Pray

Album: Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em (1990)
Charted: 8 2
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • When MC Hammer sampled, he wasn't subtle. On "Pray," he raps over the track for "When Doves Cry" by Prince, creating a hip-hop version of the song with most elements from the original intact. He did the same thing with "U Can't Touch This," which was based on "Super Freak" by Rick James.

    Both songs were part of his 1990 breakthrough album Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em, which sold over 10 million copies in America and made him a sensation.

    With "U Can't Touch This," it was later revealed that Hammer didn't clear the sample and later reached a settlement with Rick James. Prince rarely authorized his music for these kind of uses, so it's likely Hammer took the "pray for forgiveness" approach to this one as well, likely turning over most, if not all, of the royalties from the song to Prince.
  • This song espouses MC Hammer's Christian beliefs in very clear terms: "We got to pray just to make it today." Through clean living and Christianity, he made it to the top, and he shows his gratitude in this song.

    In this phase of his career, Hammer stayed away from songs that disrespected women or glorified violence, which gave him a wider appeal and earned him airplay where other rappers weren't welcome. He kept the vibe positive and made dancing a huge part of his act, which also set him apart.
  • "Pray" was MC Hammer's highest-charting song on the Hot 100, climbing to #2. "U Can't Touch This," released months earlier, is far more popular but reached just #8 because it took a while to catch on.
  • In the video, Hammer gets righteous, excoriating a gambler, thwarting a drug deal, and breaking up a gang fight. It did very well on MTV.
  • MC Hammer (under his real name, Stanley Burrell) is the only songwriter credited on this song other than Prince, who is listed because of the "When Doves Cry" sample.
  • The song runs 5:11, vamping for the last 90 seconds. Most pop songs couldn't get away with this, but the song was pretty much guaranteed airplay on Top 40 radio because Hammer was red hot and the Prince same gave it a familiar sound.
  • On the Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em tour, MC Hammer had about 30 dancers, who all would stand in silence as he introduced this song with a monologue about caring for children and the power of prayer. Many of the dancers donned church robes to rock a gospel choir look for the song.
  • The "That's why we pray!" line has the same cadence as the title phrase in the 1985 Faith No More song "We Care a Lot." It's not clear if Faith No More was ever compensated.

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