M.C. Hammer, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em
A critically underrated, wildly entertaining pop-rap gem
The once-untouchable MC Hammer was the only rapper to every truly be the King of Pop for a day (sorry, Kanye). The cultural effects of his second album were nothing short of tectonic — it's essentially the sequined, fleet-footed, 10 million-copy-selling reason that housecats rap in fast food commercials and the Black Eyed Peas play the Super Bowl. But put aside the Pepsi commercials, the Saturday morning cartoon, the action figures, the bloated arena tour, those omnipresent parachute pants and his well-documented fall from riches-to-rags and you just have Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em, a critically underrated, wildly entertaining pop-rap gem.
Hammer is a force of nature, able to shout down Run-D.M.C. at a harrowing, James Brown-esque 124 bpm pace and still be a pop charmer. The production by James Earley and Felton C. Pilate II (vocalist and brassman of Con Funk Shun) introduced the horn-stabs and rubbery basslines of late-'70s/early-'80s pop-funk to a Willy Wonka slaughterhouse of whirling digital cogs — the gushy Rick James samples on "U Can't Touch This" and "Yo Sweetness!" sound trapped in their labyrinth of bass, creating their Billboard-topping magic because they skip and pause and struggle against the current. Best of all, "Pray" is one of the few songs to legally sample Prince; a transcendent pairing for fellow Christian Hammer to explore a unique combo of the aggressive and spiritual that rides the equally euphoric "When Doves Cry" for all its worth.