Eight years after the multi-platinum success of his debut LP, To The
Extreme, rapper Vanilla Ice is back back, baby.
No longer parading around in a shiny American-Flag sweatsuit and ranting
about his name, the white-boy rapper has updated his persona, fronting a
metal-edged band on his recently released Hard To Swallow.
This time, he said, he wants to be taken seriously.
"[The new album is] dark, and it's full of anger," the 29-year-old Vanilla Ice said,
"because it's basically relating to the way I've been perceived. [In the past] I sold
myself out for the money. The cool thing now is that there's no strings attached."
"I know how I've been perceived, you know," he continued. "I can even look
back and say, 'Vanilla Ice -- that whole image sucks.' That's the whole thing. I
feel like I've been treated unfairly, so I let it all out on this record" (interview excerpt).
Helping the Iceman (born Robert Van Winkle) with his new, heavier metal/rap
direction is producer Ross Robinson (Deftones, Limp Bizkit), who said he first
met with Vanilla Ice on a whim, but wound up becoming good friends with the
Despite warnings that working with Vanilla Ice would ruin his reputation,
Robinson said he experienced a different rapper and recording artist. In fact, he
said, Vanilla Ice's new LP was one of the easiest records he has ever made.
"I flew out to meet him as a joke, not taking it serious at all. I met him, and he
had all these Motorcross trophies in his home studio, and I used to race
motorcycles too," Robinson said. "He's super-sweet and humble. I connected
with him completely -- nothing like the image would portray him."
Besides venting his personal angst about his image, Vanilla Ice is discarding
the slicked-up look and sound of his platinum-rap days. Instead, he's dressing
down, onstage and elsewhere, and trying to distance himself from his former
identity, as in the thrash-rap tune "Fuck Me" (RealAudio excerpt), in which he lashes out at the image he once presented.
"There's no look," he said, contrasting his present appearance to his former
flashy self. "Whatever I'm wearing that day is whatever I come out [in onstage].
There's nothing fancy, nothing glitter -- nothing, man. Just basically 'f--- Vanilla
Ice,' and that's the reason I got a song on there called 'Fuck Me.' "
Backed by a band that includes two bass players, two guitarists, a drummer and
a DJ, Vanilla Ice cultivated his new metal-rap sound to match the ferocity of the
"I was bored as sh-- with drum machines. ... There's no way I could match the
intensity of how I delivered it over a drum machine. It's just not going to
happen," he said. "There's no better way to release all the anger and anxiety,
and everything that I have built up in me" (interview excerpt).
He can afford to take chances with his music and downplay his past. Although
his 1994 album Mind Blowin' was negligible in both musical and
commercial terms, the success of his debut record was staggering.
On the strength of its single "Ice Ice Baby", 1990's
To The Extreme sold more than seven million copies.
"It's not about finances with me; I'm set for the rest of my life, and my daughter's
set for the rest of her life," the rapper said.
According to sales-tracking company SoundScan, Hard To Swallow
moved just 4,700 copies in its first week of release. "Whether it sells one, or a
million, or whatever, that's going to be the reward from it," Vanilla Ice said. "I
hope people can embrace it."
Vanilla Ice's decision to go for a more candid, personal, lyrical approach on
heavy-metal rap songs such as "Scars" (RealAudio excerpt) and
"A.D.D." (RealAudio excerpt) proved to be a daunting creative task.
But at Robinson's urgings, he pushed ahead. According to the rapper, Robinson
told him the experience would be cathartic for him, and at the same time
endearing to the public, giving them a chance to see a new side of Vanilla Ice.
" 'Scars' is about my personal life. It wasn't even fun writing the song because I
had to put myself back in those places to write it," Vanilla Ice said (interview excerpt).
"[Robinson] goes, 'Man, if you do this the world is going to love you for it.' And I
felt like 'Well, the world is going to hate me for it.' ... He goes, 'No man, you're
going to be free, because you got this built up inside you. You've got to let it
"Sure enough, he was right. In fact, in 'Scars' there's a part in the hook where it
says 'true to my family,' and there's a robot voice and it says 'I am free.' It is so
true. Now that I've let it out, I feel free."