Review Summary: "(Va-ni-lla!) Ice Ice Baby!"
Every generation of musicians seems to have a figure that inspires the less talented among us to push on to greater heights. In the 70’s, untalented punks were motivated by the sight of Sid Vicious joining a band without knowing how to play his instrument
; the 80’s saw Milli Vanilli climb to the top of the charts without ever singing the songs on their records
; and more recently, the insanely annoying Crazy Frog has sold ten kajillion ringtones without even being a real person
For the 90’s, that figure was Rob Van Winkle, AKA Vanilla Ice. Along with MC Hammer and the aforementioned Milli Vanilli, Ice helped establish a triad of “musical” acts that is mocked and ridiculed to this day. And while Milli Vanilli had a ridiculous gimmick, but did not make altogether ridiculous music, the other two did. MC Hammer was merely a rapper that didn’t know how to rap; Vanilla, on the other hand, trumped him by being a white
rapper that didn’t know how to rap. Furthermore, he fabricated an entire backstory
as a gangbanger (in the ‘hood way, not the sexual way) that, while at first deceiving the public, soon became transparent, allowing said public to Rip Van Winkle a new one. (See what I did there?)
None of this, however, prevented either Ice or Hammer from selling millions of records. For Vanilla, his big 15 minutes came with debut album To The Extreme
, released in 1990.
Now, did you ever hear that phrase “it was still the 80’s in 1990”? To The Extreme
validates this statement, because nowhere in the jaded post-Nirvana musical scene would this album achieve any kind of commercial success. No, my friends – this belongs in an era of aberrantly-coloured spandex, atrocious haircuts and synth-driven dance music, who gladly lapped this up alongside their Kid'N'Play and their Cyndi Laupers.
So what do we get on this record? Well, you know when someone is trying to parody hip-hop? You know that stilted flow they deliver while their friend goes “boom-tshee-boom” with their mouth trying to sound like a boombox? Well, Vanilla Ice sounds exactly like that, except with an even worse electronic beat and some atrocious lyricism. With your drunk buddy, you at least get to have a few laughs at his expense; Van winkle, however, sounds terribly serious about it all, as he brags about how good he is with a mic and how women love him. Seriously, that’s all he talks about. His points are rammed home with the inclusion of female voices in different degrees of trance with Ice’s abilities. And he’s so goddamn literal! The second verse of Ice Ice Baby
is a detailed description of a car-ride, while Hooked
meticulously describes a visit to the psychiatrist. Great lyrical material, huh?!
The songwriting is also predictably atrocious. Not only are Vanilla’s raps always about the same thing, his rhyming choices are laughable and his flow never really “flows”, instead consisting of broken, breathy rhythmic talking that is often out of time with the beat. And while this is mildly amusing on superhit Ice Ice Baby
, it eventually starts to grate, especially because every other song on this album sound exactly the same. By the time Ice lets loose with the Mary Poppins catchphrase, we’re way past caring.
Seriously, there comes a point where you feel like you’ve been listening to the same track for 30 minutes. There are only two instances in the entire album where Vanilla uses a different beat, and even then, his one-note rapping makes the track all too familiar. On Life Is a Fantasy
, there is a slower beat, but Ice’s vocals entirely negate it. However, you haven’t lived until you’ve hear Rosta Man
(sic), where Vanilla infuses his plastic beat with a fake reggae vibe and attempts a dreadful Caribbean accent. The track ends up being surprisingly not-horrible, but hearing that Jamaican dude say ”strictly from da i’laaahndz…Vanilla Ice”
always cracks me up. Rob Van Winkle has about as much Caribbean in him as a Twinkie has nutritional value.
The lyrical rock bottom is attained on Dancin’
, which kicks off with the lyrical gem ”come on everybody, come on everybody, come on everybody, come on come on everybody”
(sic). The track later degenerates into a ridiculous roll-call for American states, which succeeds in making it even more ridiculous than it already was.
What’s even more infuriating is the fact that Ice has some really good backing samples that a real MC would kill for. Go Ill
has The Almighty James Brown Sample, while Stop That Train
has a female r’n’b sample that a good MC would put to great use. The same can be said for the sax on Hooked
, which also helps make it a not-horrible track – as long as we forget the vocals.
In all seriousness, however, there are very few redeeming qualities to this record. It’s hard to describe how horrible stuff like Stop That Train
or the turgid Ice Is Workin’ It
really is, not to mention the couple of pointless “tracks” that consist of an annoying little kid saying all of one sentence before the next track kicks in. Oh well, guess Van Winkle did at least invent the skit…
If you are feeling nostalgic or want a laugh, download the Ice Ice Baby
video and revel on Vanilla’s white sneakers and blonde toupee, as you wonder how anybody
could have bought this guy as a hardened thug. If you want some not-horrible tunes, try Hooked
or Rosta Man
. If you want good music, there are hundreds of other artists out there to choose from. But then again, if you want good music, why are you checking out Vanilla Ice!?
Ice Ice Baby