- Category : Singer - Popular
- Type : GE
- Profile : 6/3 - Role Model / Martyr
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Alignment 2
Robert Matthew Van Winkle (born October 31, 1967 in Miami Lakes, Florida), best known as Vanilla Ice, is a Grammy Award nominated, American Music Award winning American rapper and actor known for the 1990 smash hit "Ice Ice Baby."
He found major mainstream success, but his success lasted only about one year, and his rapid fall from popularity remains one of the most notorious in American music of recent decades. Though Van Winkle has continued making music, he has yet to recapture anything approaching the level of mainstream success which he once enjoyed.
Van Winkle was born at Baylor Hospital to Camilla Beth Van Winkle (née Dickerson), a secretary and part-time private music teacher, and Dallas-born William Basil Van Winkle, who left the family when Rob was four years old.
Van Winkle attended R. L. Turner High School in Carrollton, a suburb of Dallas, but dropped out at the age of sixteen. He became interested in breakdancing (where he first earned the nickname "Vanilla"), and was the main attraction of many predominantly-black local clubs in the late 1980s with his freestyle rapping and dancing. He and his group of friends, consisting of Floyd "DJ Earthquake" Brown and several dancers, opened shows for rap heavyweights Public Enemy and M.C. Hammer.
In 1989, Van Winkle was represented by Jay King of Dallas as part of the rap group Vanilla Ice, Chante, Ambiance, LaRue and New Choice. Van Winkle's first foray into the music industry was the little-known album Hooked, released in 1989 on Atlanta-based independent label Ichiban Records. It sold about 48,000 copies, successful for an independent release, though Hooked is nowadays considered a collector's item among fans due to its limited production.
His debut single from the record, "Play that Funky Music," failed to catch on with listeners, and both Ice and the album remained in obscurity until a Georgia DJ decided to flip the twelve-inch single and play the B-side, which was "Ice Ice Baby," a track about Ice's rhyming skills, the Miami street scene, and a gunfight on A1A/Beachfront Avenue. The virtual overnight success of the single was enough for SBK Records to sign Van Winkle and buy the rights to the song for $300,000.
Mainstream success and failure (1990-1993)
SBK released Ice's next album, 1990's To the Extreme, which was basically a repackaging of Hooked, as it consisted mainly of new versions of the same songs. Van Winkle's manager and financier, Tommy Quon, chose a limited release for the single, which nonetheless became the first rap single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. SBK rushed Van Winkle onto the road to promote the album, with none other than a sixteen-year-old Alanis Morissette as his opening act. To the Extreme was not released on vinyl so that fans bought the pricier CD instead, therefore becoming the first #1 album in the U.S. without a vinyl counterpart release; it went on to sell over 11 million copies. On November 1, 1990, To the Extreme ended M.C. Hammer's sixteen-week run at the top of the Billboard Top 200 en route to serving a sixteen-week stay of its own.
Van Winkle starred in the 1991 motion picture Cool as Ice, which was a very loose update of Rebel Without a Cause, starring Van Winkle as Johnny, a biker gang member 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 Ice tracks, including a duet with Naomi Campbell. The film and was both a commercial and critical flop, and Van Winkle won the "Worst New Star" award at the 1991 Golden Raspberry Awards. Cool as Ice lasted less than a month in U.S. theaters and slipped into obscurity with only a limited VHS release. The film was also the centerpiece of his eponymous second studio album.
That same year, Van Winkle played himself in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, where he performed a self-penned song named "Ninja Rap" at the end of the movie. While heavily ridiculed and not a hit single itself, "Ninja Rap" helped turn the film's soundtrack into a best-seller.
Revisiting his songs for a third time, Van Winkle's next album was a live version of To The Extreme titled Extremely Live. Though he received a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist and Extremely Live was certified gold, his fame had faded significantly by the time the record was released in 1991.
Fall from grace
Van Winkle's success also brought legal and personal problems. "Ice Ice Baby" sampled the 1981 Queen and David Bowie collaboration "Under Pressure" without permission, acknowledging credit or paying royalties; Ice even denied in an interview on MTV that the song was sampled, despite the tracks' undeniable melodic similarities. There was no public court case over the issue, but the copyright holders of "Under Pressure" threatened suit and settled out of court with Ice for an undisclosed sum.
Members of the national black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha accused Van Winkle of using the fraternity's chant "Ice ice baby, too cold, too cold," without credit or permission. Although he initially wrote in his original biography, " 'Ice Baby' is a chant that's done by the Alpha fraternity. I flipped the Vanilla in front of it and thought, 'That's cool,' " Van Winkle later denied any knowledge of Alpha Phi Alpha.
Meanwhile, Van Winkle's debut single, "Play That Funky Music," sampled the 1976 Wild Cherry hit of the same name; however, Wild Cherry singer-guitarist Rob Parissi was not credited as the writer of Van Winkle's version of the song, which was instead credited to Ice and DJ Earthquake. According to VH1 in 2002, Parissi was awarded $500,000 in damages.
However, the decisions of what to do next were badly bungled by his management team, and in a desire to get as rich as he could as quick as he could, Van Winkle went along with it. One week after To the Extreme topped the Billboard album chart, SBK released a biography that chronicled a false background story in an attempt to give the suburb-raised Van Winkle street credibility that was nonexistent to begin with. The rapper claimed therein that he was a gang member who had been raised in the ghetto of Miami Lakes, Florida, and had attended the same predominantly black high school as 2 Live Crew's Luther Campbell, rather than growing up in a stable, upper-middle class family. The biography also erroneously claimed that Van Winkle, an actual Motocross enthusiast, had been a national champion. These facts first earned notoriety when student-reporters at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, a suburban and mainly white high school in Miami, attempted to locate Van Winkle in the local district records, in the process determining Vanilla Ice's real name and background. His deception was widely condemned, particularly in the hip hop community, and he could not shake the perception that he embodied the white mainstream's commercial appropriation and dilution of traditionally black music.
The resulting backlash all but reduced Vanilla Ice to a pariah, and his popularity took a severe hit. Fans were fed up, not so much with the music, but with his image. He received flack for his overly flashy stage attire, he often used corny dialogue in interviews, and constantly pandered to a very fickle preteen crowd which was mostly just interested in his first hit single.
Vanilla Ice had now become a regular subject of parody and was regularly mocked by his peers, most notably in 3rd Bass' 1991 hit single "Pop Goes the Weasel". The music video featured Henry Rollins dressed like Vanilla Ice and being assaulted by the members of the group. In Living Color also mocked Ice with a sketch where the rapper (Jim Carrey) was depicted as a bumbling phony while the backup vocalists sang, "He's so white-white baby!"
On February 8, 1991, Saturday Night Live aired a skit with Chris Rock as Nat X and guest host Kevin Bacon as Ice, in which he regularly replied to Nat's questions with Van Winkle's popular catchphrase, "Word to your mother." Both Rock's character and rapper Ice-T, the latter in an interview with Rolling Stone, wondered if the rough-and-tumble "street" that Ice claimed to hail from was in fact Sesame Street.
Rebranded image (1994-1998)
Van Winkle returned to music in 1994 with a new album titled Mind Blowin. His image had been changed to a dreadlocked, marijuana-obsessed, tattooed hardcore rapper with a G-funk style similar to that of Dr. Dre, insisting that his former teenybopper sound and image had been pressed on him by his record label. Several songs were peppered with attacks on 3rd Bass and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, even though both groups had split up well before the album's release. Due to Van Winkle's abrupt changes in music and fashion, the perception was that he was merely copying current musical trends while the fallout from the negative press in the interim between albums continued to linger, all of which greatly affected album sales. Mind Blowin failed to crack the Billboard Top 200 and led to SBK dropping Ice from the label.
On July 4, 1994, Van Winkle attempted to commit suicide, and made another attempt later that same year, citing drug abuse and depression surrounding his flagging career.
Confrontation with Suge Knight
Van Winkle claimed on a 1996 ABC television interview that he had been threatened and assaulted by Death Row Records CEO Marion "Suge" Knight, who had demanded that royalties for "Ice Ice Baby" be paid to Mario "Chocolate" Johnson, a Dallas rapper and former associate of Knight who claimed that he had co-written the single. 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, which Knight in turn denied. Van Winkle later confirmed that the incident never took place.
This alleged 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 dangled from a building by Sin LaSalle's entourage (LaSalle himself, played by Cedric the Entertainer, is partially based on Suge Knight). Another parody appeared in a 2006 episode of Entourage where the character Johnny Drama is held in the same fashion.
In 1996, he appeared on the Bloodhound Gang track "Boom" under his real name, which led to a moderate revival in popularity and thus the first new Vanilla Ice album in four years. Hard to Swallow, released in 1998 and produced by Ross Robinson (known at the time for his work with Korn), saw Van Winkle again switch gears in terms of his musical style, this time from his unsuccessful stab at gangsta rap on Mind Blowin to the then-emerging trend of rap metal. The album also included a new version of "Ice Ice Baby," renamed "Too Cold," and reinterpreted as a stomping heavy metal anthem. Guest artists on the album included Doug Ardito of Puddle of Mudd and Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit. Though the record eventually went gold, it soon slipped from public consciousness.
In 2000, he co-hosted the car tuning program Ice with Jordan on the UK Men & Motors channel, alongside glamour model Jordan; the title was also a pun on ICE (in-car entertainment).
In 2001, Van Winkle released Bi-Polar, which was packaged as a double album (albeit on one CD) of rap metal and contemporary hip-hop, though the end result was the same as it did little to rekindle public interest, despite collaborations with the likes of Wu-Tang Clan affiliate La Tha Darkman, Chuck D, and the Insane Clown Posse. Van Winkle also briefly appeared in the JCW, the Insane Clown Posse's wrestling federation, to replace an injured Shaggy 2 Dope for a match.
Reality TV (2002-present)
Vanilla Ice appearing at the Tex-Mex Grill in Baltimore, Maryland. He is pouring Jägermeister into a fellow reveller's mouth while singing his hit song, Ice Ice Baby.In 2002, Van Winkle participated in the reality show Celebrity Boxing, in which he was defeated by actor Todd Bridges. Two years later, he starred in the second season of VH1's hit series The Surreal Life. On the show, despite his vow not to sing his past hits, Van Winkle eventually agreed to sing a karaoke version of "Ice Ice Baby" at a bar with Trishelle Cannatella and Traci Bingham.
Van Winkle appeared on the British reality show The Farm, in which he came in second place. He also starred in The Helix...Loaded, a parody of The Matrix.
In June 2005, Van Winkle won the second round of NBC's 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 preparing for the release of his new album Platinum Underground. Ice also appeared on the series Damage Control on MTV2 to promote the album.
Platinum Underground was released in August 2005. It was a combination of some new material along with tracks from Bi-Polar and some covers of his older works; the album received mixed reviews and limited sales. Promotional work for the album included performing with Insane Clown Posse at Hallowicked 2005 and held a series of European concerts in November and December of the same year.
Van Winkle also starred in The Surreal Life: Fame Games in 2007, which pitted stars from various seasons of The Surreal Life against each other in competitions; during a concert at Virginia Tech, Ice claimed he beats up pornography icon Ron Jeremy on the show, but "still has love for him." On February 2, 2007, the two appeared on The Tyra Banks Show and claimed they were once again friends.
Van Winkle is currently a contestant on Ty Murray’s Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge on CMT.
Van Winkle currently lives in Wellington, Florida with his wife, Laura (whom he married in 1996), and two daughters, Dusti Rain and Keelee Breeze.
In January 2001, Van Winkle was arrested by police in Davie, Florida for assaulting his wife. According to the criminal complaint, they got into an argument as they drove on Interstate 595, with Ice allegedly pulling hair from her head. He pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct four months later, and was sentenced to probation and ordered to attend family therapy sessions.
He briefly attracted the attention of the media when his pet wallaroo, Bucky, and pet goat, Pancho, escaped from his Port St. Lucie, Florida home in November 2004. After wandering around local streets for over a week, the animals were caught, and returned to Ice. He had to pay a $220 fine for expired pet tags, and an undisclosed fine for the escape of the animals.