M.C. Hammer

updated 12/31/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/31/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Sure, he sold nearly 8 million albums—more than anyone else in 1990. And, yeah, he helped nudge rap beyond the limits of urban angst and into mainstream pop. But the greatest testimony to M.C. Hammer's talent may be this: With the help of his flailing. Bruce Lee feet, the Hammer created a performance style so dazzling that he somehow made harem pants, on men. seem hip. The Road Runner isn't faster and gunpowder isn't flashier than this guy, and his blockbuster hit single didn't make any promises his agile body couldn't keep: "U Can't Touch This."

The 27-year-old singer, né Stanley Kirk Burrell, grew up in Oakland's working class, got a job as preteen aide to A's owner Charley Finley and once even took a shot at a baseball tryout. A Hop on the diamond, he switched to music and found his held. Capitalizing on his Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em LP, he led 31 performers on a 250-concerl tour, sang "Feelings" in a memorable Pepsi ad and presided over his own thriving recording and production company. Feet, don't fail him now: "I have to keep working, because I know what it's like not to," says the driven Hammer. "But when I look back at the facts, I'm overwhelmed."

From Our Partners