The pastor paces up and down the aisles of Jubilee Christian Center, shouting words from the Scriptures, casting out unclean spirits in his midst. Hundreds of arms reaching to the heavens sway as the rough, familiar voice rises, touching souls that yearn to be saved.
“Somebody here needs to be set free,” he tells them. “There’s somebody here who’s spiritually dead. I can feel it. Somebody shout hallelujah!”
“Hallelujah,” the faithful yell out.
With the same breath and body that rhymed and danced to the worldwide rap hit “Can’t Touch This,” M.C. Hammer is now preaching the Lord Jesus Christ.
Stanley Kirk Burrell — better known as MC Hammer — enjoyed fame during the 1990s thanks to his hit song, “Can’t Touch This.” Unfortunately, fame didn’t last long. Through a series of events, including his unexpected fall from the spotlight, the hip-hop star decided to become a born-again Christian. Today, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and spends much of his time as an ordained Evangelical minister.
He is best known for his hit rap songs “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit”. He is the first artist to gain diamond status for an album and has sold over 50 million records throughout his lifetime. He is remembered for a rapid rise to fame, flashy dance moves, choreography, and his trademark parachute pants. His superstar status and entertaining showmanship made him a household name and hip-hop icon in the 1980s and 1990s. He was also a TV producer, television show co-host, and is the head of his own music management firm. A self-described “super-geek”, he is currently either investing in or consulting for eight technology companies. He was one of the first celebrities to embrace social media and spends 10-12 hours daily working on his technology projects.
He was known in the music business as the entertainer’s entertainer—a superstar whose accolades include three Grammys, seven American Music Awards and two MTV Awards. But in spite of his fame, rap artist MC Hammer faded from view a number of years ago.
But Hammer is back. And now, he says, Jesus is with him.
In October 1997 he told an audience on the Trinity Broadcasting Network: “[Tonight] we are officially burying the old man. I want to walk sincerely in the newness of life with Christ.”
A few days later in Barbados, in the midst of billows of smoke, with fireworks exploding above his head, Hammer rose from beneath a stage at the World Gospel ’97 extravaganza to a new commitment. Wearing a metallic gold space suit, the prodigal son sang about his renewed faith in God.
MC Hammer, born Stanley Burrell, made an initial commitment to Christ in 1984. With a passion for God, he attended Bible studies and church meetings almost daily.
He was also active on an outreach team with a street ministry. Simultaneously, a Gospel group he formed, the Holy Ghost Boys, produced a single called “Son of the King,” which eventually became one of Hammer’s biggest hits.
But a change came in 1988. Capitol Records re-released his first album, Feel the Power, as Let’s Get It Started. It produced three Top Ten singles and sold over a million copies.
Thankful for the success, Hammer promised God he would include one song of praise on each album. He kept his word, but fortune gradually sucked him into what he calls, “some serious junk.” He began to slide into sin and away from God’s protection.
Sin for Hammer wasn’t blatant. He wasn’t on drugs, but his business became a drug. Most people who are addicted to success, Hammer told Charisma, “can’t identify this ‘business’ drug. It takes all your time away from God, from the family, from extended loved ones.”
Hammer believes he was living an illusion: “You create a utopia around you so you don’t have to deal with the reality that you’re not in the will of God. You wake up and realize you’re a backslider.”
The downward spiral continued until he produced a video several years ago, which he doesn’t care to name. “That video was definitely over the line,” he says.
He knew he was moving away from the Lord: “How can a Christian who’s not being obedient make Christian materials?” he asked.
Hammer chose to allow the Spirit to lead him once again—a decision he says that didn’t please demonic powers. It has been a difficult journey ever since.
In one year’s time he survived bankruptcy, a serious knee injury and the trauma of his wife’s cancer diagnosis. But he says God spoke to him in a dream: “God said, ‘You have suffered mentally and physically, but if you keep your love for Me through all this, you can come out.’”
Hammer awoke to find his pastor, Willie Harper, at his side. “I’m ready for the mission God’s given me. I plan on being obedient,” Hammer announced.
According to Hammer, God not only brought him out but also healed both him and his wife. Since then, he has become an evangelist.
He chronicled his deliverance in a song, “He Brought Me Out,” on the album, Family Affair, which reflects his journey back to obedience. “It was going to be a regular Hammer album with one Gospel song. Then God took over and said, ‘Here’s another, and another, and another,’ for a total of eight.”
At World Gospel ’97 in Barbados, Hammer launched his new career and debuted his new entourage of 25 musicians, choir members and dancers. Hammer sang “He Brought Me Out,” combining it with the best in contemporary dance.
“It’s my transition album,” Hammer said. “[Others] will have a new hybrid style of inspirational, Gospel, and folk together. They won’t be what the world considers secular.”
Hammer stresses that although his music speaks of his spiritual commitment, he doesn’t want to be known as a Gospel rapper. He wants his ministry to continue to reach all young people.
“If kids say I’m just a Gospel rapper, I won’t be able to get in their cars,” he added.
In Barbados, Hammer was invited to minister at the local jail. “Hammer preached till his shirt was soaked,” commented the organizer of World Gospel ’97. “It wasn’t a publicity stunt.” Forty-two inmates were saved at the prison.
But it may take time to convince some people that Hammer has changed. His bold style is foreign to an insulated Christian audience. Some express concern that he is mixing worldliness with a Christian message.
Harper disagrees. “Holiness will never change, but the method of winning souls is changing and has changed.”
Hammer isn’t allowing criticism to deter him from his mission. He told the World Gospel ’97 audience: “I’m doing what I’m doing because God said so,” Canada’s Christian Library