The “U Can’t Touch This” star was a huge hit in the 1980s and ‘90s, but was he in the military before becoming one of the biggest rappers of all time?
M.C. Hammer, born Stanley Kirk Burrell, served in the US Navy throughout the early 1980s. He eventually became a Third Class Petty Officer Aviation Storekeeper, before being discharged and pursuing a music career.
Continue reading to find out more about the early life and career of Burrell, and where his time in the military fits into his story.
A Poor Upbringing
Born on the 30th of March in 1962, Stanley Burrell grew up in East Oakland, California. His father Lewis Burrell supervised warehouses, and also played poker professionally at Oaks Card Club’s card room, while his mother worked as a secretary.
Stanley grew up quite poor, and he remembers six children being stuffed inside a three-bedroom apartment that was part of a housing project.
Lewis later admitted his mistake of taking his gambling too far, and how it affected his family when it turned to a game of survival.
“I started gambling full-time — and it was the worst mistake I ever made,” he once said in a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times, adding, “all of a sudden, when I had to win for survival, the cards wouldn’t come.”
Unlike his father, Stanley had no interest in the gambling world. He would dance in the parking lot before baseball games, and already had an interest in music.
It was during one of these dance routines that Stanley was noticed by Charlie Finley, the owner of the Oakland A’s baseball team. He allowed Stanley to sit in and watch a game in his box, which led to Stanley’s stint as a batboy and general assistant for the club.
Former baseball legend Reggie Jackson later took credit for part of Stanley’s now-famous nickname. He realized his resemblance to another baseball player, “Hammerin’” Hank Aaron, and stated:
“Hell, our chief executive, the guy that ran our team, uh, that communicated [with] Charlie Finley, the top man there, was a 13-year old kid. I nicknamed him “Hammer,” because he looked like Hank Aaron [whose nickname was “The Hammer”]”
The “M.C.” part of his stage name came from his reputation as a “Master of Ceremonies” when he would perform at clubs during tours with the Oakland A’s, as well as during his time in the military.
A Different Career Path
M.C. stayed in Oakland into his late teens, and attended McClymonds High School before graduating in 1980. He participated in undergraduate classes where he learned communications.
After high school, he tried to study at a local college, but decided not to continue. He also had been playing baseball throughout high school, and was focused on a career path revolving around the sport, but wasn’t selected for a professional organization.
Following these unsuccessful ventures, M.C. made the choice to enlist in the US Navy. As an aviation storekeeper at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, California, he served for three years in total before being honorably discharged.
It was around this time that he decided on music and rap as his future career.
Journey to Fame
Determined to remain within the music industry, M.C. started performing in clubs and became part of a group called Holy Ghost Boys who were part of the Christian rap scene.
The group released several songs, including “The Wall” which garnered some attention, but he was yet to find his big break.
Eventually, M.C. asked some former Oakland A’s players for some money to open up his own production company, which he named Bust It Productions. He released the Feel My Power album in 1986, and got signed on with Capitol Records.
Lets Get It Started album came out in 1988, and M.C. shot to fame with his massive hit, Let’s Get It Started.