Well, I am stuck. I don’t know what to say. Surprised? Me too. I’ve written what seems to be a million introductions (okay, only three) only to delete them, finding them totally unsatisfactory.
So, here I am trying to find something pithy, yet witty about rapper MC Hammer, who has a new family-centered reality show Hammertime on A&E (Sundays, 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific). I could talk about the 50 million records sold, the three Grammy Awards, or the well-publicized financial troubles.
Or I could talk about his eldest daughter A’Keiba and how she is a reflection of his own inner strength, determination, stalwart work ethic and graciousness.
Recently, I got a chance to talk A’Keiba Burrell (Hammer’s real last name), a singer/songwriter and college senior, who is busy with summer school at the University of Texas at Austin.
If you think about it and you don’t have to think that long and hard, it’s not surprising that A’Keiba became singer/songwriter. Growing up, she said hung out with her dad in the studio all of the time. An only child for six years, A’Keiba, calls herself her father’s “little road dog” and relished having him “all to herself”.
And it was in the studio that A’Keiba got the opportunity to observe her dad’s creative process — how he methodically crafted songs working on the beats, rhythms and lyrics. When she was ready to pen a song of her own, he assisted her in her in process acting a sounding board off of which she could bounce ideas. “He’s a mentor and inspiration. I couldn’t see how someone could not pick up something.”
That was the songwriting. And now about the singing.
For A’Keiba, singing onstage is the biggest adreneline rush. She likens to what athletes must feel when engaged in their pursuits. ” There’s nothing like perfoming. You get to do something you love and to love what you are doing,” said A’Keiba who began peforming on stage with her dad at around 13 years old. And whenever her dad, Hammer asks for her to contribute vocals to tracks, she more than happily obliges.
Warning: About to address a sensitive subject (So you can’t say you haven’t been warned.)
Okay, I said that I would not mention Hammer’s financial woes…in the introduction (Please read more carefully next time thank you.) Don’t worry, I’m not going do any finger pointing or snickering. I ain’t Perez nor am I one of those bloggers who seem to delight in every celebrity stumble, no matter how minor.
I am the last person to put someone’s feet to the fire about finances as broke as my behind has been and as many falls from grace I have had. Having no children of my own, I just wanted to know what it was like to grow up with so much and to lose it. How, as a child, do you deal with such a thing when that thing is so public? I asked A’Keiba about that and about how she felt about her father, who filed for bankruptcy in 1996, being somewhat of a poster child for the excesses and pitfalls of fame.
A’Keiba said that she was “pretty young when [the bankruptcy] happened” and that her parents “didn’t bring [their financial challenges] home”. She had a “happy childhood… and was always provided for.” And those provisions included a bountiful amount of love. It was only when she became older and left her nurturing surroundings that people began to approach her “saying things that they have no idea about.” Said A’Keiba, “How do other people think they know about more about my family than I do.” (Tell ’em girl. Tell ’em)
And if her dad is to be some sort of poster child, some shining example of what not to do, so be it she said. A’Keiba’s sure that her dad doesn’t mind for his life’s experiences can give people the opportunity to learn from adversity without having to experience it. And if they are able to learn, grow from it, she said, that would be perfect. “Everyone goes through ups and down and Dad has come through. The blessing is having the love of friends and family to be there through the good and hard times. You couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
I asked A’Keiba what advice would she give to young people who, in these difficult times, may be experiencing similar challenges. “Everybody is feeling the recession. You have to look at your situation and find something to be thankful for, thankful for what you still do have. Even if all you have is the love of your family, it can help you overcome the hardest of hardships,” said A’Keiba.
She also believes that the change could do a person good forcing one to step outside of one’s comfort zone. When her family moved from their sprawling estate to small town Tracy, CA, where they currently live, A’Keiba went from attending a private school to a public one. No worries for her. She was just excited to have neighbors in her new ‘hood. Her attitude towards the life changes reflects her belief that by “turning something negative into a positive, you can lift yourself up” from the most trying of circumstances.
Whether it’s looking out for his cousin Marv or raising his nephew Jamaris as well as his own five children, Hammer seems to have not shied away from family responsibility and leadership on the homefront. And like her father, A’Keiba also embraces her familial duties with her role being that of big sister. In fact, she relishes being “2nd mom in charge.” A’Keiba said that she “gets a sense of entitlement [from being the oldest] but that entitlement is something earned for being there, for loving and helping them and that feeling of love is mutual.” Although A’Keiba loves college life and being around her peers she said there is nothing like returning home to family and having little brother, four-year-old Sammy, run into her arms.
Finally, I asked A’Keiba what we should expect to see on Hammertime.
She said that we will see that her dad comes home to a normal family life. “It will be a look into the lives of a real family…Each personality will come through. Everyone is different, so you are sure to find someone to identify with.”
I think I already have.
MC Hammer has become social media’s most vocal and well known evangelist making appearances throughout the nation speaking about its importance. And unlike other celebs, he actually engages in two-way communication with his followers. I can attest to this.
A’Keiba’s major in school? – It’s MAJORS not major, thank you. She’s majoring in recording technology and film production and editing and will graduating in December. (Two majors. Lawd, I could barely get through one.) Although I was allergic to hard work during my undergrad years, A’Keiba seems to relish it. “Hard work pays off. I don’t mind hard work because you are rewarded in the end.” By the way, it was her dad who suggested that she check out the school and upon visiting the campus, she fell in love it.
What is this I read that A’Keiba sings opera? – Yes, got it right. The other genres she sings are pop and soul.
Why opera? – When she first entered UT-Austin she majored in voice. All voice majors are classically trained — thus she studied opera. When she changed her major from voice to recording technology, “always looking to better herself,” she continued to take voice lessons with “an amazing teacher.”
Super fun fact – A’Keiba share a birthday with her mom Stephanie. Very sweet but the real fun fact is that her b’day, September 29, 1987, was the same day her dad, MC Hammer, heard one of his songs on the radio for the very first time.
Do you think you have seen her before? – Well, you may have. A’Keiba was on MTV’s Rock the Cradle.
And now, I leave you with The Hammer Pants Dance: