Well, it only took 20 years, but finally, MC Hammer is back in the Top 40. Not on his own, mind you—though perhaps his highly anticipated upcoming appearance at the 12th annual Gathering of the Juggalos (along with Vanilla Ice!) will help facilitate that as well—but in the last 12 months or so, a surprising number of pop music’s best and brightest (and also Nick Cannon) have given Hammer a sample, namedrop or reference, returning the disgraced pop rapper back to the spotlight for the first time since slap bracelets were popular.
And frankly, it’s about time. Were it up to us, Hammer would’ve stayed unhealthily popular for the duration of the ’90s, pre-empting the need for all that Native Tongues and G-Funk and Bad Boy nonsense, sating the public’s appetite for hip-hop with a whole lot of super-obvious soul samples, rap adaptations of classic TV show themes, and of course, parachute pants. Here’s some of the examples of popular current artists that clearly share our revisionist-history viewpoint, in roughly chronological order.
DRAKE, “THE RESISTANCE”
An underrated album track off Drake’s full-length debut, “The Resistance” could arguably be credited with beginning the MC Hammer mini-revival with its final-verse lyric “Did I just trade free time for camera time? / Will I blow all this money, baby, Hammer Time?” Here, Drake points out that Hammer, for all the old accusations of selling out and trivializing the rap genre, actually went out in the most hip-hop way possible—being so cartoonishly ostentatious with his new-found wealth that neither his career nor his bank statement could ever possibly recover. This point would be expounded upon later by others.
RICK ROSS, “MC HAMMER”
Was a time, not all that long ago, that no rapper would willingly associate himself with Oakland’s finest in song lyric. But Rick Ross, walking epitome of hip-hop largess, clearly saw a bit of himself in the one-time big spender, titling a song on his Teflon Don after Hammer and proudly declaring in the song’s key lyric, “Bitch I’m MC Hammer / I’m about C.R.E.A.M. / I got 30 cars / a whole lot of dancers / I take them everywhere / I’m MC Hammer.” With that, Hammer may not have completely eclipsed his previous reputation as a hip-hop punchline, but now there was at least a little Scarface in his profile as well.
NICK CANNON F/ AKON, “FAMOUS”
Nick Cannon doesn’t reference MC Hammer or his financial wastefulness in the lyrics to his and Akon’s predictably awful “Famous,” but Hammer does get a nice visual shoutout in the song’s slightly less-awful video. Parodying a number of current viral sensations and classic music videos, Cannon appears in the “U Can’t Touch This” yellow-top-and-parachute-pants getup, and even does a fairly impressive impression of Hammer’s classic crab dance. It only lasts for a few seconds, but still, it’s refreshing to see that Hammer is still remembered by someone for reasons other than his legendarily poor accounting habits.
BIG SEAN – “DANCE (A$$)”
“Dance (A$$),” the obligatory booty anthem on Big Sean’s debut album Finally Famous, contains an all-too-rare reference to Hammer’s actual music, which does exist and in fact was quite popular for a time. The song is based around a slightly chopped sample of the “wooahhh-ohhh-ohhh-ohh” hook from signature hit “U Can’t Touch This,” triggered by Sean commanding his girls “Now make that motherfucker Hammer Time like…” Preacher MC Hammer might not approve of this adaptation of one of his greatest hooks, but “Pumps and a Bump” MC Hammer certainly would.
SO RANDOM!, “MC GRAMMAR”
Probably the most unexpected of the recent wave of MC Hammer references comes from the Disney Channel sketch series So Random!, in which a battle rap between two teenage white rappers (and a fierce battle it is) gets interrupted by the open-shirted, parachute-pants-wearing MC Grammar, who reprimants the duo for their abuse of the English language. “When you take a verb and add I-N-G / That’s when it becomes a gerund, baby!” raps Grammar, before the two rappers attempt to kick his ass and Hammer has to start crab-dancing out of the way. (By the way, of the five principal cast members in the apparently aptly named So Random!, one was three when “U Can’t Touch This” was released, two were still awaiting their first birthday, and two hadn’t even been born yet.)
Keep it up, guys—we still haven’t heard any good references to “Pray” since that awful License to Wed trailer. In the meantime, see you all at Cave-In-Rock this August!