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Vanilla Ice: About
Robert Matthew "Vanilla Ice" Van Winkle (born October 31, 1968 in Dallas, Texas) is an American rapper, known today for the single "Ice Ice Baby" that topped the charts in the early-1990s (see 1990s in music). At the time, he was also one of the very few successful white rappers.
Van Winkle's first foray into the music industry is the little-known album Hooked, released in 1989 on an independent label. Just 48,000 copies were sold, making it a rarity and something of a collector's item among fans.
His next album fared better: To the Extreme, released in 1990, contained mostly the same songs as Hooked. The album featured his best-known single, "Ice Ice Baby", a rap song about his MC skills, the Miami scene, and a gun-fight on A1A/Beachfront Avenue. Van Winkle's manager and financier, Tommy Quon, shrewdly chose a limited release for the single, and no vinyl release for the album, so that fans bought the more expensive CD instead; this led to To The Extreme becoming the first #1 album without a vinyl counterpart release. It went on to sell over 11 million copies, making him one of the most commercially successful rappers of all time. In fact, "Ice Ice Baby" was credited by Casey Kasem's top 40 radio show as being the number one rap single in history.
But Van Winkle's success was met with problems. "Ice Ice Baby" had sampled the Queen and David Bowie collaboration "Under Pressure" without permission (the matter settled out of court). Van Winkle was sued by a California undergraduate chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first African-American fraternity claiming he was using words and moves similar to the fraternity's step-show routines. He was also sued by Wild Cherry frontman Rob Parissi, for not crediting him as the writer of Ice's cover of the disco classic, "Play that Funky Music."
Van Winkle's image also began to falter. His claims that he had attended an all-black high school in Miami, Florida and had led a crime-riddled life were revealed to be false, and had been manufactured to lend his image street credibility. This first occured when student-reporters at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, a mostly white high school in Miami, attempted to locate him in the local district records, they became the first people to discover Vanilla Ice's real name. He had actually attended R. L. Turner High School in Carrollton, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, Texas. His flamboyant stage outfits and over-stylized grooming also eventually led to great ridicule. Van Winkle could not shake the perception that he embodied the white mainstream's commercial appropriation and watering down of traditionally African-American music, and the backlash from the hip hop community all but turned him into a pariah.
Van Winkle has been mocked in other rappers' lyrics, most notably by the later (and more successful) white rap artist Eminem, but perhaps the most famous contemporary critique was 3rd Bass' song Pop Goes the Weasel. Its music video featured Henry Rollins, dressed like Van Winkle, being beaten up by the members of the group. The African-American sketch comedy In Living Color also mocked Vanilla Ice with a sketch where the rapper was portrayed (by Jim Carrey) as a bumbling phoney, the backup chorus singing "He's so white-white baby!"
Re-hashing his songs for a third time, Van Winkle's next album was a live version of To The Extreme titled Extremely Live. Though Extremely Live was certified gold, Ice's fame had faded significantly by the time it was released in 1991, and sales of the album never approached those of its predecessor.
Ice's film debut came in the 1991 movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, appearing as a performer in a night club performing "Ninja Rap," a song he wrote for the film.
Also in 1991, Van Winkle made Cool as Ice, often colloquially referred to on blogs and online reviews as "The Vanilla Ice Movie." The film was essentially a remake of Rebel Without a Cause updated for the 1990s, starring Van Winkle as "Johnny," a biker gang member loosely modeled on the Vanilla Ice character. Johnny falls in love with a preppy girl he meets while riding through a small town. The soundtrack featured several new Vanilla Ice tracks, including a duet with Naomi Campbell. The film was both a commercial and critical failure. For his performance, Van Winkle won the "Worst New Star" award at the 1991 Golden Raspberry Awards. The film slipped into obscurity, with only a limited VHS release, but in the early 2000s it enjoyed a new status as a cult film, thanks in part to the recent trend of nostalgia crazes, and the film's intermitten appearance on bad movie review sites.
Following the failure of "Cool as Ice," Van Winkle kept a low public profile and became a motocross racer using his real name.
Van Winkle returned to music in 1994 with Mind Blowin'. His image had been changed to a dreadlocked, marijuana-obsessed, tattooed gangsta, insisting that his former sound and image had been pressed on him by his record company. Shifting public tastes in music and fashion, the perception that he had shifted his image to suit current trends, as well as the fallout from negative press in the interim between albums, led to the commercial failure of the album. On July 4, 1994, Van Winkle attempted to commit suicide; failing, he made another attempt later that same year, citing drug abuse and anxiety surrounding his flagging career.
During this period, Van Winkle claimed in a television interview that he had been threatened and assaulted by Marion "Suge" Knight, founder and CEO of Death Row Records, for royalties demanded by a former associate who claimed that he had, in fact, written "Ice Ice Baby." According to Van Winkle, Knight dangled him by his ankles over a hotel balcony until he agreed to sign over the royalties from the track. Knight denied the allegations. This incident was parodied in the 2005 movie Be Cool, in which Vince Vaughn's character, Roger - a street-talking, white record producer loosely based on Vanilla Ice, was dangeled from a building by Sin LaSalle's entourage (LaSalle himself, played by Cedric the Entertainer, is partially based on Suge Knight). And also in a 2006 episode of Entourage where Johnny Drama is held in the same fashion.
Van Winkle also can be seen in an early 1990's MTV interview denying allegations that he plagarised the rhythm to his hit single "Ice Ice Baby" from the band Queen's song "Under Pressure." In a subsequent party involving extensive drug use Van Winkle was overheard telling members from the band Sugar Ray that he did, in fact, steal this beat in an extraordinarily lucky attempt at gaining enough money to sustain his drug habit for the rest of his projected lifetime.
It wasn't until 1996 that Ice made his next appearance (credited as "Rob Van Winkle)," on the song "Boom" by suburban Philadelphia comedy rock group The Bloodhound Gang. The track's deep bass groove and Van Winkle's uncharacteristic tough guy flow on the first verse led to a quasi-ironic underground revival in popularity, and the first new Vanilla Ice CD in four years.
Hard to Swallow found Ice in a musically similar idiom to the track from the Bloodhound Gang, using a contemporarily popular nu metal sound his press kit referred to as "skate rock" that could be described as musically similar to early Limp Bizkit or Korn. Van Winkle once again revised his image, and was now a tow-headed, pierced and tattooed headbanger. The disc also included a revamped version of "Ice Ice Baby," renamed "Too Cold," and reimaged as a stomping heavy metal anthem. (Also performing on the album were Doug Ardito of Puddle of Mudd, DJ Swamp of Beck, Shannon Larkin, Sonny Mayo, and Scott Borland of Limp Bizkit, among others.)
2001's Bipolar, a two-CD set, contained nu metal material and more contemporary hip-hop songs. It did little to rekindle public interest. On the album Van Winkle collaborated with many artists such as Wu-Tang Clan affiliate La The Darkman, Chuck D from Public Enemy, and Insane Clown Posse (which earned him the following of Insane Clown Posse's famously dedicated fan base known as Juggalos). Van Winkle and the Insane Clown Posse have supposedly remained great friends. Van Winkle briefly appeared in the JCW, the Insane Clown Posse's wrestling federation to replace Shaggy 2 Dope when he was injured.
Van Winkle's latest album is Platinum Underground, released in August 2005. Containing some new material, some remakes of his older works, and a cover of the Destiny's Child song "Survivor", the album has received mixed reviews and limited sales. Along with the album's release, Van Winkle performed with Insane Clown Posse at Hallowicked 2005, during which he announced that he was now signed to their record label, Psychopathic Records. He also held a series of European concerts in November and December of the same year.
His fame and notoriety have increased with a number of notable television appearances. In 1999, Van Winkle appeared on an MTV special called MTV's 25 Lame in which MTV retired some of its worst videos. Van Winkle accepted an invitation to appear and destroy the tape of "Ice Ice Baby" live on air. However, after being mocked by the hosts (Janeane Garofalo, Chris Kattan, Denis Leary, and Jon Stewart), he took the bat that he was given to destroy the tape, and started breaking down the set; the show quickly transitioned to a commercial. Van Winkle managed to cut Stewart's hand.
In 2002 he had surprise bit part as the paranoid and short-tempered Music Store Employee in Ed Decter's teen comedy The New Guy.
Actor Todd Bridges demolished Van Winkle during a Celebrity Boxing event, also in 2002. Ice was knocked down several times during the event, and was soundly defeated.
In 2004, Van Winkle starred in the second season of The Surreal Life on VH1. This brought some interest in him from the public, and a website was launched. In the same year, he appeared on British television in the first season of the Reality TV show The Farm on five in which he came second. He was also cast in the film The Helix...Loaded, a parody of The Matrix.
In June 2005, Van Winkle won the second round of NBC's hit TV show Hit Me Baby One More Time, performing "Ice Ice Baby" and covering Destiny's Child's hit "Survivor". He also appeared on a VH1 special entitled "Remaking Vanilla Ice", which featured the revamped Van Winkle in preparation for his new album "Platinum Underground", released August 16, 2005. Ice also appeared on the series Damage Control, on MTV2.
Controversy broke out on the G4 Forums website on September 19, 2005 when, in the heat of the co-hosting auditions, Attack of the Show! claimed on their website that they had discovered a new, permanent cohost who wasn't going to be required to audition . They claimed that "You've seen him in music videos, in his own film, and on reality TV. He's ice cold, goes to the extreme, and really knows how to play that funky music. And we've got him signed exclusively to AOTS." "(Ice Cold" and "Play That Funky Music" were both tracks on Vanilla Ice's 1990 album To the Extreme). Adding to the prank, Ice personally appeared on the show on September 20, 2005 as the "new permanent co-host." After co-hosting a brief segment, Ice publicized his new album, and left. Kevin Rose put an end to the prank with the announcement, "Unfortunately, Vanilla Ice is not our new co-host."
Ice will soon be seen on reality television again as part of "Surreal Life Fame Games." This show will pit stars from various seasons of "Surreal Life" against each other in competitions. An "Osbournes" style show called "Meet the Van Winkles" is scheduled to tape near the end of 2006. This has not been confirmed as of yet.