Gather ’round and let me tell you kids about the year 1991. The Cold War ended, the (first) Gulf War began, Michael Jordan won his first NBA championship, Kevin Costner somehow won two Oscars, and every man, woman and child was walking the streets chanting “Go ninja, go ninja, go!”
Of course, I’m talking about the now-iconic line made legend courtesy of Vanilla Ice in his rap song “Ninja Rap” from the movie “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze:”
With a “TMNT” reboot — and a new turtle rap song, which Ice has slammed — set to be released this weekend, I thought I’d ring up Robert Matthew Van Winkle (aka Vanilla Ice) and figure out how exactly “Ninja Rap” came to be.
How did you get involved with “Secret of the Ooze”?
First and foremost, I was a huge Ninja Turtles fan before I was approached to do the movie. So of course I was ecstatic. So excited. I was on a world tour when I got the phone call from the producers.
Did the producers have any say on the song they wanted you to write for the now-legendary nightclub scene?
They gave me full run of the mill, and I hit the nail on the head with “The Ninja Rap”!
So did you start from scratch or did you adapt a song you had previously been working on?
I wrote the song in a hotel room using an SP 1200 (laughs) an old-school drum machine. It took me maybe 30 minutes to write it and the rest we completed in the studio.
And then you actually performed it in the movie…
After the song, they incorporated me and the song into the movie so I got to film for three weeks on set and learn the true meaning of the Ninja Turtles.
(Vanilla would not reveal to me the “true meaning” of the Turtles so, alas, we may only speculate.)
How did filming go?
I got to film on my birthday (Halloween). I can’t think of a more memorable birthday ever! It’s a Ninja Turtles generation run in the nation.
Did you ever think at the time “Go ninja, go ninja, go!” would become a catchphrase that still resonates today?
I didn’t know it at the time, but of course I can see it now. The impact was huge all around the world, not just in the U.S. When I go to Russia, China and Europe, I see fans dressed up as Ninja Turtles everywhere. It’s amazing to see the song have such a gigantic impact. Of course, everyone remembers “Ice Ice Baby,” but the “Ninja Rap” is bigger than ever right now. GO NINJA GO!