Grandmaster of parachute pants and overspending, MC Hammer turns 51 today. But, rather than get him a present, we’ve opted to gift something to you: a roundup of all the crazy stuff he blew his $30+ million fortune on in just a few short years. Happy Birthday, Hammer!
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Born Stanley Kirk Burrell in Oakland, California, he had his first taste of fame at age 11 as a bat boy and clubhouse assistant for the Oakland A’s. Reggie Jackson nicknamed him Hammer for his resemblance to Hank Aaron, a.k.a. “The Hammer." It stuck.
He got into the hip hop game and formed a Christian rap group before going solo and signing with Capitol Records, rocketing to stardom and wealth with Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em, the first hip hop album to sell over ten million copies. At his peak in 1991, he was earning upwards of $33 million a year. But in a flash, it all disappeared. Here’s why.
An epic entourage and staff. He kept a staff of 200 people on the payroll to handle pretty much everything you can imagine, and notoriously rolled with an entourage 40 deep — paying out a staggering $500,000 per month to support everybody. Hammerpants don’t launder themselves, people!
The mansion. Not content to settle for some sprawling estate that already existed, he broke ground — in the hills above the rough neighborhood he grew up in — on a 40,000 square foot house that would end up costing him $30 million. It earned the price tag with a litany of added touches like gold-plated gates, two swimming pools, Italian marble floors…
...a recording studio, 17-car garage, 33-seat theater, baseball diamond, and multiple tennis courts. That’s not counting the millions upon millions he spent to furnish the place with rare antiques.
Thoroughbreds. In 1991, he established Oaktown Stable, which would eventually house his 19 thoroughbred racehorses, including Dance Floor, a colt that finished 3rd in the ‘92 Kentucky Derby. Considering horses of such caliber regularly sell for millions apiece, this wasn’t a cheap endeavor.
Rides. He dropped a mint on transportation that included a Lamborghini, private jet, two private helicopters, and a stretch limo, because it’s the nineties.
Lawsuits. Significantly less glamorous than everything else on this list, he became embroiled in several copyright infringement lawsuits at peak fame — most notably with Rick James, who claimed he ripped off the iconic “Super Freak” bass riff in “U Can’t Touch This” (he did). Hammer eventually settled by giving him a co-writer credit and forking over a massive cut of the royalties. He also ended up settling out of court with another composer, who sued him for ripping off one of his songs.
Having blown through his ample fortune, Hammer filed for bankruptcy in 1996 with a staggering debt of over $13 million and was forced to sell off his house for a fraction of what he spent to build it. Eventually, he rebranded himself as a minister — a gig that helped pay the bills for a while — and has more recently dipped his toe into the startup waters as a consultant for eight different tech companies. Protip: hire someone you trust to manage your money the moment you come into it. Also, maybe skip the gold-plated gates.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor for Supercompressor and wouldn't dare steal a thing from Rick James (RIP).