Vanilla Ice

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To The Extreme and Back

A clean-and-sober Vanilla Ice returns again with Hard to Swallow

Enter these keywords into an Internet search -- "Madonna," "Suge Knight," "yachts," "drugs," "one-hit wonder" and "Winkle" -- and Vanilla Ice's name will miraculously appear. Seven years ago, when the Web wasn't so worldwide, phrases like "Ice Ice Baby," "Under Pressure," "multi-millionaire" and "white rapper with some street knowledge" would have been more appropriate. That was before a Vanilla Ice-lookalike was getting pummeled in a 3rd Bass music video, and the rapper's feature film debut, Cool as Ice was tanking at the box office ... not to mention his gracing the pages of Madonna's infamous "Sex" book, allegedly getting his life threatened by Death Row founder Marion "Suge" Knight and blowing much of his substantial earnings on drugs and yachts.


For the past several years, the Iceman (Rob to his friends) has owned and operated a motorcycle shop in the Miami area named after his breakthrough debut, To the Extreme. Last spring he got married, and last winter his wife gave birth to a baby girl. He also found God. Four years after an unsuccessful comeback attempt on the hip-hop trail and three years after sobering up, Ice, 29, is back again, putting the finishing touches on Hard to Swallow due out in late April on a yet-undetermined label ("It's high-energy, stage-diving, mosh-pit, hip-hop," Ice says). He's also taking his act on the road in support of Swallow. The question is: does anyone care? Ice's answer is what you'd expect: "I'm still one of the few white boys that can kick it."


What was the biggest mistake you made five or six years ago?


Regrets? There's a bunch of changes I would make, ya know. Like I said, now that I've been through it, I'm not gonna go back and make the same mistakes. One mistake was running from reality, and the biggest mistake for sure was getting hooked up on the drugs and s---.


What kind of stuff?


Oh man, I don't wanna go into too much detail, but, you know, it kinda started with Ecstasy and then if anything else was around, it was easy to do anything ... being in the music industry, it's always around ... I overdosed one night and my friends were dumping buckets of cold ice water on me in the bathroom and s--- and I was like, I thought I really was gonna die.


This was around Mind Blowin' [1994], the height of your addiction?


Oh that's exactly ... the phrase of the album pretty much sums it up, Mind Blowin. That was a big mistake that I made that I wish I never did, but the good thing is I can say it with a smile on my face and look back on it today and see how blessed I've been. That's when I said I really found God outta that whole thing, so I guess something good does come from everything bad.


What happened with Suge Knight? Was it true that you signed over the publishing rights to "Ice Ice Baby" to him?


Yeah, pretty much. What happened was he was in my hotel room already with a few other people ... some big guys ... looked like a football team. And I just walked in the door and they shut it behind me real quick. They had some papers there and Suge took me out on the balcony by myself, pushed my security guard [Chill] all around the hall, slapped him ... pulled the gun, showed the gun ... he was basically just cryin.' 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.'


Why didn't you go to the police?


Man, I'm not a fool. Ya know, my brother, I ain't a fool. I don't feel like having that heat on me and that target on my forehead, man. Like I said, I still ended up with more than I ever thought I would so no complaints. I made the right move in that situation.


I sleep good at night. No pressure. I signed it. I gave millions away, which was the start of Death Row. That's how he got the money to start Death Row Records and then you got Snoop Dogg, and then you got Dr. Dre, and Tupac, and that's the whole saga. It started off with me, I guess. But it's a roundabout thing. It's weird.


Are you born again?


Yeah, I'm Christian. One thing that's cool is he's been blessing me a lot lately. One, with this album and everything, but the main thing really is I've got this five-month-old baby girl and I got married last Easter. Now I got something to live for, a family and everything. He's blessing me tremendously. The concerts and everything have been just going awesome and I can't be happier.


Is it tough to rap now about the party days considering you've found God?


No, it's never tough for me to rap. Rap's about expression and I'm gonna express myself in any way I can. I'm not a preacher, so my music's definitely not gonna be about nothing religious or nothing like that, but I am a strong believer in God, and he's what drives me so ...


Do you think people can accept you today as something other than a novelty act?


Yeah. There's people that are going to criticize what I've been doing. When you're on top, you're basically a target. Basically I'm gonna cater to the ones who appreciate what I'm doing and the ones that don't ... you really can't please the world. I gotta look at it that way 'cause this is my life. It's been what I've been doing since I was 14-years-old, break dancin' and spinning on my head, ya know. This is the only thing I really know how to do, ya know.


Do you still have a relationship with Madonna?


Occasionally, we'll say hi to each other, but that was one of the regrets.


Regrets?


Doing that stupid book. That was dumb. That's when I was messed up, running around ... I actually didn't even know what was going ... she was like, 'Hey, I gotta photographer friend coming over. Come take some pictures.' She started taking off her clothes, running out into the middle of the street, stopping traffic and I'm just ... I was going out with her at the time so I was just there, but I certainly didn't even know it was gonna be such a big deal. Then they got this big ol' chrome book or whatever comes out with all this sex and I was like, 'what?' It just made me look slutty and I wasn't really that way. I didn't wanna get thrown into her pile.


You took a lot of flack for using a generous sample of "Under Pressure" [by Queen and David Bowie] and now everyone does that.


Well, you know what it is, a lot of people are seeing it like everybody's doing that stuff now, but it was really done way back before I even came along. The acts that did were not real mainstream and real popular so, like, when I did it, it exposed it to middle America and a lot of white people that have never even considered listening to hip-hop. And when you do that, they're like, 'hey, wait a minute, I heard that song before. He stole that song.' They don't understand that that's been hip-hop way before I even came along.


Are you still a lyrical poet with a master plan?


Absolutely. I don't know if you know too much about hip-hop, but it started off when you used to dis somebody else and the crowd that was around you would decide by applause who would be the winner ... who could cut who down the most and who could boast themselves more. A lot of people look at it like he's just cocky, 'cause they don't understand that that's where hip-hop came from.


Did you ever consider dropping the name Vanilla Ice and just going by Ice or Rob Van Winkle?


It's not about dropping a name. I'm not really into changing that much as far as that goes, 'cause everybody that I know from back in the days still call me that and there's no really getting away from that. It's such an impact that everybody's still gonna refer to me as Vanilla Ice. But I'm just Rob Van Winkle, man, the family man. And basically skilled in the hip-hop area, and that's it.

BLAIR R. FISCHER

Posted Mar 12, 1998 12:00 AM

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Madonna and Vanilla Ice: A mind blowin' relationship.

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