How do you upgrade a mass-appeal hip-hop act that sold millions of records just a few short years ago but has since lost any street credibility in light of hardcore rap? Easy! Just follow the seven steps below, and voila: perpetually grinning, baggy-suited dancer-entrepreneur M.C. Hammer is magically transformed into newly hardened, street-savvy gangsta-entrepreneur Hammer.
1. Retain sunglasses from previous look, but add menacing wool hat favored by platinum gangstas Ice Cube and Eazy-E. Also retain gold chain with Ferrari insignia to show you're still down with status symbols.
2. Grow goatee, á la Ice-T and Tupac Shakur. Bonus effect: People might mistake you for one of them and buy your record by mistake.
3. Adopt deadpan scowl, thus making everyone forget that you were, briefly, a Saturday-morning cartoon character.
4. Purchase drab denimlike shirt, complete with inmate numerals, for that ''I know what prison is like -- my stretch limo has driven past one'' authenticity.
5. Continue the imagery with new, hard-hitting logo that looks like something prison officials might stamp on release papers.
6. Issue statement heavy on tough talk: ''I'm out to set the record straight...and check the fools who misunderstood what Hammer's about.''
7. Release new album, The Funky Headhunter, this month; pray no one remembers ''U Can't Touch This.''