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MC Hammer lets world in on his quiet home life

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TRACY, Calif. - MC Hammer's home in rural Tracy is nothing to sneeze at, even though it pales in comparison to the spectacular Xanadu-like monstrosity he occupied in the Fremont, Calif., foothills just before his very public financial free fall. It doesn't have two swimming pools, or parking space for 17 cars, wondrous waterfalls or even a gold-plated gate emblazoned with his name.

But what it does have is plenty of room for a more grounded life with the woman who has stood by him for 23 years, six loving children and a collection of sparkling mementos that stand as testament to incredible showbiz achievements.

In other words, the iconic rap star, also known as Stanley Burell, isn't complaining.

"Just look at this neighborhood," he says, surveying his surroundings while standing in front of his ranch-style abode situated on a two-acre corner lot. "It's like something out of a storybook. There are well-groomed lawns. It's quiet and peaceful. There's room to spread out and grow. This place is a real blessing."

Hammer, 47, arrived in Tracy 12 years ago to, as he puts it, "reorganize and refocus" his life after tumbling from the top of the music charts and declaring bankruptcy. Since then, he has become entrenched in the community. He fishes and pumps iron at a local gym. He can be regularly seen tooling around in his bright orange Dodge Challenger or cheering on the Tracy Raiders youth-football squads.

And now he's ready to open up that private life for public view via a new A&E reality series called "Hammertime." A 10-episode run kicks off Sun-day, introducing viewers to not only the modern-day Hammer and wife, Stephanie, but their five kids, ranging in age from 21 to 4, along with their nephew.

"This show reflects who I really am," Hammer says. "You see the real father, the husband, the uncle, the businessman and then the entertainer - not some figment of someone's imagination derived from a five-minute music video."

But can a series built around the easygoing Hammer and his charming brood find ratings traction during an era of reality TV teeming with conflict, controversy and outrageous drama? In the back-to-back episodes that air Sunday, the Burrells pretty much come off as normal people doing a lot of normal things. There's a spring-cleaning session (Hammer puts the house on lockdown), a smile-inducing "Take Your Dad to School Day," a trip to a high-school track meet and some fun times at an open-mic night.

In one sequence, Hammer is forced to gently scold son Jeremiah for a disappointing report card. In another, he and a misty-eyed Stephanie are seen rummaging through some long-lost photos of the rapper in all his parachute-pants, "U Can't Touch This" glory.

"I wouldn't want to change anything or do it with anybody else," Hammer says of the woman he met during a revival in East Palo Alto. "My best friend is my wife."

'Hammertime' debuts 10 p.m. Sunday on A&E.

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