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February 08, 1996 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-02-08

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48 - The Michigan Daily - W ee4, za. - Thursday, February 8, 1996

Fom giddy to gangsta, Hammer, please don't hurt your image

By Eugene Bowen
Daily Arts Writer
With the fairly recent release of his
fifth album, "M.C. Hammer V: Inside
Out", the man for whom, four years ago,
it was always "Hammer Time" is strug-
gling to regain even a hint of the popular-
ity he had back in the day when blacks
didn't hate him and whites cared. There's
no time like the present to analyze what
causedthe HammerKingdomtocrumble,
and to determine if his once-almighty
dynasty can ever be rebuilt.
It's happened to many a rap star, but
not as badly as with M.C. Hammer. He
came out in 1988 with "Let's Get It
Started" and gained many props from
the black community with such party
favorites as the title track and "Turn
This Mutha Out." The rest of the nation
jumped on the boat.
The extra duckets "white dollars" put
in Hammer's pockets after singles like "U
Can't Touch This" and "Pray" hit air-
waves seemed to change him. He forgot
those who propelled him to success; he
forgot that if it weren't for black patron-
age, white interest would never have come.
But blacks remembered.
When "Too Legit to Quit" came out
in 1992, blacks avoided it like the
plague; they slammed the CD and ridi-
culed him. Whites followed suit, and
M.C. Hammer was left virtually fan-
less. The fact that "Too Legit to Quit"
bombed so terribly following his multi-
platinum "Please Hammer Don't Hurt

'Em" attests to the concerted African
American ire directed at him.
Sensing it was time for him to "go
back to his roots," Hammer, a child of
Oakland, released "The Funky Head-
hunter," a much more "gangsta" re-
lease than his previous ones.
But Hammer, gangsta?! Don't make
me laugh. Too late -everyone already
Make no mistake, blacks were al-
ready determined to break him, and
even if Hammer had released the best
album in the history of music, the black
community would have found some
way to discredit him. On a positive
note,"It's All Good" replaced "Whoop!
There It Is" as the urban theme of 1994.
But M.C. Hammer filled "The Funky
Headhunter" with play-tough selec-
tions, thereby pissing off rap lovers and
adding Crisco to the proverbial fire that
was being made to cook him in ... not so
proverbially. Trumpeting his return as
the return of a different man, Hammer-
haters mocked his fakeness with evi-
dent glee.
But M.C. Hammer had (and still has)
one thing going for him. Homebody can
dance. He was never much of a rapper,
but his ability to cut a little rug, coupled
with his songs' very dance-friendly mu-
sic, kept his head above water. At a point
when most performers would have been
dumped by their label without a second
thought, Giant Records picked up M.C.
Hammer hoping against hope that he had

a miracle in his pocket.
Perhaps he does: Pity. What if Ham-
mer comes back so humbled that black
people feel especially sorry for him?
What if, through his music, Hammer
basically promises to never sell out
again? Could this persuade the black
community to bestow its greatest gift
for fallen performers- another chance
- to M.C. Hammer?
Probably not, but it's worth a shot.
That is what "V" is all about. He touts
this release as a musical delve into
himself. What we supposedly get is
neither giddy nor gangsta - it's Ham-
mer, the true Hammer, in all his moods.
Hammer sees himself as someone who
has "gone through the experiences of
betrayal and life's ups and downs, but
who likes to have fun and, at the same
time be a prayerful and a spiritual per-
son with a lot of concern for society."
This is how he speaks to us on this, his
fifth album.
M.C. Hammer still can't rap, though.
His signature dance songs on "V," like
"Luv-N-Happiness," "Sultry Funk" and
"Bustin' Loose," have live beats and de-
cent background shouts and chants. Yet
the moment Hammer opens his mouth ...
many more times than not the whole song
nearly crumbles. Back in the day people
were so caught in Hammer's musical
vibe that they kindly overlooked his lyri-
cal shortcomings. Hammer better not be
expecting that same kindnessagain. With-
out question, M.C. Hammer's poor skills
on the mic are the Achilles' heel that he
has a snowball's chance in hell of over-
Returning to his pre-"Funky Head-
hunter" days, Hammer places two
praise-da-Lawd songs on his album.
The San Jose Community Choir con-
tributes background vocals to both,
"coin' Up Yonder" and "He Keeps
Doing Great Things for Me." M.C.
Hammer also keeps up the positive flow
with songs like "Everything Is Alright"
and "A Brighter Day." He even raps
"Nothing But Love," a dedication to the
late Eazy-E - another guy whose rap-
ping wasn't all that.
In "V," Hammer completely avoids
repeating dopish attempts at sounding
hardcore; he's much safer repeating his
old-school song methods. Yet this album
is truly much deeper than his previous
ones. Similar to what 2PAC did last year,
Hammer has changed; the energy of that
change can be felt in his music.
Even reading his song titles you can
see how hard M.C. Hammer is trying to
regain the public's love, which, once


Hammer, shown here at the American Music Awards in 1991, has suffered a
severe blow to the image over the course of his career.

you get a taste of, you feel naked with-
out. "I Hope Things Change," "Keep
On," "Everything Is Alright," "A
Brighter Day" - makes you wonder
whether he's singing these songs for us
or for himself.
If Hammer's looking for sympathy,
he's gotten it from me. "V" is not a bad
CD, and it does have a few songs worthy
of ... respect (did I say that?). But since
realism makes for better sarcasm, I re-
main a realist. I feel this album is very a
personal; this makes it M.C. Hammer's
greatest work. Yet it will still not have the
general.appeal of his previous works. I
predict that blacks will continue to for-
sake Hammer, and whites will continue
to follow suit. Sure, they will be denying
themselves an interestingglimpseat Ham-
mer, but they won't care.

Hammer once said of"V": "It focuses
on lifting your spirit, on bringing joy and
good times that'll make you feel good...
Put this record on, and it takes you to a
better place; especially if things aren't
going right."
Advice for Hammer: Practice whatyou
preach. Find your solace in your songs,
because if you're still expecting it from
former fans you have a long wait ahead.
The lack ofadoration you will continue to
receive shouldn't shape your self-con-
sciousness. You let fans' enthusiasm
change you into someone you weren't,
and you lost everything because of it.
Don't allow their apathy or your shame to
push you deeper into a pit of despair from
which you may never emerge.
You may not be the best, but you're too
good for that. Good luck M.C. Hammer.

Continued from Page 1B
Beyond a work of art's selling point,
it almost goes without saying that the
less money involved in a project, the
more freedom there is for its partici-
pants. The less capital at stake, the less
limitations on pure experimentation. In
other words, more often than not, the
cheaper the film, the higher th quality.
Not only are the new batch of semi-
mainstream independent films gener-
ally of a higher quality than those fromW
the bigger studios, but because they
don't cater to stars' ridiculous egos
(translates: paychecks) they are able to
keep costs down and, therefore, not
losing as much money as bigger studios
routinely do.
According to a recent Entertainment
Weekly poll, the average Hollywood
studio film costs about $34 million to
produce and at least another $10 mil-
lion to advertise and promote. The av*
erage independent film costs $1-3 mil-
lion to make and another million or two
to promote. Obviously, you don't need
to be a marketing genius to figure out
which scenario is more profitable. Yet,
somehow the bald guys with the bucks
just don't seem to get it. Weighing in at
an astounding $175 million (before
advertising revenues), this summer's
"Waterworld" was by far the biggest
"whoops" Hollywood has ever uttered.
The recent pirate-schlock flick "Cut-
throat Island" from producer-director
Renny Harlin and actor Geena Davis
was a comparative lightweight at $92
million (before advertising). It was such
a disaster at the box-office that Carolco,
the mid-sized company that released it,
has now gone belly-up in the sun.
Often starting from the East Coast
(particularly New York City) indepen-
dent film scene and then moving on
towards the festival circuit and hope-
fully, eventual national distribution,
independent film has burrowed enough
of a niche into the status quo to almost
warrant being called a new genre.
In 1995, it was "Crumb," Terry
Zwigoff's modestly-budgeted docu-
mentary about legendary cartoonist I.
Crumb, and "Georgia," Ulu Grosbard's
trailblazing drama of sibling rivalry set
against the back-drop of the music in*
dustry that used modest budgets to reap
decent rewards.
In addition, it was Sundance Film
Festival (see side bar) hero, writer-di-
rector Ed Burns who scraped up the
$26,000 necessary to make a rough,
black and white comedy called "The
Brothers McMullen"; it went on to earn
$10 million in American theaters alone
and was even briefly a top 10 film of the
week. In 1994, it was Sundance Film
Festival hero writer-director Kevin''
Smith who scraped up the $23,000 nec-
essary to make his black-and-white
comedy, "Clerks." This movie went on
to earn $3 million in American theaters
In 1993, it was Sundance Film Festi-
val heroes, director Bryan Singer and
writer-director Nick Gomez, whose
"Public Access" and "Laws of Grav-
ity," respectively, were both made in
the under $100,000 range and went on
to reap big rewards for their companies.
In 1992, it was Sundance hero writer-
director Hal Hartley whose modestly-
budgeted "Trust" went on to earn a
couple million at the box office. In
1991, it was Richard Linklater with
"Slacker" and Allison Anders with
"Gas, Food, Lodging."
In the '80s it was filmmakers like Jim
Jarmusch and Gus Van Sant. In the'60s
and 1970, it was filmnakers like Mar-s
tin Scorsese, Arthur Penn, Dennis Hop-

per and John Cassevetes. The presence
has always been there; it's only re-
cently started raking in the cash.
Small, truly independent companies
like Circle ("Raising Arizona"), First
Look ("The Secret of Roan Inish"),
I.R.S. ("Gas, Food, Lodging"), Sev-
enth Art ("Risk"), Strand Releasing
("Totally F**cked Up"), Tara ("The
Vanishing"), Hemdale("BrightAngel")@
and Trimark ("Federal Hill") operate
without a father-figure, big-studio to
support them. The "fake indies," namely
Miramax ("Georgia"), Grammercy
("The Usual Suspects"), Fine Line,
("Double Happiness"), Goldwyn ("Go
Fish), Sony Pictures Classics ("Ama-
teur") are all "indies" under the support
of a large, corporate studio. Not only
has the demand for these kinds of films
grown, but the capacity to distribute
them, as well.
While "Black Sheep," a silly, over-
bloated comedy featuring ex and cur-
rent Saturday Night Live cast members
may be the country's current No. 1 hit,
don't expect it to last long. There's a
new force in town and the first people
they're gonna take out are the Chris
Farley's of the world. Long live the
underdog. 4


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