" for example: "Just the way that you smile, and the things that you say/Like Eastwood on the movies yo, baby make my day." UGH. Another drawback to "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em" is that it's a self-produced CD, and Hammer's tendency to use straight up loops quickly becomes irritating. There's no doubt that the sentiments of "Help the Children" are genuine, but Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me" was a genuinely plaintive song to begin with and his sentiments feel ruined when lesser singers croon different lyrics to the same melody. There are very few noteworthy songs on "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em" other than the singles which charted from it. The aforementioned "Here Comes the Hammer" is one even though it's unintentionally funny that he vows to "take out the weak on the microphone." "She's Soft and Wet" is as close to sexually explicit as Hammer will get, and the new jack swing of the song makes even his poorly delivered lyrics seem fresher. Whenever Hammer tries to get too serious though the songs implode under their own pretentious weight - "Black Is Black" pales compared to other nubian anthems of the day and "Crime Story" just can't be taken at face value since no one can picture Hammer packing a gat.

The ultimate summation of "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em" turns out to be rather complex. While the album itself is one of the best-selling not only in rap but in the history of music as a whole, the mere act of selling a lot of something doesn't mean that something is any GOOD. On the other hand there are far worse albums out there with far more inane and insufferable lyrics than Hammer's, many of which have been released in the last year alone (Shawty Lo, Soulja Boy, the list goes on and on). Hammer's sincerity about his clean cut image works in his favor, his tendency to spit atrocious kindergarten level rhymes does not. History records that Hammer was disliked by peers who were jealous of his success, but it's far more accurate to say they saw Hammer as a relatively weak lyricist who didn't represent the more aggressive direction hip-hop was moving in the 1990's. Hammer was the rapper your parents were okay with, which was why so many of us wound up with his tape, which is why ultimately he was so reviled when we all learned he was out of touch. There's an upside though - with over ten million copies sold it's not hard to find "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em" in the bargain bin DIRT CHEAP, and even without counting his hit singles there are a few songs on the album worth listening to more than once. If you were thinking about spending $15 on a D4L album, do yourself a favor and buy "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em" instead. It's a better album and with the $14 you'll have leftover you can take your girl out for dinner or vice versa.

Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 4 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5 of 10

Originally posted: June 24, 2008
source: www.RapReviews.com