“Pray” was released as the third single from M.C. Hammer’s 1990 album, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em. The single was released on September 21, 1990, and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
I was 15 years old and just starting my sophomore year of high school when “Pray” was released as a single. I already enjoyed “U Can’t Touch This” and “Have You Seen Her,” so I was ready to hear another song by M.C. Hammer. The first thing that grabbed my notice when I heard “Pray” was the sample of Prince and the Revolution’s “When Doves Cry,” since that is my all-time favorite song by Prince. I have to admit that while I still enjoy the song today, I don’t like it nearly as much as I did when I was 15. Now that I really pay attention to the lyrics, they aren’t nearly as socially conscious as I thought they were. Yes, there’s the verse where he raps about kids dying, but most of the song is more about Hammer and his desire for success. I expect the music video helped to make me think there was a lot more to the lyrics in “Pray” than what was actually there. It’s not a bad song, though. As they used to say on American Bandstand, it’s got a great beat and you can dance to it.
Not surprisingly, the music video employs quite a bit of imagery to make people think of religion. Church choirs jamming to the song, M.C. Hammer and other people in church, and dancers dancing in front of stained glass windows are just some of the images that invoke religion. These shots are intercut with M.C. Hammer and his posse going around and helping people out of bad situations (such as gambling, a kid buying drugs from a drug dealer, and two rival gangs heading into a confrontation). Unfortunately, the video for “Pray” just looks so dated today, thanks to the fashion (especially the Hammer pants) and hairstyles, as well as some of the choices the director made. It’s a music video that ultimately doesn’t pass the test of time.