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MC Hammer ‘Will Beat Yo' Ass’—and Other Hard Tales of the MTV-Friendly Rapper

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(L-R) Tupac Shakur, MC Hammer and Snoop Dogg at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles, 1996. (Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Last week, MC Hammer started trending on Twitter for a viral photo of Big Syke, Suge Knight, Snoop Dogg, Tupac and Hammer lined up together at the 1996 Grammys, in all of their ’90s finery. Hammer stood on the far right, arms neatly crossed behind his back, smiling while everyone else mean-mugged. The tweet read: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone more out of place than Hammer was in this photo lol.”

Twitter did not hesitate to set the record straight about the Oakland legend, explaining in no uncertain terms that Hammer—despite his legendarily flappy pants, pop superstardom, and ability to win over your mom—did not come to play.

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The Twitter explosion reflected the vast gulf between what hip-hop knows about MC Hammer and what mainstream pop culture thinks it knows about MC Hammer. Because the Oakland rapper spent the early ’90s shuffling from side-to-side at the top of the charts, and filling commercial breaks with entreaties to buy sneakers and Taco Bell, Hammer is too often treated like the Carlton Banks of hip-hop. But stories of Hammer’s more streetwise traits have been rife in both the East Bay and the wider hip-hop community for years.

For those not in the know, here are interviews with five MCs that will put Hammer in a whole new light.

MC Serch

MC Serch of New York’s 3rd Bass has claimed repeatedly that MC Hammer put out a hit on the group over a lyric in their song, “The Cactus.” The line in question—”The cactus turned Hammer’s mother out”—was purportedly a play on the title of 3rd Bass’ 1989 The Cactus Album and Hammer’s record from the same year, “Turn This Mutha Out.”

In 2015, Serch told the Ed Lover Show about receiving death threats from Hammer’s brother, Louis Burrell, in the middle of a flight to Los Angeles. “We’re in the air,” Serch says, “and Carmen Ashhurst-Watson, who was the president of Def Jam at the time, picks up the phone and hears someone say ‘Is 3rd Bass on their way to L.A.?’ And she goes ‘Yeah.’ And the voice says ‘Good. They’re dead. This is Louis Burrell.'”

Serch claims the $50,000 hit was confirmed by fellow Def Jam artist Eric B., and was supposed to be carried out by the Los Angeles crips. In a later interview, Serch said fear and anger over the incident has never left him.

“I’m not good,” he told Vlad TV in 2018. “I’ve been through 25 years of therapy three days a week. I am not good. I wish I could be good. But when somebody tries to kill you over a rap lyric? … Understand what it feels like to not know that you can turn a corner without someone trying to kill you for $50,000.”

Redman

Redman also made the mistake of dissing Hammer during an interlude on 1992’s Whut? Thee Album titled “Funky Uncles.” “Everybody yelling ‘Hammertime! Hammertime!'” the track went. “He ain’t shit, mama ain’t shit, daddy ain’t shit, ain’t nobody shit.”

Redman says he was subsequently chased out of Oakland by Hammer affiliates. (“We had to get the fuck out of here. They wasn’t playin’. We was almost boxed in,” he told Vlad TV in 2016.) And in 1995, when both MCs were on set for the final episode of Yo! MTV Raps, Hammer approached Redman and reportedly said, “Red? I’m gonna tell you something. You’re young. But I don’t allow nobody to talk about my mama. You understand me?”

Redman later admitted that his response to Hammer was, “Yes, sir!” He elaborated: “I got the message. I heard about [Hammer] and I seen [his] work … I’m good, my brother. Because I’ve gotta come to the west coast and get money. I like it out there. I like the Bay Area. So fuck that, you’re right. I won’t talk about your mama.”

Redman admits he learned his lesson. “That goddamn MC Hammer? Very serious about beef. Y’all motherfuckers laugh and y’all joke about Hammer? No, no, no, no … When anybody that talked shit came to the Bay Area, they was in for it. ‘Cause we seen it. I seen it.”

Too Short

In a 2018 interview, Too Short expressed respect for MC Hammer, having come up around the same time. “Hammer was a big dog,” Too Short said. “He got respect in the streets. He came from a respected crew. They handled business. Him and his brother Louis and the crew.”

Asked about the alleged hit Hammer put out on MC Serch, Too Short said the only part he didn’t believe was the $50,000—because Hammer would never have to pay for such services.

“Without spending any money, he coulda told people to fuck [MC Serch] the fuck up,” Too Short said. “I know who Hammer was affiliated with and he wouldn’t have to pay to tell somebody to fuck somebody up. His people would just do it. We’re from Oakland. Like, he wouldn’t even have to say it.”

E-40 and Fat Joe

During a 2020 chat with E-40 for All Urban Central, Fat Joe mentioned encountering Hammer one time in the Las Vegas airport. Joe said Hammer greeted him warmly, then proceeded to explain that he wasn’t to be trifled with. “He was like, ‘You know I get it poppin’ for real’,” Joe recalled.

E-40 was in no way surprised by this news. “Well, he’s from Oakland for one,” the Vallejo rapper responded. “He’s from the Town. He’s highly respected and connected, you know what I mean? All the fixtures and factors know him, he knows them. He rocks it. He’s heavy. His brother’s gangsta … [Hammer] is far from a sucka. And Hammer’s physically fit. You know, he’ll put hands on you.”

OutKast

It’s possible that Big Boi puts it best here, and the most succinctly: “Hammer will beat yo’ ass.”

Let’s end with an apt word from the man himself…

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