M.C. Hammer is the Lady Gaga of 20 years ago. Dubious musical talent? Pretty much. Over-the-top fashion statements? You betcha: "Hammer Pants" are still bizarre. Loads of charisma, a knack for playing to the cameras, and first-rate showmanship? Undoubtedly. Chart-topping, mega-selling phenomenon? Without question. Hammer — born Stanley Kirk Burrell in Oakland, California just over 48 years ago — got his first taste of the spotlight during an eight-year stint in the '70s as batboy for the Oakland A's (where he got his nickname from Reggie Jackson, who thought Burrell looked like "Hammerin'" Hank Aaron). From there he formed a Christian rap group, befriended Arsenio Hall, sampled Rick James and took his limited rapping prowess (but fantastic dancing skills) to the top with "U Can't Touch This" and, in the process, creating the template for pop-rap/hip-pop in a Public Enemy/N.W.A. world. Then he laughingly tried to become a gangsta rapper, lost all his money, became a preacher, became a reality TV star (natch), and somehow along the way has released 10 (!) studio albums. Of course, no one wants to hear anything he recorded past 1991 and, yes, Hammer's on the casino circuit now. But, hey, 20 years from now, Lady Gaga should be so lucky.
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