MC Hammer/Vanilla Ice
McKay Events Center
I must admit, I'm a bit embarrassed by how incredibly nervous I was to talk to Vanilla Ice. The way the cell phone was shaking in my hand, you'd think it was 1990 all over again.
Much like every other human who listened to the radio in the early '90s, I knew—and still know—all the words to "Ice, Ice Baby." But because I was the impressionable age of 10 when the track hit number one, I also remember bleaching my bangs blonde, shaving stripes in my eyebrows, and doing "the worm" at a sixth grade dance. I guess that's really what I should be embarrassed about.
The reason for the phone call was not to discuss the four hardcore albums he's released since "To the Extreme" sold more than 10 million copies, to talk about his amateur motocross career, or even reminisce on his time as a cast member of "The Surreal Life." Instead, we talked about his upcoming performance with MC Hammer.
With '90s groups like New Kids on the Block and the Spice Girls already riding the nostalgia train, it makes perfect sense that the decade's biggest rap artists would want to cash in as well. But here's where it gets weird. The pair's first duo performance in 18 years isn't part of a huge, orchestrated comeback tour. It's a one night only event. In Orem.
I didn't know what to expect from the interview. Would Vanilla Ice (or Rob Van Winkle, as he introduced himself) be annoyed by questions about the "Ice, Ice Baby" years? Would he get upset if I asked him about Eminem incessantly taking shots at him? Would he ask me if I own a copy of his 2003 nu metal album "Hot Sex?"
It turns out, I had no reason to be nervous--or even embarrassed. Mr. Van Winkle was upbeat, excitable, and hilarious. And more than anything, he seemed like a guy who, despite being put through the ringer, is really happy with where he's been, where he's at, and where he's going. (He also cursed like a sailor and called me "bro" a lot.)
An MC Hammer/Vanilla show? Why now?
[When I heard about it] I said, 'A show with Hammer? Are you for real?' I thought it was a joke at first. But then I thought, 'This could be good, it could be fun.'I'm gonna have fun with this. I'm excited about it, man. With all this economy and bad news, it's a good time to put a smile on people's faces again.
Back in the day, when me and Hammer did it, we pretty much set the world on fire. I'll have my full band, pyrotechnics, cannons blasting—it's gonna be full-blown entertainment. Like it used to be.
I'm definitely doing some old school stuff that I haven't done since [the '90s]. We're gonna take 'em back to the old school, do some middle school, and some new sh**, too. It's just going to be a big adventure.
Was Hammer your musical foe back in the day? The Magic Johnson to your Larry Bird?
Nah. I started out as MC Hammer's opening act. It was hilarious because my record passed his on the charts. I knocked him from number one and he was opening for me all the sudden [laughs]. He and I have always been friends and have always remained friends. I've always looked up to him. He's an icon.
What was life like as the 'White Rapper'
I had to knock down a lot of barriers back in the day. Hammer and I were both entertainers and both ran along the same lines, but I had to face a lot more adversity--being the white guy in rap music. There was nobody in front of me that I could use as a guideline, like Eminem could use my career as a guideline.
How did you go from radio rap to hardcore rock?
I look at music a lot different than most people. I look at it as a reflection of how you feel. That's how it should be. Music shouldn't be about image or gimmicks or f***ing American Idol. When somebody else choreographs your dance moves, somebody else writes your lyrics, someone else chooses your clothes and does your hair, in the end you're artificial. So I boycotted against all that sh**, man.
I resented myself a lot. So I rebelled against myself and my whole image. Music shouldn't be about image. I like my music to be like my diary. I had a lot of anger toward my old self and other issues in my life, so I worked with [producer] Ross Robinson (Limp Bizkit, Korn) who pulled it all out of me and helped me realize music works best when it's used as therapy. Since then, I've made records with a lot of personal, heavy sh**. And I love it.
When you've got anger, you should let it out. The greatest thing that's ever happened to me is to go on a musical adventure and do everything the rulebook says you're not supposed to do. Rappers don't make rock music. Well, white rappers don't rap. I like to go against the grain and do whatever I feel like doing. It just comes out that way in the music, it's never planned. I don't have some sort of master plan. I just go in and I vibe.
What's in the Vanilla i(ce)Pod?
Sh**, I listen to everything, bro. When I'm racing motocross, I'm listening to Slipknot. But I can also jam to Kanye West, Jadakiss, Black Rob. I even listen to country sometimes, bro. It's weird, but some of that Kenny Chesney sh** is pretty cool. I can't hate it.How do you deal with getting dissed by other artists?
That's just entertainment, my friend. It got to me at first. The greatest thing I could do was [1998 album] "Hard to Swallow." It was therapy. Now I go back, I look at everything, and I love it. I still love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, bro. Come on. [Vanilla Ice contributed the cleverly-titled track "Ninja Rap" to the first Ninja Turtles movie. He also made a stirring cameo appearance.]
There's no shame in my game anymore, man. Humiliation is a great thing. If you use to your benefit, nothing can stop you. There's where I'm at. That's why I'm going to have fun coming to Utah and doing this show I haven't done in 18 years. I've got all sorts of crazy things running through my head right now, ideas I'm of what I'm going to do. I'm gonna have fun, man. It's time.
What do you hope will be the Vanilla Ice legacy?
I don't have much an ego left [laughs]. Whether they give me credit for it or not, I paved the way for people—not just Eminem—but hip hop in general. My record was the first hip hop song ever to be played on a pop station. Ever. It brought hip to people's ears who'd never considered listening to it.
At one point, we were selling a million albums a day. It was a phenomenon. It almost killed me. It was a huge roller coaster, but without the low points I wouldn't be who I am today. We are who were because of who we were.
I'm very happy with who I am today. Life is about family and friends, bro. It's a simple thing.Word to your mother.