Vanilla Ice: He's still cool as ice
Mon 17th Dec, 2007 Features 7186 viewsin
Vanilla Ice: the most influential individual in the history and evolution of hip hop? A statement like this would certainly be setting the cat among the pigeons, but according to the man himself we’ve got a lot to thank him for. “Even Jay-Z and your biggest selling rappers out today, Kanye West or whoever it is, their records are sold to eight-five, ninety per cent white people, and there’s a reason for that. Who introduced it to the white kids first? Me!” And after the release of the phenomenally successful Ice Ice Baby in the early 90s, he was single-handedly responsible for breaking down the barriers between black and white music. “Before I came along it was all basically divided. If you went to a rap concert, you’d expect everyone to be all black. You go to a rock concert, you’d expect everyone to be all white. But now… A lot of barriers have been broken down.”
Whether you agree with these slightly outlandish claims or not, Mr Van Winkle, better known as Vanilla Ice, is one cool, calm and collected dude. But he hasn’t always been. After the phenomenal success of Ice Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice hit rock bottom. His dramatic fall from grace really took its toll as Ice struggled with his image, and questioned who he was. After a long seventeen years since its release, two suicide attempts and a thousand and one image changes, Ice is seemingly a totally grounded, totally balanced family man who simply loves his motocross. One thing is for sure, he has a healthy ego: or maybe he just tells it like it is. ITM’s Alida delves deeper…
What’s been keeping you busy?
I’ve been touring around. I just got back from Scotland. I also went to the UK. I toured through Russia recently, Estonia, Latvia – all through Europe. I’ve been touring around America for a while with my band, and riding motocross in between. I do the freestyle stuff, jumps and exhibitions where I’ve got ramps that shoot you about eighty feet in the air. It’s a good life!
As a Grammy Award nominee, you have topped the music charts, sold over twenty million records world wide and are an iconic white rap star. With all this in consideration, how does it feel to be donned a ‘one hit wonder’?
(Laughs) I don’t look at it like that. I’ve had many hits. I’ve got three records out since Ice Ice Baby and they’ve sold millions of copies without any radio play or videos. I don’t think that’s going on anywhere in except in Australia [being called a one hit wonder] but that’s fine with me because I don’t care. I mean, I’m here to enjoy my life, and have a great time. I don’t think [being a one hit wonder] is a bad thing, if you want to call it that. I’ve sold millions of copies of my last three records, and I’ve moved on. I still love Ice Ice Baby. It’s a huge accomplishment to have sold the most rap records in history and still to this day because of Ice Ice Baby.
Ice Ice Baby samples Under Pressure and a lawsuit followed. You also recorded a version of a major Wild Cherry hit with Play That Funky Music. As an early defender of sampling, do you feel that your contributions are properly acknowledged?
Well, I don’t have an ego so it doesn’t matter to me. What happened yesterday is just one of those things. But, you know, I think it’s great. It made huge progress for rap music in general. Forget about the white, black, the Puerto Rican, the Jewish, whatever, it doesn’t matter, it’s basically hip hop in general. I’m the first rapper to ever be in the pop charts and pop market so I had to take the heat for a lot of people. I mean, when I sampled music, it was a big deal. But now, you’ve got every rapper in the world… Look at every song that Puff Daddy makes… It is [made from] a sample. So now [sampling is] accepted but I had to take the heat for it to be acceptable. [I took the heat] also for white rappers, like Eminem. I paved the way for Eminem – I think it’s obvious. Like I said, I don’t have an ego so I couldn’t give a shit but to be honest with you, you’d have to be blind to not understand and see that. But yeah, I took a lot of heat for a lot of people and made hip hop grow into everything that it is today so I’m grateful for it.
Hip hop is at a crossroads at the moment. How do you personally interpret the commercialization of hip hop culture and rap music?
If you look at it… “Even Jay-Z and your biggest selling rappers out today, Kanye West or whoever it is, their records are sold to eight-five, ninety per cent white people, and there’s a reason for that. Who introduced it to the white kids first? Me! So I mean, it’s a pretty cool deal that the same people who listen to, let’s say Led Zeppelin, or Ozzy Osborne or Korn or Limp Biscuit are the exact same people who will listen to Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine. Before I came along it was all basically divided. If you went to a rap concert, you’d expect everyone to be all black. You go to a rock concert, you’d expect everyone to be all white. But now, it’s all mixed so it’s pretty cool. A lot of barriers have been broken down. Whether I’m credited for it or not – I couldn’t give a shit but I still think it’s pretty cool to see it where it is. There’s been an evolution. Even with the downloads… You know, there are a lot of people not selling as many records but [hip hop] still alive and kicking. I’m grateful for that. Every ten years or so I hear “rap music’s gonna die,” “hip hop’s gonna die,” “we go to keep it alive”, but here it is. Jay-Z: number one selling record in the country.
I think it’s important to accept that hip hop has evolved. The essence of hip hop is still there, it’s just an evolution of what it was when it first emerged.
Exactly – evolution. That’s exactly what it is. You hit it on the nail. It was one thing and now it’s changed. It’s a sign of the times. I ain’t dead. It ain’t gonna die, and it never will die. It will evolve and change, and some people might like the change, and some people might not. It’s just part of it. I prefer a lot of the old-skool hip hop. We have stuff on the radio, and I don’t know about you, but I like listening to a lot of the old-skool stuff too. I love Public Enemy. You know, EPMD… Some of these old rappers, they own it as far as their space of time. Same as me – I own a space of time. It’s kind of a unique thing… Me and my buddy were talking the other day, and we were like, “you ever think of people like our parents and stuff who grew up with Frank Sinatra?” What are we gonna tell our tell when we’re like eighty years old? “We grew up on Public Enemy.” (Laughs) It’s hilarious! We going to tell our kids we grew up on rap music.
Time just keeps pushing on. I can’t believe the year is almost through. In your up coming tour of Australia, how are you going to bring in the New Year, Vanilla Ice style?
First if all, I’m gonna bring my band. It’s kind of hard to explain over the phone as to what my concert is like. It’s a hip hop rock show. We have pyrotechnics, sparks flying everywhere and water flying all over the place. It’s a very high-energy show. I’m going to do all my new music and then I’m going to take it back to the old skool. And we are going to enjoy memories of having a zig-zag in your hair or the eyebrow shave, the baggy pants or if you were learning to dance for the first time, who you were dating in high school… You know, you play the song Ice Ice Baby and a lot of people have memories. It just shows you that impact of a great song, and I’m so grateful for it. I hated on the whole image part for a long time. I had a weak patch a few years ago and I hated it. I’ve learnt to get over it and I enjoy the song now. I wrote it when I was sixteen years old and it’s still going strong today. There are people who are sixteen and they know every lyric. So if you do the math, they weren’t even one or two years old [when I wrote it]. My crowd today… In the United States today I have sixteen to twenty-five year olds come out. They’re all body pierced and tattooed and shit. It’s pretty cool.
You’ve gone through a lot of personal changes. Rapper to dreadlocked stoner to tattoos and being a reality TV star – have you found yourself yet?
Yeah, I have. Like I said earlier, I had a weak spot that lasted a few years. And what I mean by that is I didn’t know who I was – I didn’t know where I fit in, in life.
These days, how do you keep it real?
My family and my friends keep me grounded. I couldn’t buy myself happiness. I made great investments back in the day so it’s never been that I couldn’t buy myself anything – except happiness. Every mansion, every Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, everything you could buy and I just couldn’t buy myself happiness. Basically, I turned to my friends and my family and they all kept me stable. You’ve got to go back and do what you enjoy doing. And I enjoy racing motocross and hanging with my friends, and rapping and talking shit, and just enjoying life. That’s my life today. I kicked drugs ten years ago and now all I do is drink a little bit. And that’s what I plan on doing when I come down [to Australia] for New Year’s. We’re gonna get drunk and celebrate the New Year’s. I’m gonna drink some of that Australian beer!
Catch Vanilla Ice at the following shows across the country…
Fri Dec 28 – King Street Hotel, Newcastle
Sat Dec 29 – Plantation Hotel, Coffs Harbour
Sun Dec 30 – Metro City, Perth
Mon Dec 31 – North Gong Hotel, Wollongong
Mon Dec 31 – Coogee Beach Palace Hotel, Sydney
Tue Jan 1 – BBQ Breaks, Brisbane
Tue Jan 1 – Sun Kissed New Years Day, Gold Coast
Fri Jan 4 – Magnums Hotel, Airlie Beach
Sat Jan 5 – Brothers World Of Entertainment, Cairns
Thu Jan 10 – Roxanne Parlour, Melbourne
Fri Jan 11 – Capitol Nightclub, Wagga Wagga
Sat Jan 12 – Summer Party Festival, Adelaide
And this video simply needs to be watched again… Watch Vanilla Ice going loco on a copy of Ice Ice Baby with a baseball bat, live on MTV…