In the early '90s, you couldn't go anywhere without hearing MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" or seeing someone wearing his signature parachute pants. Fashion may have moved on, but his album Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em is still one of the best-selling hip-hop albums of all time.
Forbes Magazine estimated Hammer's net worth at more than $33 million in 1991. But, just five years later, Hammer—born Stanley Burrell—was reportedly in debt to the tune of $13 million.
Hammer filed for bankruptcy in 1996, but today, he says his debt wasn't a matter of losing his head. "No, I lost my heart," he says. "I didn't just take the money and say, 'I want to be a blessing to myself.' I took my money and employed 200 people in my community. I had a payroll of a million dollars a month at times."
Hammer says he's in a good place now. "Some people ask me sometimes, would I go back and change things?" he says. "They are flabbergasted by my answer. My real, true answer is I wouldn't change one thing. I really believe in the butterfly effect. Meaning that if I change one thing, everything else changes. I lose the kids I have now. I lose the relationships I have now. I lose the peace I have now. So I'm very happy with my decision."
These days, Hammer has his own record label and still performs about 50 concerts a year. However, there's a side to Hammer that a lot of people don't know about—and some of his interests and accomplishments may surprise you. In his spare time, Hammer...
Preaches and officiates friends' weddings
Manages 22 mixed martial artists
Helps develop iPad apps
Invests in Internet start-up companies
Lectures about new media at places like Harvard, Wharton, Stanford and Oxford
"I think it is a shock to people to find out that MC Hammer is a super geek," he says.
Hammer says he first became interested in technology while making a music video in the '90s. He heard that videos could be accessed via the Internet, but the technology was still too new. "So I stuck with it all the way from '94 to YouTube," he says. "If you look on YouTube, you'll see me there when their [offices] were on top of a pizza parlor and only had three or four computers."
Today, Hammer says he spends most days in California's Silicon Valley. "On a day-to-day basis, I'm loosely involved with about eight [technology] companies that I'm excited about," Hammer says. "Everything from advising to consulting to investing in, it keeps me busy 10 to 12 hours a day."
Between meetings, Hammer uses Twitter to communicate with more than 2 million followers.
Hammer and Oprah share the same favorite piece of new technology—the iPad. "The iPad changes everything," he says. "It's unbelievable."
The day before he flew to Chicago for TheOprah Show taping, Hammer says he had a meeting with Apple to pitch a new iPad case, the ZAGGmate by ZAGG. "It wasn't an invention of mine, but somebody came up with a case that if you drop it, the screen doesn't break and then if you stand it up, it becomes a keyboard—a Blue Tooth wireless keyboard. So when they showed it to me I said, 'Well, Apple has to see this.'"
"I'm really kind of stunned. Who knew you were a geek?" Oprah jokes.
It's not all business, all the time for Hammer—he's been married to his wife Stephanie for more than 25 years. "When he's home, he's a little more reserved," she says.
The couple has five children together, and Stephanie says he's a hands-on dad. "There's nothing that comes across in the family that he's not involved in," she says.