Catching Up With... Vanilla Ice

Vanilla Ice
Vanilla Ice (aka Rob Van Winkle)
Vanilla Ice
Friday, February 17, 2006; 1:00 PM

In 1990, Vanilla Ice (aka Rob Van Winkle) hit the pop charts with his "Ice, Ice Baby" single. The song's catchy bass line (which seemed almost identical to that of Queen's "Under Pressure") made the song an instant hit. After more forays into the pop charts and couple of movies, Ice took up motorcross racing and, in the mid-90s, battled addiction. He appeared on VH1's "Surreal Life" in 2004 and in fall 2005, released a new album "Platinum Underground" and has been touring in support of it. For more information, visit .

Vanilla Ice was online Friday, Feb. 17, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss his his career and what he's up to now.

"Catching Up with ..." is a new discussion series that will appear periodically and feature people and personalities who have been away from the public spotlight.


Minneapolis, Minn.: Yo Vanilla -- do you still rock the mic like a vandal?

Vanilla Ice: Oh, of course, that'll never stop. A lot of people don't remember anything since Ice Ice Baby, but I've got 3 records out since then and they're all successes -- but not commercially. All three records are platinum and the latest is called "Platinum Underground" because I can still have a fan base without radio and MTV, because that's not the only way. There's sat radio and Internet.


Washington, D.C.: I've always felt that you played an oft-overlooked role in creating modern hip-hop music, insofar as you were an early defender of sampling at a time that it was felt to be something akin to plagiarism. Indeed, your defense of using such a similar hook to the one in "Under Pressure" is almost legendary.

Do you ever feel that your contributions are unfairly disregarded?

Vanilla Ice: Yes.

I did more so in like a few years ago and right after Ice Ice Baby hit there was a big backlash. The record sold more than I ever predicted -- no one could've expected it. I was a target at the time and didn't know why. You also had the New Kids and the Backstreet Boys and I was thrown by the image that was created around me into being a novelty act and it took the credibility away from me.

I was influenced by the same musicians as other rap artists, so there is no difference expect the visuals.

I'm over it now, though, and I feel I've been vindicated by the success of my last three records.


Silver Spring, Md.: Any chance of a 9:30 Club show coming up in the near future?

Vanilla Ice: I hear so much lately about the 9:30 Club.. all three of my shows there have been sold out. I played with my rock stuff a couple times there and came through with some old school hiphop -- which freaked people out because they didn't expect it.

I would love to come back. I have neighbors down here from D.C. and I'm running into a lot of people from D.C. lately and they all ask me when I'm coming back to the 9:30 Club!


Silver Spring, Md.: What are you currently up to?

Vanilla Ice: I've been really busy, playing over 100 shows per year for the past year. Just got back from Russia and played huge stadiums over there -- 35,000 people a show. They're out of that iron claw thing now, so any American act that plays there is really huge. I played Estonia, all these places that all just got their independence, the whole Baltic region. Oslo, Norway, Amsterdam, and all through Europe, Finland and also played three shows in London and all were huge successes. I didn't really expect that kind of a response, so I was like "Wow man!" I forget how big of an impact "Ice Ice Baby" was back during the day. It was pretty awesome to see that everyone didn't forget about it.

It was like they didn't skip a beat -- they knew all the words.


Washington, D.C.: What do you think of Eminem?

Vanilla Ice: I'm glad there's another white guy out there having success because it's all been on my shoulders for so long. There's a lot of talented -- white, Puerto Rican or Jew -- if you've got skills, you've got em.

More than half of all the hip hop record sales are white people and I think that might be a result of my record helping people to accept hip hop. If you grew up in my generation, you're going to be influenced by Run DMC, the Beastie Boys and also listen to Metallica -- it wasn't segregated anymore.

So lots of folks out in rock today are still hip to what's going on in hip hop today. It's kind of cool.

I think my record might've influenced that, because I mixed the Queen with Hiphop, so it's cool to see Eminem. I don't have any hate on him. I have fun poking at him on my new records though.


Falls Church, Va.: Who are your primary musical influences? And what's in your iPod right now? What do you think of the state of music today -- would you agree that we lack the innovators who defined the music of the '90s?

Vanilla Ice: My influences are more like underground stuff. Definitely hip hop and funk -- Funkadelic, Rick James, Parliament -- and when those movies came out like "Breaking" with Turbo and Ozone sweeping the floor -- I was heavy into breakdancing back in the day. I never thought anything would come from it. Egyptian Lover came next... pop-locking instead of just breakdancing. I just stuck with it through that whole phase and started battling my high school friends across town and I entered some talent contests on a dare and some talent scouts were in the audience and then went on tour with Iced Tea, EPMD -- the Stop the Violence tour. But after I signed with SPK, pretty much everyone knows the story from there. That's when Ice, Ice Baby hit.

As far as my iPod. I still listen to the old school hip hop, but 50s music, Ludicris and Paul Wall, a lot of that stuff. I listen to Rage Against the Machine, Slipknot and other hardcore stuff. It's all mood. If I'm racing motocross I listen to slipknot or System of a Down. I love Jay-Z and NAS and Jadakiss and stuff like that.

How did you know I have an iPod?


Lexington, Va.: So I've been a watcher of Surreal Life for the past few seasons now. When you were on, was everything "edited" to give people a certain persona or was that how people really acted in the house?

Vanilla Ice: A little bit of both. It was edited too... they filmed 24/7 so they had to edit some out and in and kind of misconstrued it a bit. There is no script, though. We're ourselves, but they edit it how they want.

I saw Tammy Faye while Ron Jeremy was having his porno party and she wanted to know what was going on and we told her and she ran up to her room. But when I saw the finished thing -- they took part of her from another day when she was talking to me in the hot tub and edited it into the middle of the porno party. And she never set foot out there.

I had a good time. It was an adventure. It's kind of played out now. It didn't help my career, but I could care less. I got to hang out with Ron Jeremy. And Ponch. My mom -- who was a big Chips fan -- she had all the posters. She loved it! The million dollar smile.


Vanilla Ice: In fact, I'm doing a new one. I'm going on a Surreal Life "fame game" show at the end of March. They won't tell me the details, but it should be fun. Ron Jeremy will be on it, too, so we're going to have quite an adventure.


Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C.: Did you or did you not get dangled off the balcony by Suge Knight. Let's get the truth.

Vanilla Ice: No. I did not. It was kind of funny -- when they take a little bit of truth in the media. If it's not exciting, they polish it up a bit. I was on the balcony and had signed over a lot of contractual money to him and felt like I did the right thing. In a weird way, he was nice but firm with me. He took me to the balcony and talked to me... but it's funny how the story gets turned around... I'm wondering how that story got changed around.

I got the clue. I'm not no idiot. I feel like I did the right thing and it's 15 years ago now. It's old news.


Frederick, Md.: Do you still race motorcross? If yes, what class are you in and what District.


Vanilla Ice: I do race. I'll be racing this weekend at the Seminole Track here in south Florida. I do exhibitions all around the country. I do freestyle jumping. Been doing since I was eight years old and can't quit. I'm addicted. I've broken many bones, but I ride with confidence. It's my thing -- there's no high on earth like it. It's my hobby and I really enjoy it.

I raced pro, but can compete on the circuit because of my music. I'm friends with all the top guys out there racing. I kind of grew up around them like one big family. I'll be at the Orlando and Daytona supercrosses and fly out to a couple more. I'll be around.

I try to keep posted on that stuff. I have a motorcross section on my web site,


Fairfax, Va.: Would you rather be remembered for your first album, or this lastest one?

Vanilla Ice: You never really think about that because it's not an option. If I had an option I might think about it. There's no way I'll outlive the impact of "To the Extreme" so whether I'd rather this or that, it doesn't matter. I'm still blazing a path. I'm not finished yet.

I love the old stuff, too. I've never hated against "Ice, Ice Baby" -- just the image. That's what I'd rather not remember. But I've had therapy since then. Did I make mistakes? Ya, I think so. Could I have foreseen them? No.

I didn't know the image was going to be such a huge deal. I'm more about letting it be about the music instead of the gimmicks and the music. That's why I went on Surreal Life. I didn't like the fact that the image kind of overpowered the music. And it shouldn't. It's not about gimmicks.

But I was paid very well and the impact is huge. I own a space in time that can never be taken from me.

Ron Jeremy helped -- he said I should be grateful for it. You live and learn and we are who we are because of where we've been. I'm still blazing my path. It's all part of the same package -- old, new and what happens in the future.


Clayton, N.C.: Ice - What are your critics saying now? How did you deal with them then versus how do you deal with them now?

Play that funky music...whiteboy!!!

Vanilla Ice: I just kind of shoot the finger to the critics. I don't give sh-- what a critic says. To me a critic is some loser who has no idea... someone with an opinion. We all have opinions. No offense, but what makes them dictate what is cool and what is not. What gives them the pass to say that their opinion on music or movies or anything is what should be cool and what shouldn't. I don't think it should be up to one person.

I get great reviews from the critics, but based on how two-faced I've seen em be in the past -- the same ones that write good reviews write bad ones, too. Not everyone agrees on music. Some people like rap, some like country -- it's all an opinion. F the critics.


Washington, D.C.: I understand that you have both a pet kangaroo and a lynx. Where did you get such exotic pets?

Vanilla Ice: Ya, it's funny how people found out -- my kangaroo got loose. It was on CNN and I was in London at the time. I have a goat, too. The goat pushed the gate open with his head and they both got out and ran around. And the goat and the kangaroo never parted. The whole entire time.

Long story short, I got all these people wondering what's going on. When I got home I couldn't find my kangaroo and I turn on the TV and it's on the news. I called animal control and let them know who it was -- and it became this big deal. I'm still laughing at it.

I have a class2 permit. I have monkees, the lynx, goat, kangaroo. The kangaroo is a sweetheart. We bottlefed him. He doesn't kick or box.

After this whole deal I got this call from Hollywood and I was on Entertainment Tonight about it. They thought it was kind of "different" that I had a kangaroo and some folks wanted to do a movie about it. So now it's going to be a cartoon on Adult Swim as "Bucky and Poncho's Great Adventure" and it should be on in April or May. I'm also going on another thing for Adult Swim -- on the Family Guy -- as Vanilla Christ and singing "Christ Christ Baby" -- but it's nothing against religion.


Washington, D.C.: I think I saw on IMDB that you're married with two kids? How old are they? Do your wife and kids go with you on the road? Do they lead a pretty normal life, go to regular schools and stuff? How do they all deal with your celebrity status?

Vanilla Ice: Yes, it's true and they do go on the road with me every now and then. But it's kind of rough out there... and some of my fans are harder edged... body pierced tattoo folks. My sound has changed. It's still hiphop, but it's more of like a rock/hip-hop show. It's high energy, stage diving, pyrotechnics, girls showing their breasts. It's crazy party atmosphere. My kids are immune to it and they love it, but they try to live as normal of a life as they can. They're in private school and when they come on the road we homeschool then. We try to make it as normal as we can.

They're great kids -- super educated, sweet, perfect. I'm just blessed to have em.


Arlington, Va.: Wanted to let you know that the very first tape I ever bought was yours (many years ago). You'll always have a special place in my heart!

Vanilla Ice: Awwwww. That's super sweet. That gives me goosebumps.


Jefferson City, Mo.: How did the name "Vanilla Ice" originate? Why is the name so focused on your whiteness? Was it a toss-up between "Vanilla Ice" and "Marshmallow Ghost?"

Vanilla Ice: Breakdancing. I actually hated it. My friends were calling me that taking stabs at me. All my friends were black and Mexican. I was the only white kid in our group and had to work hard to be accepted. Year after year, we'd breakdance and we all became close and they labeled me "Vanilla" -- like "Hey, Vanilla" and they knew I hated it, so of course they kept calling me it. I'm sure it stems from my complexion, you know, but the "Ice" came in when my friends would say "cold as ice" -- if you could rap and battle people you'd say "Dude, that was ice cold." It had nothing to do with jewelry. Back then, it was like "Your cold, dawg." "Vanilla Ice -- that's cold."

Funny how "ice" changed it's meaning now. It's all about bling. Back in the day, Ice T, Ice Cube... Ice was cool.


Vanilla Ice: Thanks for all the questions. I appreciate the opportunity. I really enjoy hearing what people have to say. Visit if you want to know what's going on with me or download some music.


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company