Hammer

Hammer rose to fame as MC Hammer, the rapper who stormed the pop and R&B charts in 1990 with "U Can't Touch This" (RealAudio excerpt), a single on which he rapped to a riff recycled from Rick James' '80s smash "Super Freak."

He was born Stanley Kirk Burrell on March 30, 1962, in Oakland, Calif. After dancing in the parking lot of the Oakland Coliseum, Hammer was hired by baseball's Oakland A's then owner, Charlie Finley, as batboy and unofficial team mascot. He was nicknamed Hammer because of his resemblance to home-run king Hammerin' Hank Aaron.

After Hammer stopped trying to break into pro baseball, two A's team members financed his Bust It Records, home to his first single, the San Francisco Bay Area hit "Ring 'Em." He then signed a lucrative contract with Capitol Records. His 1990 album, Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em, made him a superstar and yielded "U Can't Touch This." The LP sold more than 10 million copies and stayed at #1 for 21 weeks.

Hammer was seen in TV commercials, as the star of a cartoon based on his persona, on MTV and as the center of a 30-piece live act that featured elaborate lighting and intricate choreography.

Subsequent LPs, such as Too Legit To Quit (1991), met with steadily declining sales.

Hammer has spent the past few years as a preacher. He recently staged a protest in San Jose against California's Proposition 21, which would amend the state's penal code to treat some young offenders as adults and increase penalties for gang-related offenses.