“Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice
A lot of people, such as Eminem for instance, may have issues with “Ice Ice Baby” and/or the artist who dropped it. But that does not negate the hard reality that it was actually Vanilla Ice, not Eminem or even a Black artist for that matter, who first truly made rap music mainstream.
In other words, he was the first rapper to top the Billboard Hot 100. So it’s like he was the one who initially broke the barrier where now you see these mega-rappers like Drake accomplishing such feats as if it is nothing.
Yes, part of his success would logically be due to his skin color, as back in those days White rappers were still by and large viewed as novelty acts. But still, the barrier was broken nonetheless, and thus it can be said all professional rappers who followed may have been beneficiaries.
But at the same time, it’s easy to see why this song was hated by rap-music purists. For even way back in 1990 there were some highly-skilled, non-White rappers in the game, such as Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap and even Eazy-E, who weren’t nearly as successful as Vanilla Ice was, not off of just one hit song at least.
Well technically, Vanilla Ice had two hits. But we would venture to guess that even 95% of the readers who actually know “Ice Ice Baby” can’t name what his other hit was (answer to be found in the bottom section).
A Song Without Meaning?
It may also be safe to say that most of the people familiar with “Ice Ice Baby” don’t know what Ice is actually talking about in the verses. It’s all just like “ice, ice baby”, which is in fact a cool a*s hook. Or put differently, in the grand scheme of the track, what he’s saying isn’t really that important anyway.
And this is not meant to be a diss against Vanilla Ice. Rather let’s say that this is one of those types of songs in which the lyrics of the verses aren’t really meant to stand out in the first place. It’s more akin to a dance song, so the beat and the hook are the most-important parts.
But that being said, if you really put your ear to this song, you may even come to the conclusion that Vanilla Ice actually can rap. After all to be a White rapper with a record deal, even to this day we can argue, means that you must have some type of skills.
But again, the instrumental on this track definitely overpowers the vocals, at least as far as the verses go. And we don’t know if Vanilla Ice and co. did that intentionally, but it definitely comes off as such.
So with all of that being noted, the verses themselves are primarily braggadocious, though the type of bragging you would find circa the late-1980s hip-hop.
That means that the main goal Vanilla Ice is striving for is proving he’s a dope emcee. So for instance he comes off as the type of rapper that can get the party jumping.
Moreover he will “cook”, i.e. outperform other emcees who test him. And there is also arguably a bit of braggadocio we’re more familiar with in the 21 century, i.e. Vanilla perhaps alluding to his wealth.
But more to the point when he mentions his Mustang “5.0”, it is apparently to point to the notion that he gets a lot of girls. This is another type of boasting that modern rap fans are familiar with, though one that was pervasive even back then.
And just to note, Ice also gives a shoutout to his ‘hood, Miami, Florida. Indeed this may come as a shock to some readers, but Vanilla Ice was actually one of the first successful rappers to come from Florida. This is the same state that went on to produce the likes of Kodak Black and XXXTentacion (1998-2018).
It has also been pointed out that there’s actually a small, real-life story within this rap. The said story is contained in the second verse in particular.
It centers on Ice rollin’ through a part of Miami called A1A Beachfront when “gunshots raged out”. Resultantly he was compelled to grab his own gat and then leave the scene ASAP before he wound up getting “jacked”.
Vanilla also gets alarmed when some police roll by, probably due to the fact that he’s carrying a firearm. However, instead of picking on him, they rather attend to “all the dope fiends”, i.e. the more-visible threats on the scene.
So it’s like Vanilla Ice may not come off as being gang-affiliated or anything like that, but he’s still had his experiences on the street.
Yet as stated earlier, most of the expression and metaphors used in this song are centered on him biggin’ up his own lyrical skill. And the hook, whereas he is fundamentally exalting himself, is more or less meant to serve the same purpose.
Indeed it’s not too often that you see a rapper use his own moniker as the chorus of a song, especially one that actually blows up.
And the “too cold” adlib would allude to something like him once again being a proficient rapper. But interesting is that he actually bit (i.e. flat-out copied) the line “ice ice baby too cold, too cold” from Alpha Phi Alpha, which is actually an African-American collegiate fraternity.
So perhaps we can argue that Vanilla Ice is lucky they didn’t chase him down for compensation as with some other parties involved in the making of this song.
At the end of the day, what we have here, even if it is presented by a Caucasian rapper, is a rap song truly representative of the days of old.
That is to say the artist at hand is not threatening to kill anyone nor reveling in his wealth or making direct references to his sex.
Take away those three elements from most rappers, and they wouldn’t even exist. Meanwhile “Ice Ice Baby” doesn’t even have a singular curse word, and we’ll probably never see a rap song like this top the Hot 100 again. So it’s like whether you like Vanilla Ice or not, he has still earned his due.
The music video to this track, despite the narrative of the song apparently being set in Miami, was actually filmed in Dallas, Texas. And the clip was directed by Vanilla Ice’s manager at the time, Tommy Quon.
Writing Credits for “Ice Ice Baby”
There is more than one interesting story concerning the credited author of this song. First off the track was produced by Vanilla Ice and two of his regular collaborators, Earthquake and D-Shay.
In fact both served as Ice’s DJs prior to him blowing up. Additionally Vanilla and Earthquake are acknowledged as writers of “Ice Ice Baby”.
Then there’s another individual named Mario “Chocolate” Johnson, a rapper from Cali. He was not originally credited. However, he claimed to have co-written “Ice Ice Baby” and even more importantly was associated with Suge Knight, one of the truest thugs to ever grace the world of mainstream rap.
In fact as the story goes, Vanilla Ice refused to acknowledge Chocolate until Suge ultimately, according to reliable sources, threatened to throw Vanilla Ice off of a 15th floor balcony. Indeed there have been rumors that Suge Knight or one of his stronger henchmen actually dangled Vanilla off the balcony by his feet.
But that version of events is one that Vanilla has vehemently denied. But either way, Mario Johnson did end up getting his co-writing credit nonetheless (as well as Suge securing “rights” to the song).
Queen and David Bowie
And then, there are also five other musicians listed as co-writers of “Ice Ice Baby”. They would be John Deacon, Roger Taylor, Brian May, Freddie Mercury (1946-1991) and David Bowie (1947-2016).
And even if you aren’t a fan of British rock music, chances are you still heard of the last two names on the list. The first four mentioned are/were the members of Queen. And Bowie was also a legendary musician in his own right.
And the reason they got writing credit for this song is because the instrumental of “Ice Ice Baby” samples, heavily in fact, a song that Queen and Bowie came out with in 1981 called “Under Pressure“.
Vanilla Ice sampled it without their permission, for back in the days sampling was a standard part of rap music, as it is now. However, unlike more-recent times, rappers weren’t compelled to officially credit songs they sampled.
Well one of the reasons that such has now become standard is in part because Bowie and Queen threatened to sue the damn out of Vanilla Ice, as Mercury in particular did not take kindly to being ‘blatantly ripped off’.
And Ice conceded by giving the lot of them songwriting credit and the associated royalties such entails. And the entire fiasco is considered to be a landmark case as far as music copyrights are concerned.
And finally there is one last figure, an unknown Floyd Brown, who is listed as a co-author of “Ice Ice Baby”.
“Ice Ice Baby” makes Vanilla Ice Wealthy
But despite all of these names associated with the track, Vanilla Ice still came out hella rich. In fact as of 2020 Vanilla Ice still boasts of a net worth in the range of $12,000,000.
Now before you run off and say something like ‘that’s small money for a big-time rapper’, keep in mind, as noted earlier, that he only really had one hit, which is “Ice Ice Baby”.
The other hit that we mentioned prior was a song entitled “Play that Funky Music” which was featured on the same album, “To the Extreme” (1990). In fact “Ice Ice Baby” was originally the B-side to “Play That Funky Music” (which was apparently at the time a promotional, not standard, single). But due to Ice Baby being received better, it went to become its own A-side also.
And Ice Ice Baby did prove to be a massive hit, not only topping the Billboard Hot 100 but also the UK Singles Chart. It replicated this feat in music charts in a handful of other countries, including somewhat oddly Zimbabwe.
In fact Vanilla Ice set a record at the time in the UK by being the first new artist to debut on the Singles Chart as high as number three. And the song also achieved platinum status in the US, UK and Australia, as well as appearing on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart of 1990.
Even More Success
During the 21st century, the song also tends to appear on music charts from time-to-time. For instance, it made it onto Billboard’s Hot Ringtones listing in both 2004 and 2008. And a cover by the cast of Glee made it onto the Hot 100 in 2010.
But more importantly than anything, as noted earlier, “Ice Ice Baby” made Vanilla Ice “the first rapper to cross into the pop market”.
And to put things into their proper perspective in terms of how the song has contributed to his wealth, since “Ice Ice Baby” he’s only had two other tracks appear on the Billboard Hot 100, despite Vanilla Ice dropping six studio albums between 1990 and 2011.
And in fact “To the Extreme” was his first album, and it was the only one that charted at all (though topping the Billboard 200 by the way, on top of being certified septuple-platinum by the RIAA).
In terms of Vanilla Ice still being able to survive off of “Ice Ice Baby”, that reality would probably have something to do with the fact that it has been sampled by a number of other artists. For instance, Eminem, who reportedly hates Ice Baby, still did utilize it on his 2004 track “Just Lose It“.
When was “Ice Ice Baby” released?
“Ice Ice Baby” came out on 22 August 1990. It is listed as officially being the first single from “To the Extreme”. The other two singles from the project are:
- “Play that Funk Music”, which impressively peaked at number 4 on the Hot 100
- “I Love You”, which relatively speaking performed poorly, only reaching as high as number 52
So Vanilla Ice can perhaps be classified as a one-hit wonder, especially as far as albums go.
The label behind this track, SBK Records, has since gone into “hibernation”.
Is Vanilla Ice really a one-hit wonder?
He might technically not be a one-hit wonder. And why is this so? This is because after the success of “Ice Ice Baby”, he was still able to take his music career seriously. He evolved in the process and even came out with resultant alternative versions of this song.
For instance, the lead single of his third album, “Hard to Swallow” (1998), featured a “rap rock remake” of “Ice Ice Baby” called “Too Cold”.
And the rapper also has a few acting credits under his belt but was never considered viable in that profession. For instance, he was “honored” with a Golden Raspberry Award in 1992. He won the aforementioned award under the less-than-flattering category of Worst New Star.
In fact Vanilla Ice also earned two other Golden Raspberry nominations that year for his performance in a movie designed specifically for him called “Cool as Ice” (1991). But again, just the fact that he had his own movie is indicative to just how popular this song was when it first came out.