Widely acknowledged as one of the first musical acts, alongside Kurtis Blow, Run-D.M.C., and others, to push rap and hip-hop into the American mainstream, MC Hammer (born Stanley Kirk Burrell in Oakland, CA, on March 30, 1962) enjoyed a seemingly limitless and unstoppable tide of success in the early '90s, with the issue of his multi-platinum albums Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em (1990) and Too Legit to Quit (1991). The notoriety was short-lived, however. Though Hammer retained his iconic status, he lost audience ground in the mid-'90s and was written off (by many) as passé -- a symbol of his era. Falling record sales and Chapter 11 ensued, yet talk of a musical resurgence persisted. Over time, Hammer (who grew up in a devout home) became more evangelical and tried to place greater emphasis on Christian themes in his music, but did so to little commercial success. Finally, another Hammer album, the independently produced and released Active Duty, premiered in November 2001 and capitalized on themes of post-9/11 patriotism.
For the first several years of Hammer's celebrity, his contributions to filmed entertainment (aside from music videos, of course) consisted of soundtrack work, on such Hollywood pictures as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Addams Family. In early September 1991, Hammer expanded into television with the debut of his half-hour animated series Hammerman. The series -- which capitalized on cheap, crudely drawn animation with deliberately exaggerated character movements -- concerned Stanley (voiced by Hammer), the unassuming, soft-spoken employee of a children's recreational center, who put on his "magic dancing shoes" to become the superhero crime fighter Hammerman. The series folded on September 5, 1992.
Then, perhaps as a result of his waning musical popularity, Hammer began making intermittent before-the-camera appearances in Hollywood features -- first in cameos, such as the 1993 Schwarzenegger opus Last Action Hero, then in more substantial parts, such as the 1995 actioner One Man's Justice, starring Brian Bosworth. In 2001, Hammer executive produced a biopic about himself, Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story, starring Romany Malco as the rapper and Tangi Miller as his wife, Stephanie. It aired on the music cable-television station VH1. A couple years later, MC Hammer appeared opposite Emmanuel Lewis, Corey Feldman, Gabrielle Carteris, and others in the first season of the WB's reality series The Surreal Life, a program that placed a number of has-been celebrities in a Hollywood Hills mansion for two weeks and filmed their interactions.