NEW YORK -- Vanilla Ice is such an easy target, people will pack a club at 12
bucks a head on a weeknight just to mock him.
The flash-in-the-pan white-boy rapper -- who seems to invite derision -- made his
quixotic comeback-attempt a notch more absurd by appearing Tuesday at the legendary
CBGB. The famed New York City punk club spawned the careers of such pioneering acts
as the Ramones, Television, Blondie and others in the mid- to late '70s.
So, to see Vanilla Ice prancing on its historic stage was, well, funny.
The 29-year-old artist formerly known as Robert Van Winkle may have had the last
laugh, though, since a good number of those in the predominately white,
twentysomething crowd seemed to be closet fans of Ice's signature hit, "Ice Ice Baby."
And most of the audience, for all its chiding of the singer, seemed to have a good time.
Not that anyone would suddenly mistake Ice for a musically talented artist. The show
coincided with the release of his Hard to Swallow, a thoroughly mediocre
rap/metal fusion album, his first offering since his 1994 hip-hop flop, Mind Blowin'.
Even so, many at the club who at first dismissed him as bogus eventually revealed a
nostalgic affection, however snide.
Before the show, a 27-year-old Queens man who identified himself only as MC Evil
Jesus said he is the Satanic anti-Ice. He even wrote a special version of "Ice Ice Baby"
called "Christ? No, Satan."
"He is the biggest poser in the known universe," said Evil Jesus, who was later
seen dancing and stage-diving to said poser's music.
Dag Shapshuk, a 23-year-old medical student originally from Miami, said mockingly that
Vanilla Ice "represents the true essence of hip-hop. I model my life after him." But
Shapshuk also confessed to paying $6 two years ago for a used copy of Ice's first album,
To the Extreme (1990), "just for 'Ice Ice Baby.' "
Ice, who began the day with an appearance on shock-jock Howard Stern's radio show,
took the stage an hour late, following irritated cries of "Quit smokin' crack and get
onstage" and "Yes, we all want to laugh at you and go home. We're tired."
Vanilla Ice and his five-piece band -- a drummer, two guitarists, a bassist and a DJ
perched high above the stage -- provided a capable imitation of a derivative
metal/hip-hop group. All save second rapper Casey Chaos and DJ Swamp were attired
in generic alterna-wear: T-shirts, jeans, obligatory goatees and tattoos.
Not that the crowd was always original. The audience didn't look that much different than
most of the band, and when Ice sprayed water on the crowd, it once responded by
pelting him with (duh) ice.
As the band chugged along, bouncing wildly to a sonic sludge, swiping riffs straight out
of thrash-punkers Rage Against the Machine's playbook, Ice somewhat capably rapped
out a stream of moronicisms.
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Vanilla_Ice/Zig-Zag_Stories.ram">"Zig-Zag Stories" HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Vanilla_Ice/F-ck_Me.ram">"F-ck Me"
Stories"(RealAudio excerpt) was a lunkheaded ode to pot, and
(RealAudio excerpt), like a few other Vanilla Ice numbers, was a rant against his
detractors. Ice followed up with some words of wisdom: "F--- you too, b----. Beeyatch. You
need to wake the f--- up."
Meanwhile, the audience grooved, clapping, moshing and responding enthusiastically to
Ice and Chaos' trite rap party-calls. Although shouts of "put your hands in the air" often
elicited a wave of middle fingers, Ice didn't seem to mind. When he wasn't rapping, he
wore a pleased, mischievous smirk and proved able to poke fun at himself by leading
chants of "Go white boy, go white boy, go."
He slogged through a few more Hard to Swallow tracks ("S.N.A.F.U.," "Scars")
and then finished with a garishly rocked-up version of "Ice Ice Baby." It was the
undeniable crowd-favorite, and the same people who came to deride Vanilla Ice with
smug superiority seemed to know all the words.
Calls for an encore were more insulting than enthusiastic, but Ice returned anyway, to
scattered cries of "F--- you" and derisive chants of "Go, ninja, go, ninja, go." Ice
proceeded to sink into further self-parody, introducing "Prozac" by saying, "Take your
Prozac, so we can gets crazy like Prozac" and singing "Stompin' Through the Bayou"
with a vocal effect that made him sound like Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned
English physicist who, due to a serious disability, speaks through a computerized voice.
Outside the club after the show, there was at least one person who -- while failing to
identify himself -- seemed honest enough to give props to Ice without irony.
"The set was all right," said the 25-year-old Middletown, N.J., native, who went by the
name John E. "I liked Vanilla Ice back in the day. I bought the album [Hard to
Swallow] and thought it was good."
Those who said they enjoyed Ice's show usually did so with a mix of guarded
enthusiasm and snide bemusement, however.
Andy Bennett, 22, said he genuinely enjoyed the show, but he couldn't do it with an
entirely straight face.
"I remember when 'Ice Ice Baby' came out, but I didn't buy the record," Bennett said. "I
did write a different version, called 'Nice Price, Baby.' It was about prostitution."