How MC Hammer overcame bankruptcy to become a top investor in Silicon Valley

BY Preta Peace Namasaba June 30, 2024 11:21 AM EDT

Celebrities, athletes, musicians rappers, and actors lose their money so often that it is no longer shocking. But bouncing back from the ruin, more so in a completely different industry is rare. Stanley Kirk Burrell, better known as MC Hammer did it. After making nearly $70 million at the height of his career, the rapper’s extravagant lifestyle landed him in bankruptcy with more than $10 million in debt. The three-time Grammy Award winner has reinvented himself as a leading tech investor.

“Some people ask me sometimes, would I go back and change things? 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,” MC Hammer said about his life’s journey.

MC Hammer grew up poor in a small housing project apartment in East Oakland, California with his mother and eight siblings. At 11, he was hired as a clubhouse assistant and batboy for Oakland Athletics. MC Hammer played second base in high school and dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. These aspirations ended after he failed to make the final cut at a San Francisco Giants tryout. He joined the United States Navy for three years, returning to begin his music career.
From singing in a Christian rap group, MC Hammer shot to fame in the late ’80s and ’90s as a rapper. He became a cultural phenomenon, appearing in movies and television shows, performing on late-night talk shows, and setting musical and fashion trends. In 1991, MC Hammer won three Grammy awards. He earned $33 million that year alone.

As MC Hammer’s fame skyrocketed, so did his expenditures. He lived a lavish life, acquiring 17 luxury cars, 21 racehorses, a private jet, and a helicopter. He acquired a 40,000-square-foot mansion in Fremont, California at $12 million and invested an additional $30 million in personalizing it. The home improvements included a gold hot tub and toilet, statues of himself, Italian marble floors, tennis courts and a basketball court, and gold-plated front gates inscribed with “Hammer Time” to welcome guests. MC Hammer spent between $500,000 and $1 million per month on his staff of 200 people.

This opulence was short-lived.

As music trends changed, MC Hammer became less popular. Despite earning less money, he continued to spend at an incredible rate. With no money to fall back on, MC Hammer had to sell his mansion for around $5.2 million. He went from having a net worth of over $70 million in his prime to being $13 million in debt. In 1996, he filed for bankruptcy.

Following his financial misfortune, MC Hammer took the initiative to turn around his life. He moved to a modest house and decided to learn from his experience. He leveraged his legacy to do concerts and start earning again, albeit spending cautiously. MC Hammer also discovered new ways to earn money such as helping executives prepare for presentations or important interviews. He learned about saving and investing and started investing his earnings.

MC Hammer has had a passion for technology since the 1990s. He recognized the potential of music videos shared on the internet even before the required technological infrastructure was in place. Committed to realizing his vision, he began his tech investing career. Today, MC Hammer collaborates with companies at the intersection of technology, music, and marketing in Silicon Valley. His investment portfolio includes Bump Technologies, Square, and X (formerly Twitter).

“On a day-to-day basis, I’m loosely involved with about eight [technology] companies that I’m excited about. Everything from advising to consulting to investing in, it keeps me busy 10 to 12 hours a day,” MC Hammer said about his role in Silicon Valley.