For this “Things That Bring Back Memories” post, I am going to pick something pertaining to the topic of “Music“. There are so many songs that I can remember from years ago, and since music is a huge part of our family, the memories come streaming back when you hear a certain song.
Do you ever have that tune that comes on the radio, and you can just automatically remember where you were, who you were with and what you were doing? It amazes me, how as I get older, I can’t remember things from last week – but have that certain song come on the radio on a “Flashback” day, and “BOOM”, I am back in the place I was when I heard it. Don’t know if it’s the side effects of my brain surgery, which they said might affect certain memory, but I’m so glad that I can remember some things of the “good old days.”
So to get on with this “Things That Brings Back Memories” blog post for this week, I’m going to pick “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice, which was released in 1989 as the “B” side of a record. The song was then re-released in 1990, and was the first single by a rapper to hit #1. If you don’t know about the song that I’m talking about, here it is:
More Info on “Ice Ice Baby / Vanilla Ice”:
“Ice Ice Baby” is a hip hop song written by American rapper Vanilla Ice and DJ Earthquake, professional beat-boxer. The song interpolates the bassline of “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, who did not initially receive songwriting credit or royalties until after it had become a hit. Originally released on Vanilla Ice’s 1989 debut album Hooked and later on his 1990 national debut To the Extreme, it is his most well known song. It has appeared in remixed form on Platinum Underground and Vanilla Ice Is Back! A live version appears on the album Extremely Live, while a rap rock version appears on the album Hard to Swallow, under the title “Too Cold”.
“Ice Ice Baby” was initially released as the B-side to Vanilla Ice’s cover of “Play That Funky Music”, but the single was not initially successful. When a disc jockey played “Ice Ice Baby” instead, it began to gain success. “Ice Ice Baby” was the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts. Topping the charts in Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the UK, the song helped diversify hip hop by introducing it to a mainstream audience. The song came fifth in VH1 and Blender ’s 2004 list of the “50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever.”
Robert Van Winkle, better known by his stage name Vanilla Ice, wrote “Ice Ice Baby” in 1983 at the age of 16, basing its lyrics upon his experiences in South Florida. The lyrics describe a shooting and Van Winkle’s rhyming skills. The chorus of “Ice Ice Baby” originates from the signature chant of the national African American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha. Of the song’s lyrics, Van Winkle states that “If you released ‘Ice Ice Baby’ today, it would fit in today’s lyrical respect among peers, you know what I’m sayin’? My lyrics aren’t, ‘Pump it up, go! Go!’ At least I’m sayin’ somethin’.”
The song’s hook samples the bass line of the 1981 song “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, who did not receive credit or royalties for the sample. In a 1990 interview, Van Winkle said the two melodies were slightly different because he had added an additional note, an anacrusis (“pickup”) between odd-numbered and subsequent even-numbered iterations of the Under Pressure sample. In later interviews, Van Winkle readily admitted he sampled the song and claimed his 1990 statement was a joke; others, however, suggested he had been serious. Van Winkle later paid Queen and Bowie and as a result, Bowie and all members of Queen have since been given songwriting credit for the sample. In December 1990, Van Winkle told Smash Hits magazine where he came up with the idea of sampling “Under Pressure”: “ The way I do stuff is to go through old records that my brother has. He used to listen to rock ‘n’ roll and stuff like that. I listened to funk and hip hop because rock wasn’t really my era. But having a brother like that, well, I just mixed the two, and he had a copy of ‘Under Pressure’. And putting those sounds to hip hop was great.”
Van Winkle described himself as the first rapper to cross into the pop market and said that although his pioneer status forced him to “take the heat for a lot of people” for his music’s use of samples, the criticism he received over sample use allowed sampling to become acceptable in mainstream hip hop.
More Info on the Singer:
Robert Matthew Van Winkle was born in Dallas, Texas on October 31, 1967. Van Winkle has never known his biological father; he was given the family name of the man his mother was married to at the time of his birth. When Van Winkle was four, his mother divorced. Afterward, he grew up moving between Dallas and Miami, where his new stepfather worked at a car dealership. Hip hop had an impact on Van Winkle at an early age, saying “It’s a very big passion of mine because I love poetry. I was just heavily influenced by that whole movement and it’s molded me into who I am today.” Between the ages of 13 and 14, Van Winkle practiced breakdancing, which led to his friends nicknaming him “Vanilla”, as he was the only one in the group that was not African American. Although he disliked the nickname, it stuck. Shortly afterward, Van Winkle started battle rapping at parties and because of his rhymes, his friends started calling him “MC Vanilla.” However, when he became a member of a breakdance troupe, Van Winkle’s stage name was “Vanilla Ice” combining his nickname “Vanilla” with one of his breakdance moves; “The Ice”. When Ice’s stepfather was offered a better job in Carrollton, Texas, he moved back to Texas with his mother. He attended R. L. Turner High School for a short time before dropping out. When Ice was not learning to ride motorbikes, he was dancing as a street performer with his breakdancing group, now called The Vanilla Ice Posse. Ice wrote “Ice Ice Baby” at the age of 16, basing its lyrics on a weekend he had with friend and disc jockey D-Shay in South Florida. The lyrics describe Ice and Shay on a drug run that ends in a drive-by shooting while praising Ice’s rhyming skills.
Ice released his debut album, Hooked, in 1989 on Ichiban Records, before signing a contract with SBK Records, a record label of the EMI Group which released a reformatted version of the album under the title To the Extreme. Ice’s 1990 single “Ice Ice Baby” was the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts.
Although Vanilla Ice was successful, he later regretted his business arrangements with SBK, which had paid him to adopt a more commercial appearance to appeal to a mass audience and published fabricated biographical information without his knowledge. After surviving a suicide attempt, Ice was inspired to change his musical style and lifestyle. While his later, less mainstream albums failed to chart or receive much radio airplay, Ice has had a loyal underground following. In 2009, Ice began hosting The Vanilla Ice Project on DIY Network. His latest album WTF – Wisdom, Tenacity & Focus was released in August 2011. Ice is currently signed to Psychopathic Records.
Some Other Interesting Facts:
- On the liner notes of the album, the composer credit is given to Vanilla Ice, Earthquake, and Mr. Smooth. They also thank MC Hammer, Ice T, Public Enemy, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Cash Money, EPMD, and 2 Live Crew, but there is not mention of Queen or David Bowie. However, Bowie and the members of Queen were later added as composers on the official credits.
- Vanilla Ice was a top Jet Ski racer around the time this came out.
- Vanilla Ice has become a running joke, but at the time most people took him (sort of) seriously. The folks at the sketch comedy show In Living Color, however, jumped on the opportunity to ridicule him, putting Jim Carrey (the only white male member of the cast) in the role of Ice performing “White, White Baby.” Sample lyric: “I take real rap and dupe it!”
- VH1 and Blender ranked “Ice Ice Baby” fifth on its list of the “50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever”. It was also given the distinction by the Houston Press as being the worst song ever to emanate from Texas. In 1999, the song’s music video was “retired” on the MTV special 25 Lame, in which Van Winkle himself appeared to destroy the video’s master tape. Given a baseball bat, Van Winkle ended up destroying the show’s set. In December 2007, the song was ranked No. 29 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s.
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