‘U Can’t Touch This?’ Actually, Maybe You Can

MC Hammer selling catalog to pay off debt.

Remember when MC Hammer used to brag about how “U Can’t Touch This?” Well, times change. Now, not only can you actually touch this (whatever it is), you can own it.

The balloon-pantsed MC, who turned the world on with his fancy footwork and a Rick James-sampling hip-pop hit 15 years ago, is selling one of the last remnants of the good old days. No, it’s not the huge fleet of cars (that’s gone) or the $12 million gilded castle in Fremont, California (that went for $5 mil a while ago). It’s his songs, or more accurately, the music publishing and copyrights to his whole catalog.

The move comes almost a decade after Hammer (born Stanley Burrell) filed for bankruptcy and after a number of lawsuits concerning the songs have finally been settled. “He filed for bankruptcy to protect himself from creditors and at some point it became involuntary bankruptcy, which means they not only seized his assets, but a trustee was appointed to guard them,” said Randall Wixen of Wixen Music Publishing, the court-appointed administrator for Hammer’s five publishing companies.

At various points, Hammer has tried to buy the songs back, but Wixen said the rapper hasn’t been able to raise enough cash to close the deal.

The songs could not be sold until Hammer settled the suits, but now that they are available Wixen expects the whole lot to bring in something in the “upper seven figures” when the auction on them closes in early 2006. Starting on Tuesday (November 1), interested bidders can request the more than 300 pages of spreadsheet information on the rapper’s catalog and a chance to “own whatever share of the songs that he used to own.”

Here’s what you can get for your money:


  • A 30 percent share of “Break ‘Em Off Somethin’ Proper” (with the lion’s share going to the late Troutman brothers, Roger and Larry, of the funk group Zapp, for the big chunk of their hit “More Bounce to the Ounce”)

  • A 50 percent stake in Hammer’s 1990 smash “U Can’t Touch This” (the estate of late funketeer Rick James gets the other half thanks to the “Super Freak” sample)

  • A 62.5 percent share of “Turn This Mutha Out” (with the rest going to George Clinton for the sample of Parliament’s “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)”)

  • A 75 percent share of “Addams Groove” and “Pray” (with Prince getting 25 percent of the latter for its “When Doves Cry” sample)

  • A healthy 90 percent of “2 Legit 2 Quit” and the full 100 percent of “Let’s Get It Started”

Often guilty, never convicted. Serving 15 years to life at MTV News.