It’s “Hammertime” once again, but this time the enduring rapper of the early ’90s is out to change what he calls the many misconceptions that surfaced about him, his life and especially his finances after his very public bankruptcy just six years after he broke out with his hit album, “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em.”
I got a chance to chat with MC Hammer, a.k.a. Stanley Burrell, who was enjoying a brief bit of off time at his home in Tracy, Calif., where much of his new A&E show “Hammertime” takes place. The show — a la “Run’s House” and “The Osbournes” — follows the legendary rapper as he balances his home life with six children in the house (including his 18-year-old nephew, Jamaris), and being a husband to Stephanie, his wife of 23 years.
We talked on Monday about the experience of filming the show and about his favorite things to watch on TV, past and present. But when it came to discussing the financial woes that plagued him, and the media’s reaction to them, the conversation turned toward his desire to stop having to answer “silly questions” about his past. That’s something he hopes to avoid once people see his life displayed on TV.
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How did this show come about? A&E contacted me about a year and some change ago and asked me if I’d be interested. My initial response was not really, unless I can be executive producer and be able to present the type of statement that I wanted to present.
Early in the series, we see this close bond you have with your wife of 23 years. What’s been the secret to keep that relationship going through all the ups and downs? The secret is that it was built on an authentic foundation of love from the beginning. So that’s been the glue that has held the friendship together. Throughout the series, obviously it goes on to explore the family, the business, the music, the art, but it also continues to reveal different parts and aspects of being a husband.
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What kinds of things do your kids do around the house that bug you? I’ve raised about 10 kids, so I understand what it is to raise kids. None of what they do really bugs me. I know how to create my space and give them their space.
What kinds of things do you do that you think bugs them? Probably just when I make them explain the meaning of some of the answers they give to me to questions I propose. I’ll try to make them elaborate a little further on answers they give me.
You address the financial problems you experienced early in the start of the show. So let’s clear up some of that stuff. Did you actually own two helicopters? No. I didn’t even own one!
What are some of the more outlandish things you spent that money on? I don’t know. Because I’ve never taken that approach to it. But, probably the most outlandish thing I spent money on was 200 employees.
When did you realize it was excessive? The 200 employees? When the payroll hit about $800,000 a month. It was excessive because there was only one man generating the revenue.
What’s the first thing we’d see in your house that would give us some insight into who you are? The first thing you would see is my family. That’s the whole purpose of the show, so that maybe five more years down the road, I won’t have to answer silly questions. That’s whole point of the show. You can be the creation of somebody’s imagination. Like the thing about owning two helicopters. From your perspective, that’s a question you have to ask, but from my perspective it’s laughable. So it won’t even take five years. By the end of this summer, I will no longer have to answer silly questions. I’m not saying that you are asking me silly questions. You’re asking questions based upon what was reported. But I’ve learned that truth in reporting is a very old concept. I was a victim of that very early on, and it created a Hammer that I didn’t even know.
What’s been the best thing about doing a reality show? It’s been a very eye-opening and bonding experience. The kids were already a close-knit family, but having to spend even more time around each other, they grew closer to one another.
What’s been the worst thing about it for you? I’ve had cameras around me since 1972, since my Oakland A’s (bat boy) days, being with writers and press and television cameras eight months a year, and being a public figure as MC Hammer for the past 23 years. You’re always under the microscope. So, camera on camera off, doesn’t matter. The Internet is on 24 hours a day — always. So it didn’t bother me at all.
Speaking of the Internet, you’re a popular guy on Twitter. Why were you so quick to embrace it? I’ve been into social media and/or communities for the past seven years, with these community-driven business models. And the Twitter platform, obviously, is the latest and what I consider to be most effective model because of the friendliness of the interface and what we call the real-time Web. It is a very powerful tool and serves a greater purpose than meets the eye. So I got on very, very early. I’ve been researching video delivered over broadband pipes since 1995 or ’96 and that kind of became a hobby. After 15 years, I don’t have to finesse my way, or try to become an early-adopter. It’s what I’ve been doing.
Do you watch other reality shows? Sure. I like some of the earlier shows that have come out, like “Run’s House.” There’s a few shows that I enjoy that are “reality-based.” Some are built around dance. There’s a ton of dance programs out there. Anything having to do with dance, I like those shows — “America’s Best Dance Crew,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “So You Think You Can Dance?” And all the music-run ones, like “American Idol.”
Would you ever go on “Dancing with the Stars”? “I wouldn’t go on because I couldn’t win, and the reason why I couldn’t win is because they’d say, ‘He’s MC Hammer, a world-class dancer, and he’s supposed to win…’ So they wouldn’t vote for me.”
What was your favorite TV show as a kid? Probably “Good Times.”
OK, now I’m going to do the thing you do with your kids and ask you to elaborate a bit on that. Haha. Well, it’s because “Good Times” represented a family that was making it through life in a very positive and real way in adverse conditions. And that was a very good image to project and reality to project at that time. We’re talking the ’70s, and it showed a glimpse of the fact that just because you were living in the projects didn’t mean that you had a project mentality.