Let me lay the ground work for this. When Vanilla Ice broke, I hated the fucker. As a budding Hessian, mortally terrified of the dance floor and in search of a youthful affiliation, Vanilla Ice and all rappers of the day were a legion of mongoloid villains. They served a purpose, however, as the more popular they were, the more they proved that everyone else was beneath me. Rappers didn’t even play their own instruments! Well, I’d heard the Beastie Boys started out as a hardcore band, so I guessed that they were OK. On the other hand, according to multiple sources, Ad-Rock had AIDS, and that didn’t pan out.
So I come to the defense of Vanilla Ice in much the same way a renegade cop who plays by his own rules, might team up with the mafia to defeat terrorists. My argument isn’t that he was good, just that he wasn’t particularly bad. Just as importantly, the same flock of zombies who bought 40 million copies of that album, are the ones who now name “‘Ice Ice Baby’” to “worst songs of all time” lists as they swap Josh Groban cuts and struggle to grasp the unprecedented genius of Coldplay. These people are now, as they were then, desperate to be cool. Part of their disdain for the song stems from the fact that white people who are desperate to be cool always attempt to align themselves with blacks, the OGs of coolness. The hope is that by agreeing that whites can’t be cool, they as whites, might somehow become cool anyway. So blacks single handedly invented Jazz and Rock and Roll with no white influence whatsoever. Elvis was no different from Pat Boone. Egyptians were black, Def Poetry isn’t utterly terrible and white guys can’t rap. Now, in a dazzling triple reverse, Vanilla Ice has come out to publicly apologize for recording some simple pop songs, to the very people who bought and enjoyed them, hoping to follow them back into coolness. All of which is quadruply pathetic because, if you are old enough to remember Vanilla Ice in his “prime,” you are way too old for this kind of thing.
So was “Ice Ice Baby” a bad song? Well, yeah. It wasn’t horrible though. Vanilla Ice certainly looked stupid trying to deny that the sample of “Under Pressure” was a sample. Though in fairness, he was probably just trying to save himself from paying royalties during a time when the legal issues surrounding sampling were still being hammered out. Furthermore, it was a good sample. If you like the hook when those gay guys did it, why would you suddenly find it mortally offensive when Ice’s DJ revolves it? On top of that, in “Ice Ice Baby,” the sample is recontextualized with a more energetic beat and some original melodies, creating a distinct song. Contrast that to the other definitive, mainstream rap hit of the era, “U Can’t Touch This,” which is basically just “Superfreak” with Hammer saying “U Can’t Touch This” instead of saying “Superfreak.”
This brings us to my next point, which is that there are plenty of hit rap songs that are clearly worse than “Ice Ice Baby.” Are you going to sit there with a straight face and tell me that MC Hammer’s “Pray” is not substantially worse than “Ice Ice Baby?” Really? “Pray, Pray, You’ve got to pray just to make it today?” Because, if that is your position, I will kill you and destroy everything that you love. “Who Let the Dogs Out?” “Rico Suave?” Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West?” Almost anything by Will Smith? Absolutely anything by Ma$e? What about Puff Daddy digitally remastering “Kashmir” and shouting “yeah, yeah,” over it? All of these songs, and many more, are less original and all around worse than “Ice Ice Baby.”
Finally, you might point out that Vanilla Ice himself was and remains a tool shed. After all, when they weren’t booking talented, authentic rappers like Kriss Kross, arbiters of cool, “In Living Color” did the sketch, “White White, Baby,” which they then parlayed into an “I’m Asian!” rap sketch, foreshadowing the unlimited creativity that the Wayan’s family would entertain us with for years to come. Countless other hacks took shots at Vanilla Ice, though mostly just for being a white rapper and, even more oddly than that, a poorly dressed rapper. Well, of course, Vanilla Ice is a ridiculous buffoon. Unlike Puff Daddy, Flava Flav, Nelly or DMX. But Vanilla Ice’s handlers fabricated part of his bio! Yeah, we’re talking about a genre in which 50 Cent is in a position to mock Rick Ross for padding his resume. The more you look at the case of Vanilla Ice, the more you see that, far from being an embarrassing aberration and a white man ripping off the brother man, Vanilla Ice was a pioneer, mapping the territories that would lead phonies with limited abilities to vast fortunes with dogshit music for decades to come. It should be Vanilla Ice’s turn to collect royalties.