Robert Van Winkle, 31 October 1968, Miami Lakes, Florida, USA. Controversial white rapper who borrowed liberally from M.C. Hammers blueprint for commercial success, and scored a UK/US number 1 with Ice Ice Baby (15 million worldwide sales). Just as Hammer utilized easily recognisable rock/pop classics to underpin his rhymes, Ice used the same technique in reshaping Under Pressure, Satisfaction and Play That Funky Music for his repertoire. Winkle was raised by his mother in a poor area of Miami, and never knew his father. He spent his teenage years hanging out on the street. However, the later claims to the press about being stabbed five times were erroneous - in fact he had been slashed across his bottom on a singular occasion. Contrary to his new image he actually sang in church choir until he was 15 and had a stepfather who owned a Chevrolet dealership, before he was first discovered playing the City Lights in Dallas, Texas. His debut album covered all bases, the ballad-rap I Love You sitting alongside the gangsta-inclined Go III and dance pop of Dancin.
While rap aficionados held up their hands in horror at what they loudly decried as a phoney, Vanilla Ice responded by telling his detractors they could Kiss My White Ass at an MTV Awards ceremony. An obvious reference to contentions that rap was an intrinsically black music, his comments did little to pacify angry factions in the genre. Ironically, Public Enemy had originally encouraged their producer, Hank Shocklee, to sign him to their label, based on his good looks and snappy dance routines. However, following his huge success he fell foul of a management that wished to pigeonhole him within the teen-market. It took several years before he fully extricated himself from the deal. Whether this, adverse press or a lack of genuine talent called a halt to Vanilla Ices meteoric rise is a worthy debate. He certainly did little to bring the jury to a favourable verdict with his comeback album. In a desperate attempt to catch up with the gangsta set, Mindblowing made frequent references to blunts, while the music sampled James Brown and, predictably, George Clinton. It was a blueprint hardcore rap album, but one with fewer convictions, in both senses, than Ice-T or Snoop Doggy Dogg. Ice disappeared from the music scene for several years before returning with 1998s Hard To Swallow, produced by Ross Robinson.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.