A View from Christopher Mims
MC Hammer Is Just Another Tech Geek
The 90’s rap icon MC Hammer made a fortune, lost it, and is now an investor in 8 different tech companies.
For those of you whose last encounter with MC Hammer was stumbling across a vintage YouTube clip of the rapper hosting Yo! MTV Raps back when dancers randomly stretching in the background of the shot was a totally normal thing, it’s time to update your understanding of the man, the legend, the… Silicon Valley heavyweight?
Hammer was on Oprah today talking about his investments, his meeting with Apple, and his promotional deal with iPad case maker Zagg. Here’s a clip from the show. And another one. Modestly, he failed to mention his recent stints lecturing on the uses of social media at both Harvard and Stanford.
In addition to talking up his iPad case, Hammer also talked about his early days with YouTube, whose founders he apparently knew before the company was bought by Google. He told Oprah that it all came from his desire to figure out how to get his music and videos to the public without anyone having veto power over them. (Presumably he means the traditional power brokers like record labels and MTV.)
Indeed, Hammer’s involvement with Silicon Valley goes back even further than YouTube. “I went to Silicon Graphics 1994 and said ‘I heard that the internet will allow you to deliver video, so, what will it take?’” he told Oprah.
Hammer has two million followers on Twitter, so it makes sense that companies like Zagg and iPad magazine startup Flipboard would want to get him involved. He’ll be releasing his latest video exclusively via Flipboard, which is trying to promote a wider effort to partner directly with web publishers to “iPadify” their websites.
This hardly the first time Hammer has deployed both his celebrity and entrepreneurial instincts in a sort of hybrid media campaign: in 2009 he did a Superbowl promotional spot for Cash4Gold, and in 2007 he launched a YouTube-like video sharing site for dancers.
It would be easy to write off Hammer as a vapid has-been who is simply leveraging his celebrity, but that would be unfair – as this 2010 lecture at Stanford reveals, he’s simply very savvy about using social media to capitalize on his existing personal brand, and using that to break into new opportunities.