1990, Music

Please Hammer Don’t Hurt’Em (1990) by MC Hammer

This record has a 1.81/5 rating on Rate Your Music as of March 2020, one of the lowest ratings I’ve ever seen on the site, and a particularly low one for a record that sold 20 million copies. I am not about to argue that this record is good but it’s far from the worst album I’ve ever heard. I suspect that the rating suffers both from people who feel guilty about their childhood fondness for it and from people who never actually listened to it (and/or think Hammer is some how not “real” hip hop).

This music is as pop as rap gets. Listening to this record it’s hard to imagine a more commercial form of hip hop in existence though really that just speaks to my ignorance of the genre. But, to echo Ice T, at least Hammer isn’t pretending he’s something other than what he is. Would we rather he pretend he’s a gangster? Would that be better?

There are some unbelievably catchy songs here, some of which I remember from my childhood, despite the fact that my family basically never listened to contemporary music. (That tells you how ubiquitous this record was, if even I know the hit songs. Hell, I know at least one that isn’t a hit and I don’t know why. Maybe I actually heard the album all the way through at some point. I was 8, so I have no idea.) Though I really do understand the backlash – and a younger versionof me would have agreed with it completely – I do also feel like it makes sense to me why this record sold so many copies. I don’t always understand that when I’m listening to really popular but not very well regarded albums. At least I hear the hooks here and I can see why something like this was approachable for white America. (Hammer is not scary. Moreover, he’s at least a little bit of a joke. That makes it really easy for people who would otherwise stay far away from rap to buy this.)

It’s well made from a technical standpoint, at least on the music side of things. I cannot speak to Hammer’s flow, except to say that I don’t find him particularly compelling. But everything around him is slick and well-executed in the sense that a slick pop record is well-executed.

It is 100% not my thing and I can’t imagine I’ll ever listen to it again. (Nor do I want to listen to anything else he’s ever made.) But this is far from the worst album I’ve ever heard. I’d say that, if you think this record is terrible, you should check out some ’80s boy band music. That will change your perspective.


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