Ninety 90’s Songs: Emcee Cover

Looking at the numbers, and sales, one would think MC Hammer is a relevant pop icon. One would think he has his finger on the pulse of the music world, that he knows the ins and outs of the music “biz”, and is a creative force with which few could contend.  But just look at his album “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em”. There are so many covers that it is practically snuggly and warm.

#82 “Pray” by MC Hammer. While not King Hammer’s most popular hit, it’s still one of his biggest. It heavily samples Prince’s “When Doves Cry”, adds a “contemporary” percussion section, and overlays the original with pop rap lyrics that are both sexualized and religious. So… original? Yeah, no.

Any time a music artist samples from a colleague’s stellar hit, isn’t it just a bit seamy? Sure there are some successes, and looking at Hammer’s sales record you could say he pulled it off quite well. “Pray”, however, is indicative of a trend on its album. Sampling and covering are the crux of the whole record. Take away the work of other artists, and “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em” may as well be “a Ham Hurt”.

“Pray” itself, is a rather unique take on the Prince song. The inherent sensuality is still there, so what else could you add? How about some back up singers who’s jobs are only to whimper “pray”, some shiny dancers who “get down on their knees” while chanting the lyrics, and to keep the devout from denouncing King Hammer, film the remainder in a church with some enthusiastic gospel singers, and don’t forget the obligatory white girl towards the end of the video.

In retrospect, it all seems just a bit silly. One hundred years from now, I imagine musicologists uncovering footage of Hammertime and wondering if, in fact, someone had discovered a parachute-panted genie and gave him a record deal, who wound up gaining a cult following, and used the music of other artists like scraps to make this patchy quilt of an album.


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