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Family Room

In the late 1980s and early '90s, M.C. Hammer revolutionized the way fans listened to rap music. In addition to his infectious message of hope and reconciliation, Hammer knew how to entertain. His colorful attire, parachute pants and high-energy dance steps dominated MTV. This contributed to wild success at music stores worldwide. But at 32 years of age, Hammer has undergone an image change—a radical departure from his positive approach, according to some reports. I've received numerous letters from teens and parents wondering, "What happened?" I spoke with Hammer about this change, as well as the media's impact on teens. Allow me to share a few highlights from our conversation:

I like what you said in the liner notes of Too Legit. At one point you said, "It's time for strong brothers to stand up, accept the responsibility of helping our people, raise your sons and daughters, educate them, protect them, teach them moral values." It seems there aren't many people making that kind of statement. What prompted you to go on record with that?
Well, because that's how I feel. You know, I feel even more strongly about that today. I want to express that thought because I believe strongly in the fact that we need more leaders and more strong brothers in the Afro-American community to stand up and be responsible for the youth.

Funky Headhunter has done some lyrical things differently than your past discs. Could you describe that for me?
It's aimed towards the individuals in the streets. It's not aimed toward people who chose to leave and already have gotten out of the problems of life. I have a certain group of individuals that I need to reach because they are the future of the community, of society. There is only a certain style and a certain message that they can hear.

I wrestle with the fact that America, according to the Justice Department, is the most violent nation in the world. That prompts me to ask, "Is garbage-in fueling garbage-out?" I've got some news clippings indicating kids from around the country are imitating Beavis and Butt-head and their fire show. Kids mimicked that and burned their house down in Ohio, killing a 2-year-old.
First, there's no way that my little 6-year-old daughter will watch Beavis and Butt-head. She is not going to watch them light a match, and then go light our furniture on fire. Ain't gonna happen. Why? We take the time to talk to our daughter, to communicate with her. We teach her right from wrong. She knows she don't have any business with matches, let alone seeing a cartoon burn stuff up and let that be her excuse for setting a fire. I'd set her little butt on fire! What parents are doing now is making excuses for the behavior of kids that they need to take more responsibility for.

A reporter called me to discuss violent video games such as Mortal Kombat. He asked, "Have you ever seen a kid play a violent video game and go out and commit an act of violence against another person?" I replied, "No." Then I asked him, "Have you ever seen somebody get fat from eating one doughnut?" Of course not. It's a process of overeating and conditioning your body in a physical sense so that you gain weight. Before long, you've got 10 or 12 or 30 extra pounds. The question is, are we conditioning the next generation, over time, to grow up with violent or suicidal tendencies?
Sure, the violence on television, the violence in music, the violence in books all contribute. All of it. Like you say, you're not gonna get fat off one doughnut. They all contribute. However, we need to balance that with parental involvement.

Published August 1994