Was Vanilla Ice one of the most important figures in ’90s hip hop? No, no, no, honestly – we’re being serious. Sure, the quiff-haired, shiny-trousered chart-topper only had four top-100 singles (and probably only two you remember) and yeah, he might not have released anything as groundbreaking as, say, Dre’s The Chronic, but – and there is a but – he was also instrumental in helping hip hop cross over into the white mainstream. Sure, NWA had been selling CDs to some white kids since the late ’80s, but ‘Ice Ice Baby’ clocking in at number one helped hip hop make the transition across the US’s racial divide – not to mention introducing the concept of ‘sampling’ to the wider world after Ice lifted its bassline from the Queen/Bowie hit ‘Under Pressure’.
And while Vanilla Ice might not have written anything quite like The Chronic, he did inadvertently aid its release. The story goes that thug-turned-businessman Suge Knight cornered him in his hotel room and coerced him into signing over rights to ‘Ice Ice Baby’. As Ice told Rolling Stone: ‘[Suge] pushed my security guard all around the hall, slapped him ... pulled the gun, showed the gun ... [the guard] was basically just crying.’ He thought they was gonna kill him. They had him so scared. He took me out on the balcony, and he had me look over the balcony, ya know. And I looked over and he basically says to me, “You’re gonna sign these papers here. You wanna come to my city, you’re gonna have to pay to play, brother.” And I go, “OK, I got the picture, ya know.”’
The millions he gave away went into the creation of Death Row Records, which would become the home of Dre, Snoop Dogg and a number of big West Coast names over the next few years. Without Vanilla Ice’s cheese-tastic hit, modern hip hop would look very different indeed.
So we at Time Out doff our caps to Vanilla Ice and await his March 31 Barasti gig with undisguised glee. Of course, how much of a set we’ll get out of a man with just four well-known songs we’re not sure, but we’re perfectly happy to find out.
Vanilla Ice and Snap! play Barasti Beach Sandstorm at Barasti, March 31, Dhs100.