Though M.C. Hammer's debut LP, Let's Get It Started, sold more than a million copies, it was a sixty-watt bulb in the rap meltdown, relying on worn soul riffs and endless ploys. If anything, Hammer's second LP is weaker than his first Lacking the tour de funk of last year's hit "Turn This Mother Out," the Hammer pounds out track-long steals of Rick James's "Super Freak" ("U Can't Touch This"), Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me" ("Help the Children") and even Faith No More's "We Care Alot" ("Pray"). This ain't sampling, it's trampling. Remaking the Chi-Lites' "Have You Seen Her" was a great idea, but Hammer's added lyrics cancel that greatness out.
Hammer is an explosive live performer, sweating holes in his shirtless Armani suits, but he must spend all his creativity onstage. In the studio he follows a lazy formula, interspersing concern with braggadocio, sexism with black pride. His message to gangs to leave the children alone is commendable, but when he repeats it in four numbers, you have to wonder if he ran out of midnight oil.
A few years back, I became interested in conjunto music and asked a knowledgeable friend how to tell which albums were good. "If there are Mexicans on the cover and one of them is holding an accordion, that's the good stuff," he said. I've always felt the same way about rap. If the cover pictured black guys with gold cables around their necks and fly girlies at their sides, with every rap group on the planet thanked in the liner notes, that was the good stuff. These days, you have to listen first. (RS 578)
(Posted: May 17, 1990)