He was born in Oakland, California and soon began working as a ballboy for the Oakland Athletics. Though he wanted to be a professional baseball player, he did not catch on in a professional organization. He instead joined the Navy and, upon his return, began performing music in clubs and opened his own record label, Bust It.
His debut album was Feel My Power (1987 in music), produced by Felton Pilate (of Con Funk Shun). In an era where rap music was having trouble latching on to the mainstream, Hammer sold over 60,000 copies.
Hammer shocked the music industry by initially refusing to sign a contract from Capitol Records. Eventually, he signed to Capitol Records for a hefty price and signing bonus, whereupon the album was re-released as Let's Get It Started. The album went triple-platinum. The title song, "Turn This Mutha Out," "Feel My Power," and a couple other less known songs put Hammer, rap, and Oakland on the music map.
His second album, 1990's Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em included a smash hit single in "U Can't Touch This", which sampled "Superfreak" (Rick James). The song was best-selling rap album/single for several years. "Have You Seen Her" (cover of the Chi-Lites) and "Pray" (sampled from Prince's "When Doves Cry").
In spite of a critical backlash for the repetitive nature of his lyrics and his perceived over-reliance on others' hooks for the basis of his singles, Hammer did well in the business side of things. In addition, Hammer endorsed countless products, including dolls and a cartoon show for children. Much of his profit went to charities and youth programs.
After dropping the MC, Hammer released Too Legit to Quit in an attempt at gaining critical acceptance. Though the album was, by and large, no more critically accepted than his first, sales were still strong and the title track was another hit. Other hits included "Gaining Momentum" and "Do Not Pass Me By." Another big hit came soon after, with "Addams Groove" (which appeared on both The Addams Family soundtrack and the vinyl version of Too Legit to Quit).
Hammer is widely considered one of the best ever live entertainer in the rap industry. His tours were lavish and had upwards of 500 employees. At times, over 50 dancers would take stage with Hammer. His tours always sold out and he got a reputation for being an amazing live performer.
Three years later, Hammer then switched record labels and hooked on with Giant Records. To show his roots as survivor of Oakland's tough street life, his next album was a more aggressive gangsta rap-style record, The Funky Headhunter that was a mild success compared to his first two. The album did go platinum and did have a gold single - "Pumps And A Bump." Other singles "It's All Good" and "Don't Stop" were also airwave regulars. Fans tend to like the song "Somethin For The OG's."
The more pop appealing Inside Out followed in 1995, but the sales were poor compared to his previous standards and Hammer was given permission from Giant Records to sign on with another label. The album featured the dance single "Sultry Funk," as well as the gospel hit "Goin Up Yonder." The first song on the album, "Luv N Happiness," tends to be most fan's favorite on the album. The emotionally stirring "Keep On" revealed many of Hammer's inner demons.
Hammer then signed with Death Row Records, then home to Hammer's gangster rapping friends Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. The label did not release any of Hammer's music while he was with them. Hammer did record music with Shakur. However, after Shakur's death Hammer left the record company. Their collaborative efforts have yet to be released. In a tangent story, Snoop Dogg was asked numerous times to "dis" Hammer. His response: "If there was no Hammer, there'd be no Snoop." This silenced many press members who were hoping to instigate rivalries and fights in the rap scene. Although Hammer was not on top any longer, his accomplishments and persona earned him respect from many artists he paved the way for.
In 1996, EMI Records released a compilation of Hammer's chart topping songs. The album, "Greatest Hits," featured 12 classic MC Hammer hits.
In 1997, Hammer also filed for bankruptcy, having spent the millions in income from the last few years to keep his employees paid and live a life of luxury. His world famous white mansion in the Fremont hills was sold for a firesale bargain price. His financial problems rekindled religious feelings in Hammer, and he began to record again, focusing on spirituality. The result, Family Affair, was released, but only limitedly. The gospel double album is now a rare collector's item.
Finally, in the wake of 9/11, a different album appeared in 2001, Active Duty (2001 in music). The album was Hammer's first new release for the general public in 6 years. While the album, released on his own WorldHit Music Group, did not sell well, Hammer enthusiasts marveled at the tracks "No Stoppin Us," "Pop Yo Collar," "Our Style," "Not Like This," "A Soldier's Letter," "Cali," "Bay Livin," & the heartfilled "Where Will I Go." These songs convinced many that "HammerTime" has not quite run out yet. The album showcased many up and coming artists who are featured all across the project. Hammer also donated portions of his profits from the album to 9/11 charities.
2003 was a busy year for Hammer. He was a judge on ABC Family's Dance Fever, and he starred in The Surreal Life. His popularity on that show led The WB to give him a development deal for a new sitcom based on his current life as a stay-at-home dad.
In 2004 Hammer, who has sold over 30 million albums world wide, will release the album "Full Blast" on his own WorldHit Music Group label. WorldHit Music Group is a part of Hammer's "Hammertime Holdings" company. Other projects, such as a dance video and clothing line, are long rumored but supposedly in production. WorldHit Videos announced the creation of the Panther franchise, a comicbook hero.