Rewinding the Charts: In 1990, MC Hammer Nailed No. 1

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MC Hammer performed in his trademark harem pants at a 1991 concert in Birmingham, England.

His third LP became the first hip-hop record nominated for an album of the year Grammy.

ON APRIL 28, 1990, RAPPER MC HAMMER stutter-stepped to No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart with his third LP, Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em, thanks to the runaway success of single "U Can't Touch This," and spent 29 weeks in the coveted spot.

Almost 30 years later, it remains the longest No. 1 run by a rap album and led to Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em becoming the first hip-hop full-length to sell 10 million copies (according to the RIAA) and the first to be nominated for an album of the year Grammy.

With its sample of Rick James' "Super Freak" and a deliriously choreographed music video that featured Hammer in harem pants, "U Can't Touch This" also topped Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Born Stanley Burrell, the former Oakland Athletics bat boy was christened with his stage name (by the team's clutch hitter Reggie Jackson) because of his resemblance to Hall of Famer "Hammerin' Hank" Aaron.

Hammer would go on to land 18 hits on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart but soon flamed out. His extravagant lifestyle during the early '90s led to bankruptcy in 1996, which was memorably recounted in an episode of VH1's Behind the Music. In 1997, Hammer told Oprah Winfrey of his financial failing: "There were no books … or map to follow [about] receiving $20 million or $30 million at one time."

The father of five, who has been married for 30 years, has since become a pastor and an entrepreneur in the tech and entertainment fields. He also has appeared on several reality shows, including The Surreal Life and, in February, as a guest judge on Bravo's Top Chef.

A version of this article first appeared in the April 30 issue of Billboard magazine.


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