Death Row Records in the mid-90s was a powerhouse that no one wanted to reckon with. There were plans of expansion. The establishment of a Death Row East with Eric B as the President and a roster consisting of the likes of Big Daddy Kane, Wu-Tang Clan (some members), Run DMC, Kool G Rap, Craig Mack, and others. With Dr Dre leaving the label and Tupac passing away it never came into fruition and the label fell apart. However, there were some notable artist that had been on the label in passing and recorded material that would see the light of day thanks to the internet.
Recently Bow Wow had conducted an interview on the “Breakfast Club” had discussed Snoop discovering him and bringing him to the label. He was considered to be an affiliate of Daz and Kurupt’s group Tha Dogg Pound. A few tracks are floating around from his early days. However, it was MC Hammer that had recorded a full project while on the label that was never officially released. Hammer had forged a relationship with Suge Knight since the late 80s. He went quite in depth of his relationship with Suge Knight and Tupac with hip hop journalist Davey D back in 1997, shortly after his departure with Death Row.( http://www.daveyd.com/hammer.html) At the time of initially crossing paths Hammer was making the rounds promoting his album Lets Get It Started and Suge Knight was a bodyguard for Bobby Brown at the height of his career.
Over the next few years Hammer would go on to become one of the largest music stars in the industry, releasing several multi-platinum projects consecutively on Capital Records. Suge Knight would build up his music business acumen, having a publishing company and then eventually establishing Death Row Records with artist and producer extraordinaire Dr Dre. Death Row Records had become such a tour de force in the hip hop music industry, shifting the paradigm to a harder more aggressive sound that was coined as “gangster rap”.
Prominent artists like Heavy D and LL Cool J adopted the more aggressive sound to stay relevant in the marketplace. The highest profile artist though to change with the landscape was Hammer. He went on to release the album The Funky Headhunter in 1994. One of the tracks “Sleepin’ On The Master Plan” featured and was produced by Death Row duo Tha Dogg Pound consisting of Kurupt and Daz Dilinger. The album managed to go platinum.
MC Hammer – Sleepin’ On The Master Plan feat. Tha Dogg Pound
Hammer would release the following year the project Inside Out. The album did not connect with the marketplace and Hammer was dropped by the record label Giant Records. That is when Suge Knight reached out to Hammer and join Death Row Records. Check the video below at the 16:35 mark where Suge Knight and Hammer touch on their relationship and why he belonged on the Death Row record label.
Suge Knight/MC Hammer – Interview
Hammer described how he struck a true genuine friendship with Tupac once he joined the label. Right from the get go Tupac was very hands on putting together reference tracks that would ultimately lead to be on Hammer’s project Too Tight. This would include the title track “Too Tight” and “Unconditional Love”. He would also provide is vocals for the track “Too Late Playa” accompanied by the legendary Big Daddy Kane. In a radio interview Hammer conducted with Bay area legend Davey D in 2006 he expounded more on how welcoming Tupac was with Hammer. As well as his plans with him to set up initiatives to help out the youth and the community.
MC Hammer Speaks About 2pac on Davey D Show
Makaveli “Too Tight (Studio Session)”
MC Hammer – Unconditional Love (written by Tupac)
MC Hammer – Too Late Playa feat. Big Daddy Kane,2Pac, Outlawz, & Nutt-so
Other notable tracks that were associated with the project were “Get Up” which was rumored as a diss to rival at the time Too Short and the posse cut “Can U Feel It” which consisted a who’s who of prominent Westcoast artists including Kurupt, Mac Mall, and Knumskull from the Luniz. During his time on Death Row Hammer did also manage to make an appearance on the group OFTB’s album The Lost DR Files. The track was called “So Long” an ode to the dearly departed.
MC Hammer – Get Up
MC Hammer – Can U Feel It feat. Knumskull, Kurupt, Mac Mall, Nutt-So &Storm
O.F.T.B – So Long feat. MC Hammer (prod. by Johnny J)
If Tupac had not passed and Deathrow Records had not crumbled Hammer would have been able to continue being a platinum artist at the very least. In my humble opinion, the Too Tight album was his best piece of work. He had Tupac coaching him on his cadence and flow. Access to Death Row’s top notch producers and artists. As well as prominent west coast artists from other record labels.His acceptance on the label is a testament to who he was as a person. Still till this day when Hammer comes up in interviews the overall sentiment is that don’t let the shiny clothes and the dancing fool you. At his core he was someone who had true street cred and was well respected.