Wednesday, May 20, 2015

TMFW 89 - "MC Hank" Wouldn't Have Sounded as Cool

Stanley Kirk Burrell grew up in Oakland, California.  He was a talented dancer and a natural showman, and started doing street performances at a young age.  When young Stanley was 11 years old and dancing outside of the Oakland Coliseum (home park of TMFW 36 subject Josh Reddick, who so far this season has a very respectable batting average of .315), the legendary Oakland A's owner Charles O. Finley took a liking to him and brought him on as a bat boy.
Stanley worked as a bat boy for 7 years and became somewhat of a clubhouse mascot for the A's (and eventually even a tongue-in-cheek Vice President of the ballclub).  Shortly after he arrived, a visiting player noticed a close resemblance between Stanley and Hank (the "Hammer") Aaron, then the all-time home run king.  Reggie Jackson, then with the A's, ran with the nickname and Stanley Burrell became "Little Hammer." (You can see at that link that the resemblance is really uncanny.)  Little Hammer wore jersey number 44 for the A's in tribute to Aaron.
You see where this is going by now, of course.  Little Hammer grew up to become MC Hammer, the "super dope homeboy from the Oaktown."  He has sold over 30 million records worldwide, and his breakout album Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em was #1 for 21 weeks in 1990.  He was a worldwide star for several years, his "U Can't Touch This" video has almost 150,000,000 views on YouTube, and for a short window of time in the early 90s he inspired every kid in my 8th grade class to wear terrible clothes.
One wonders whether, if he had never been adopted and renamed by the Oakland A's, "Stanley Burrell" would have accomplished the same thing.
BONUS FACT:  As alluded above, MC Hammer popularized a type of baggy, loose-fitting pants that have forevermore become known as "Hammer pants."  They are famous enough that they have their own Wikipedia entry.  (Per that entry, do NOT confuse Hammer pants with parachute pants.  Not the same thing, people.)
BONUS FACT 2:  At the height of his fame, MC Hammer had a Saturday morning cartoon called Hammerman, in which he played a crime fighting rapper/dancer who was powered by magical talking shoes.  The show ran for only 13 episodes on ABC.  Almost 25 years later, it looks like an intentional parody.  
BONUS FACT 3:  Other than his music, Hammer is probably most famous for his christian ministry work.  That goes back to before he made it big: in the early 80s, Hammer was part of a Christian rap group called the "Holy Ghost Boys." 
BONUS FACT 4:  Outside of the entertainment business and his ministry work, Hammer has had an eclectic variety of business ventures.  Some were pretty successful - his Oaktown Stable horseracing venture trained a winner of the Kentucky Oaks (it's the other big race run on Derby weekend) and a 3rd place finisher in the Kentucky Derby.  Others were not so successful - his 2011 "WireDoo" search engine lasted only one year and never got out of beta.  A Time blog post summed up what was probably most people's feelings at the time: "MC Hammer Launches 'WireDoo' Search Engine for Some Reason."  
BONUS FACT 5:  Hammer's best known line has provided fodder for graffiti artists the world over.

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