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Hammertime at the Rays

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Getty Images

If you've been jonesing for some early-'90s dance music, then dust off those parachute pants and head to the Trop.

As part of its summer concert series, Tropicana Field has declared Saturday '90s Night. After the Rays-Blue Jays game, none other than MC Hammer will get the party started with a glittery throwback performance.

"The material will be classic MC Hammer material, so expect a lot of what you would expect from MC Hammer. There'll be a ton of dancing, high energy, a lot of fun," said Stanley "MC Hammer" Burrell, 46, in a phone interview this week. "It's a big party on stage. A big performance."

Baseball and baggy pants may seem like a strange combination, but the pairing makes sense, given Hammer's history. While working as a batboy for his hometown Oakland A's, Hammer earned his nickname for his resemblance to Hammerin' Hank Aaron. An avid fan of the sport, Hammer said ballplayers and musicians have something in common.

"We feed off the engery of the crowd," he said. "That's why in most cases, most teams have the best records at home. They feed off the people. Entertainers certainly feed off the crowd."

As both the Rays and Hammer have experienced, the crowd can be a fickle animal.

You probably remember the Behind the Music: In the early '90s, Hammer ruled the charts with jams like U Can't Touch This, 2 Legit 2 Quit and It's All Good. The performer voiced the Hammerman cartoon and starred in commercials for Pepsi and Lay's potato chips. There was even a Hammer action figure in a shiny gold suit. The performer danced all the way to the bank, earning a reported $33 million in 1991 alone.

But it wasn't all good for long. Hammer's shift from Mr. Nice Guy to gangsta rapper was implausible to fans, who labelled him a sellout. His liabilities quickly outpaced his assets, and he could no longer afford the 11,000-square-foot mansion or the innumerable entourage he employed. In 1996, Hammer filed for bankruptcy.

"I don't live for popularity," he said of his fall from the spotlight.

Since then, Hammer has become an ordained minister, officiating the 2005 wedding of Surreal Life castmate Vince Neil. He founded DanceJam.com, which he called "YouTube meets MySpace," and he stays in contact with fans through mchammer.blogspot.com. He says a TV show and album are in the works, and a Hammertime Las Vegas stage show kicks off around Halloween.

The performer, who has played stadiums all over the world, said he looks forward to his first trip to Tropicana Field.

"Just come out to enjoy yourself," he said. "It'll certainly be Hammertime."

Hammertime!

I was 7 when MC Hammer came fluttering across the screen in inflated-looking pants. It wasn't long until I had his backpack, his Pepsi, and his Saturday morning cartoon show on lock. Behind the Music provided my last update on Hammer. His taste for lavish living (and for waterfalls) apparently did him in financially. But I haven't forgotten how he introduced me to "rap" (hey, it was the '90s). After 21 straight weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1990, he forever opened the door for rappers to hit it big — really big. So on Saturday my fellow Hammerheads, just for a minute, let's all do the bump. (Quick tip: Season ticket holders are the only ones with access to the field, so find one willing to give up a wristband to get up to the front of the stage.) The concert is free with admission to the game. First pitch is at 6:10 p.m. Tickets are $9 to $210. Tropicana Field, 1 Tropicana Drive, St. Petersburg, (727) 825-3250; tampabayrays.com. — Carole Giambalvo

Holy hip-hoppers

MC Hammer isn't the only rapper who knows we got to pray just to make it today. Check out these other rappers-turned-evangelists.

Mase The former Bad Boy Records star now makes holy hip-hop albums and pastors Mason Betha Ministries in Atlanta.

Rev Run A founding member of Run-DMC, Joseph Simmons is the patriarch of MTV's Run's House, where viewers watch the ordained minister type a daily "word of wisdom" in the bathtub.

KRS-One Hip-hop's "teacha," Krist Parker, now imparts a spiritual message, calling God his inspiration.

Hammertime at the Rays 07/17/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 4:43pm]

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