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Feb 11

VANILLA ICE – “Ice Ice Baby”

Popular180 comments • 9,205 views

#654, 1st December 1990

It seems to me that in America there’s been a teensy bit of media revisionism around “Ice Ice Baby”. Unlike most revisionism though, the idea isn’t that the track was a lost classic. No, the point is to suggest it was extreme in its badness, superhumanly awful, one of the worst records ever – it shows up on lists of same and at the culmination of one Vanilla Ice himself arrived and staged a burning of the master tape. “Ice Ice Baby” was so terrible it had to be put beyond use – wiped out like smallpox, to use a simile you can imagine the man himself rapping, in that jabby monotone of his.

The effect is to suggest that Vanilla Ice’s career was a collective moment of madness, a huge “What were we thinking?”, and to cover over the fact that Occam’s Razor had it right the first time. Vanilla wasn’t promoted as a novelty, wasn’t sold as one, wasn’t really bought as one. The thing that made him different to most of the lame MCs around at the time – and pretty much all the good ones – was the thing he helpfully pointed out in his name.

And as everyone said at the time, 25 years after Elvis the biz still needed a white guy to sell a black sound. This was a little unfair, and not just to Elvis: rap was mainstream with or without Vanilla Ice, and his album replaced MC Hammer at the top of the US charts. More telling, though, was that “Ice Ice Baby” was the first hip-hop Billboard #1 single – a position determined by airplay as well as sales, so one more reflective of tastemaker conservatism. The wider industry was comfortable with the notion of a white rap superstar, and never mind that he was no good.

There were elements of that attitude in his UK success too. But over here, more credible hip-hop tracks never had much chance of reaching #1 – from the mid-80s you’d find rap singles bouncing around the lower 20s, but it was always the gimmicky stuff that sold, and in a UK context Vanilla Ice really was just another novelty. In fact “Ice Ice Baby” seems like a kind of culmination of all the Euro-rap, pseudo-rap, gimmick movie tie-in rap – some good, some not – we’ve seen feature in Popular through 1990.

That doesn’t make it anything other than a feeble record. But it’s not an all-time stinker. It rests on a very strong idea – nicking the “Under Pressure” bassline and placing it under dessicated beats creates a mesh of malevolence a good storyteller could make a lot of. It’s such a strong idea that with half an ear – heard in snatches on the radio or on the Chart Show – you might think Vanilla Ice is that storyteller. And then you listen a bit closer.

The Iceman ruins the record in three different ways. There’s his flow – all those big end of line stresses are fine when he hits on the occasional decent image (“like a pound of BACON”) but they gum up his storytelling and make it hard to follow. So the track is rhythmically monotonous, and then his tone is unvarying too: he has a constant undertone of weaselly aggression. “Ice Ice Baby” is mostly brag with a side order of narrative, but even the bragging needs some kind of charm and variety to work – and the tone makes his party and gun talk rote and unengaging too. And then there’s the most serious issue – Ice just doesn’t seem in control of his words. He’s careless with metaphors – “flow like a harpoon daily and nightly”; “my style’s like a chemical spill” – wait, how is that good? By the third verse he’s rhyming poet and know it, drawing attention to it with those bloody line-ends, and any goodwill created by his sample choice is long, long gone. Though to be honest you could have given up at the very start – what on earth is “collaborate” doing aside from fill up syllable space?

So what were we thinking? Vanilla Ice sounds like a man who likes hip-hop but can’t do it very well, and the track’s success here isn’t just down to his race. “Ice Ice Baby”‘s very clumsiness is what makes it accessible – a big friendly sample, an easy to imitate flow, no great technical skill. It comes at the start of a period that’s the pop equivalent of the public’s switch from beer to wine in the 70s. Some oenophiles knew what they were doing and bought accordingly, but the mass market for wine was built on the likes of Blue Nun and Black Tower – Dubonnet at a pinch – and from there began a gradual climb to relative sophistication. Similarly, there would come a time when hip-hop – or at least, records that would have been impossible without hip-hop – would dominate the UK charts. But not at once, and not without a lot of education. Vanilla Ice is part of that – his unpleasant white whine is pop’s Liebfraumilch.

3

Comments

  1. 1
    thefatgit on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Oh yeah, Vanilla Ice stabs at the very heart of the notion of “keeping it real”…with a spoon.

  2. 2
    Pete on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Correction corner:
    a) “flow like a harpoon daily and nightly”; “my style’s like a chemical spill” are surely similes! Not saying they aren’t rubbish.
    b) Dubonnet isn’t strictly a wine, its one of those apertif’s which is fortified wine with gubbins in it.
    c) “his unpleasant white whine is pop’s Liebfraumilch” – I don’t get to say this very often but, IN THE BIN TOM. (Bin end)

  3. 3
    Alan Connot on 14 Feb 2011 #

    For me, the “Worst Record EVAH” canard overlaps with contemporaneous movie “white dad rappin'” reactionary comedy bits: haha he’s trying to be intimidating and is going on about guns, when he’s clearly not even BLACK.

  4. 4
    flahr on 14 Feb 2011 #

    About two months ago I witnessed a karoake performance of this that was… interesting to say the least. They had the first line down pat, and the “check out the hook” bit, but the rest just didn’t work. You could say much the same thing about the original song I guess.

    Anyway this is missing the point which is that I went up next and did a version of “I Want To Know What Love Is” which retroactively obliterated all previous versions from history

    PS was “Rapture” the first american hiphop #1 or am i displaying shameful cultural ignorance

  5. 5
    snoball on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Well done for not mentioning Jedward…

  6. 6

    I have the whole LP somewhere — I reviewed it for City Limits. I must relisten!

    Mr Xhuxk Eddy, for it is he, is more fond of V.Ice than many iirc. But I’m not sure I’ve ever read his justification of this position.

  7. 7
    Billy Smart on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Jesus God, there’s *four whole minutes* of this dull stuff. I remembered that Vanilla Ice’s lyrics were unedifying and that his style was unengaging, but I was hoping for something in the way of musical variation as the thing carries on and on…

    I can report that Vanilla Ice was treated with complete derision in my South London comprehensive by all and sundry at the time. I always liked the story about touts outside his Wembley Arena show failing to sell tickets for 10p in early 1991.

  8. 8
    Billy Smart on 14 Feb 2011 #

    #2 Watch: A week of Madonna’s ‘Justify My Love’. Sizzling!

  9. 9
    Billy Smart on 14 Feb 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: Vanilla Ice performed ‘Ice Ice Baby’ on the Top Of The Pops transmitted on December 6 1990. Also in the studio that week were; Twenty 4 Seven Featuring Captain Hollywood, The Farm and Cliff Richard. Mark Goodier was the host. This was the 1400th edition.

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Three UK TV appearances of Vanilla Ice are listed;

    THE SMASH HITS POLL WINNERS PARTY: with Jason Donovan, Phillip Schofield, Craig Maclachan, Betty Boo, Partners In Kryme, Monie Love, Snap, Roxette, The Boys, Vanilla Ice (1990)

    WOGAN: with Jeff Goldblum, Vanilla Ice, Molly Parkin (1990)

    WOGAN: with Vanilla Ice, Nesta Wyn Ellis, Helen Mirren (1991)

  11. 11
    Doctor Casino on 14 Feb 2011 #

    “Worst song ever” meme also has to be kind of a knee-jerk crowd-pleaser joke that just works generationally – – this song was huUUUUUUuuuuge in the US at exactly the right time (in terms of demographic generation-bubbles) for millions of people to be cutesily embarassed about it later. I was of the age where this was performed on stage at elementary-school talent shows and it was, at least for about four seconds, seen as genuinely “cool” in my peer group. I was a couple years too young to really get that rappers were “supposed” to be black but I think Alan Connot @ #3 is dead-on when he says that this is a big part of the song’s punchline quality.

    The funny thing to me is the comparitive erasure of “U Can’t Touch This,” which I *never* hear, or even hear *discussed*, despite being seemingly as ubiquitous at the time and considerably more enjoyable as a recording. Hammer’s fashion gets a shoutout from time to time but that’s it. I guess it kind of still helps to be a white rapper, even if the mechanism of that help has sort of inverted itself.

    Would definitely rather hear “U Can’t Touch This” than “Ice Ice Baby,” but as I’ve said way back when on this site, I’d rather hear “Ice Ice Baby” than “Under Pressure” so who knows…

  12. 12
    Steve Mannion on 14 Feb 2011 #

    re #8 but can Madonna ever justify her (brief) love for Rob Van Winkle (call him by his real name)?

    VI was quite charmless and clunky but somehow this was always a fun rap-along both then (certainly big in my playground) and now (its persistence as a meme, still turning up in adverts etc.). The cuteness of the sample seems to have saved it for me to the extent that I might even double Tom’s score but its recent rather unwelcome and unnecessary revival knocks it back to a 5. I wonder tho if he was the first rapper to wear a suit (albeit without the jacket) in his video?

  13. 13
    Tom on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Another problem w/it is that despite being built on (a facsimile of) one of the most iconic basslines ever the bass on it is PUNY – and he’s from Miami isn’t he? Shame on him. But I didn’t want to mention this in case it was just bad MP3-itis. Has anyone heard it on something relatively boomin’ lately?

  14. 14
    tonya on 14 Feb 2011 #

    I guess it’s defend Hammer day. #12 Was Vanilla Ice the the first rapper to wear a suit? No, Hammer dressed as a gangster in the Turn this Mutha Out video in 1988, and I’m sure Big Daddy Kane’s leather suits predate it also. And #11 I guess you don’t go to Oakland Athletics games, they still play U Can’t Touch This.

  15. 15
    Tom on 14 Feb 2011 #

    “U Can’t Touch This” is from memory very fine pop-rap. Would have thoroughly enjoyed it at #1 I think.

  16. 16
    thefatgit on 14 Feb 2011 #

    The white rap issue is a thorny one, when many consider that white artists rode on the coat-tails of their black contemporaries. But this is a common misunderstanding, when in reality white rappers skip over the non-newtonian fluid of black culture, that is if they stand still too long, they tend to sink without trace, but if they keep running and stay ahead of the pace, they succeed. So the Vanilla Ices and Everlasts are literally swallowed up, but the Eminems and Beastie Boys endure, by not trying too hard to be “blacker than thou”. Maybe even this is being oversimplistic, but the core of white rap’s credibility is the question of authenticity. It was the biggest problem I had with rap, as a genre in the 90’s and going forward.

  17. 17
    MBI on 14 Feb 2011 #

    So many great lines to choose from. If his rhyme was a drug, he’d sell it by the gram! As opposed to the kiloliter or something!

  18. 18
    Tom on 14 Feb 2011 #

    #16 problem being too much concern with authenticity?

  19. 19
    Tom on 14 Feb 2011 #

    #17 IDK by the pill or ounce or he’d offer it on prescription maybe?

    I was struck the other day listening to the first Ultramagnetic MCs album by the thought that maybe he was trying to sound a bit like Kool Keith? Except KK’s line endings are generally really effective, often dummying the listener, whereas Vanilla just comes over as a pedant: “I go crazy when I hear a CYMBAL / And a hi-hat.”

  20. 20
    Billy Smart on 14 Feb 2011 #

    The chart for December 1 1990 reveals that ‘Ice Ice Baby’ was one of 12 rap singles (perhaps stretching the definition in places) in the Top 100 that week;

    13. Dream Warriors – My Definition Of A Boombastic Jazz Style
    21. Dimples D – Sucker MC
    31. Monie Love – Down To Earth
    32. Betty Boo – 24 Hours
    41. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
    48. Run DMC – What’s It All About?
    67. MC Tunes – Primary Rhyming
    71. Tairrie B – Murder She Wrote
    81. World’s Famous Supreme Team – Operaa House
    88. Hi-Tek 3 featuring MC Shamrock – Come On & Dance
    90. Rebel MC – Comin’ On Strong

    In any just world, ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ would have been number one for four weeks.

  21. 21
    Tom on 14 Feb 2011 #

    I seem to have forgotten MC Shamrock.

  22. 22
    MikeMCSG on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Tom you are joking aren’t you ? – “cooking MCs like a pound of bacon” is rightly derided as one of pop’s worst lyrics along with Desree’s “I’d rather have a piece of toast”.

    I seem to remember Ian Dury wore a suit of sorts for “Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3”

    #10 Billy, didn’t this take off on the back of the Smash Hits Poll show after being around for a while ? An indication that exposure on other shows was becoming more important than TOTP.

  23. 23
    MBI on 14 Feb 2011 #

    I would be remiss if I didn’t include a proper link to Trotters’ remix, “Ice Ice Bacon.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6C0ai74Xo4&feature=related

  24. 24
    Tom on 14 Feb 2011 #

    #22 no it’s good! maybe i mean memorable image rather than ‘decent’, but it’s also about the only time in the whole song he actually extends a simile (sorry pete) beyond one line!

  25. 25
    anto on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Hhmm he’s good bad but he’s not evil.

  26. 26
    lockedintheattic on 14 Feb 2011 #

    2 British female rappers in the top 40 20 years ago – not sure there’s been that many at once since….where are the current lot then? how long are we going to have to wait before we get a chart topping female equivalent to all the current pop-grime lot?

  27. 27
    thefatgit on 14 Feb 2011 #

    @ 18 Yes, it’s a worrying blindspot of mine. I’d love to accept “Ice Ice Baby” as a harmless bit of pop fun, albeit rather clumsily delivered by Mr Van Winkle, but it smacks of exploitation in the crudest sense. He comes across as a pawn in a much greater game (if the Suge Knight story is to be believed), and how his record label attempted to weave a street-savvy backstory around him, as if it was necessary for him to be accepted within rap as a whole. He supported MC Hammer on tour and was on the Stop The Violence roster. However, his relationship with his label broke down as soon as the press found inaccuracies in his concocted biography. This must have been a factor in his attempted suicide, after his acting career stalled. I genuinely feel sorry for the guy, when so many have tried to make him appear to be something he wasn’t.

  28. 28
    Billy Smart on 14 Feb 2011 #

    #22. The single had been released in America in August, was top of the Billboard chart by the beginning of November and was released in the UK at the end of November. Increasing British public awareness of the Vanilla Ice phenomenon rocketed the single to enter the chart straight in at number three, followed by a month at the top. So it might have been around for a couple of months, but by the time it was commercially available it was already a big hit.

  29. 29
    lonepilgrim on 14 Feb 2011 #

    I find it hard to get excited by this – or to work up much hatred either. Vanilla Ice seems like an apt description.

  30. 30
    hardtogethits on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Tom – 35 years since Elvis, surely.

  31. 31
    hardtogethits on 14 Feb 2011 #

    A brilliant review. The intrinsic charm of the record is indeed the choice of sample, which works really well and distracts attention away from the record’s many flaws. Listening again, after all of this time, it’s so kind and succinct to think of the record as “hard to follow”. I thought that maybe listening closely and with a bit more experience of the world than I had then, it would be pretty easy to figure out what he’s on about. But no, not really. I really did try to stop, collaborate and listen, but I was quickly bemused and went back to thinking about why it became popular. 4.

    From memory, the success in the US was augmented by a lot of pre-release publicity – and the video and dance routine seemed to capture the public’s imagination. I am sure it got a slot on Juke Box Jury, and a female reviewer (I don’t remember) swooned at the video. Whilst this sample of one could not have propelled the record into the Top 3, her reaction wasn’t untypical. The public seemed primed to buy, and so it proved, as the first of the following to facts illustrates:

    ChartWatch:

    When it entered the chart at #3, this was the highest debut of any act in the 38 year history of the singles chart!

    For EIGHT weeks, the chart run of Ice Ice Baby was exactly the same as it predecessor, Unchained Melody: 3-1-1-1-1-2-2-5.

  32. 32
    23 Daves on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Another track I simply can’t remember ever being at number one – in my head, it stalled at number two (yes, insert the obvious “Freudian slip” gag along the lines of “well, it did always seem like something rather more unpleasant you’d find in a toilet” here).

    I haven’t listened to it in years, and having gone back to Youtube to give it another try, I’m surprised by how bad it isn’t, actually. It’s not a work of genius and it certainly didn’t deserve to be number one or even a top ten hit, but there’s a likable minimalism to it, a hypnotic groove which – if you ignore the clumsiness of the delivery – just about propels everything along enough to be a reasonable distraction. It’s also not the worst rap I’ve heard this week, to be fair. There are plenty of supposedly semi-credible or cult underground hip-hop figures in London who deliver their work with more clumsiness than Mr Ice here, and if compared to the previous hip-hop number one we had about those pesky turtles, it’s certainly more memorable.

    I obviously remember this being greeted with nothing but derision at school at the time, but there was one classmate who stubbornly stood by Vanilla Ice, to the point where it began to seem ridiculous (and I think in the end he did begin to heavily indulge in the irony and wind-up power apparent in defending the work). I’ll always have pleasant memories of him desperately trying to veer the conversation on to Vanilla Ice whenever anybody brought up anything remotely credible, then making up increasingly ridiculous arguments to defend himself and the artist. He moved on to The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu in the end. I suppose that made a strange sort of sense.

  33. 33
    Alan Connor on 14 Feb 2011 #

    I’ve never had to cook bacon in any form other than pre-rashered, but it seems like the best line to me.

  34. 34
    wichita lineman on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Slightly darker and certainly less humdrum than I remember. Obv the hook is done and dusted before VI even makes an appearance, which – like a bunnied ad-related hit by a Black Country idiot a few years hence – was all it took to get to no.1. It felt like VI was a bit of a laughing stock from pretty much the get go, even amongst Smash Hits writers and readers.

    But MC Hammer is the best comparison to draw. Who’s worse? Hammer is certainly the more fleet-footed rapper but U Can’t Touch This was way less imaginative than Ice Ice Baby – he nicks the Superfreak hook AND feel, adding bugger all beyond the title. Imagine if this had been VI’s breakthrough – it would surely have been regarded as cultural theft (as opposed to plain laziness). At least Ice Ice Baby adds the intriguing synth chords – thin, but suitably icy.

    In weak (ie tipsy) moments I’ve got a cheap laugh by saying “please Hammer, don’t hurt ’em” in a West Country accent.

    Re 32: did this schoolmate go on to make any records? Is he in Scooter?

  35. 35
    swanstep on 14 Feb 2011 #

    In the US, this song blew up through a minor, pay-request (hence manipulable) jukebox, music video channel called The Box. The record had been rejected for its poor audio quality by radio and the horrible vid. wasn’t close to being good enough for MTV (which still played vids at the time). Anyhow, the massive success of the song against these sort of odds and headwinds was impressive and baffling in equal measure.

    Jane’s Addiction is out with Been Caught Stealing at this point (and was an instant consensus party classic), Alice in Chains’s Man in the Box similarly has been out for a few months , although I think in both cases the vids didn’t hit MTV until early 1991. And of course there was excellent slamming pop-dance around from Janet Jackson, C&C music factory and others (even Hammer so long as you didn’t have to look at him), so it seemed a little perverse for an audience to positively seek out and form around Ice in the way it did. The guy got a frickin’ movie out of this one song. And recall that Ice reverse-engineered rather than sampled Under Pressure and then insisted to the press (when asked about it) that his bass-line was really quite different from UP’s. One wanted to strangle the guy (at least if one was male). The whole thing was just groanworthy (a la Bieber now perhaps). Hence the probably exaggerated ugly cultural revenge against Ice that’s been exacted since. Here’s the famous flip out with Jon Stewart, Janeane Garofalo etc. in 1995. No one came out of that looking good.

    Anyhow, particularly in the context of the more freak-showish UK charts of Bombalurina and Jive Bunny, Ice ice baby doesn’t look or sound quite so bad I agree! So, yeah:
    3

  36. 36
    nickpeters on 14 Feb 2011 #

    #12. Yep, for me the only reason Mr Van Winkle is noteworthy is that his appearance in the Sex book marks the exact point in time when Madonna became uncool. So while she still had some great music ahead of her it was clear that she had if not exactly lost it, at least seriously mislaid it.

  37. 37
    wichita lineman on 14 Feb 2011 #

    Justify My Love was, for me, her best record since Into The Groove. I could enjoy it without necessarily thinking about her Ice thing or Sex, the latter of which, looking back, was an astonishing move – not necessarily a good one but, sweet jesus, what a thing to have to follow.

    Been Caught Stealing is even less convincing an r’n’r lifestyle rockah than Primal Scream’s Jailbird, and Alice In Chains are proto Nickelback. I’d much rather have Ice Ice Baby than either.

  38. 38
    MBI on 14 Feb 2011 #

    “It seems to me that in America there’s been a teensy bit of media revisionism around “Ice Ice Baby”. Unlike most revisionism though, the idea isn’t that the track was a lost classic, the point is to suggest it was extreme in its badness, superhumanly awful, one of the worst records ever.”

    To be fair, this makes more sense in America, where we don’t have things like Jive Bunny or Bombalurina.

  39. 39
    swanstep on 15 Feb 2011 #

    @wichita, 37. I’m shocked: I thought everyone loved Been Caught stealing! And while I understand that few people love AiC as much as I do; Nickelback, that’s harsh! At any rate, I cited those two cases just to emphasize that there was a real sense of thrumming excitement in music at the time as the whole Lollapalooza/Alternative Nation stuff was about to bust loose.

  40. 40
    heather on 15 Feb 2011 #

    I’ve seen my brother attempt this at kareoke, so it deserves a four for allowing that experience alone.

    It’s not that bad. The rap is, as you say, clunky and badly-stressed, but at least he sounds as if he *likes* the genre. I also have a kind of sick admiration of the way he tried to go to court to prove the bassline wasn’t “Under Pressure”, blessim.

    I remember people thinking it was ok until they saw the video with his ridiculous froofy shirt and little waistcoat. More of a 90s boyband outfit than streetwear.

    Word to ya mother, heh heh heh.

  41. 41
    Kit on 15 Feb 2011 #

    #12 – here’s Kane wearing suits in 1988: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4Bx7R0LKx0 and 1989: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xl4e1_big-daddy-kane-smooth-operator_music – the latter opening with a no-jacket iteration, too.

    When the Bloodhound Gang recruited Vanilla Ice for a relatively hard-hitting duet on their second album, lead Hound “Jimmy Pop” couldn’t help himself from undercutting the appearance by introducing, in a wavering schoolboy voice, “Yo! Bloodhound Gang and Rob Van Winkle, together on this track…”

  42. 42
    Elsa on 15 Feb 2011 #

    “Word to yer mother” was the bit that rankled me the most. It’s “Word to the Mother” as in motherland as in Africa. That he may have changed it on purpose does not mitigate the deed.

    Tom asked if he was from Miami – actually that was another piece of the controversy in the US. He led everyone to believe he was from Miami though he had spent about five minutes there and was actually from Texas.

  43. 43
    Billy Hicks on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Well, you can all say what you want, I still love it. After #1 after #1 of slow, fairly dull if tuneful ballads, finally a reminder that yes it is 1990 after all. We haven’t had a number 1 sounding this current since, erm…well, since ‘Turtle Power’, but anyway.

    It seems like it’s really only in the last couple of years that this song’s become so well-known again. Back in 2008, at a club playing ‘Under Pressure’ I ironically shouted “ICE ICE BABY” over the top and absolutely no one got it. Whereas a couple of weeks ago at a friend’s birthday, it’s this that played instead, and everyone was amazed at how many of the lyrics I knew.

    And I suppose it’s Jedward that brought it back, doing a comedy cover of this mashed up with Under Pressure last year (with Vanilla Ice himself!) that got to #2, and since then it’s been in Glee and a Halifax advert. Yeah, it’s cheesy, but it’s cheesy in a good way, and even though it came out when I was 2 there’s something rather pleasantly nostalgic and adorable about it, sounding so hard to be cool yet coming across as a little kid trying to act all grown up. Rather than annoying, it’s cute.

    And I absolutely love the contemporary Vanilla Ice interview when he denies he nicked the Under Pressure riff. “No, see, theirs goes ‘do do do dododo do, do do do dododo do’ and ours goes ‘do do do dododo do, DO do do do dododo do’, there’s a big difference”. I think Ice later admitted he was joking, but it’s still hilarious.

  44. 44
    hardtogethits on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Coati Mundi rapped in a suit in 1981.

  45. 45
    Elsa on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Pigmeat Markham rapped in a suit in 1968.

  46. 46
    Kit on 15 Feb 2011 #

    No Pigmeat promo videos though.

  47. 47
    Elsa on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Yeah, that’s a bummer. There’s got to be a Laugh-In clip of it floating around somewhere…

  48. 48
    Andrew F on 15 Feb 2011 #

    I think it’s possible that its fame may divide along generational lines – I was 15 when it came out, and I think I’ve heard it quite regularly since (including possibly at Tom’s club!)

    I’m also a little shocked at the score, I thought it’d be an easy 7-8: a well put together record, with lines as full of thrillpower as a lot of euro-rap that got an easier time of it, and that has brought a lot of joy to people then and since.

    (what is ‘collaborate’ doing there = it’s being the Collaborate in “Stop! Collaborate and Listen!”, one of the most recognisable record openers even (again for people who were about my age when this came out))

  49. 49
    Mark M on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Has Tom coordinated his timing to cross-promote with a certain ITV celeb show featuring VI?

    Re: I’m with Wichita on both of those – Been Caught Stealing was one of those songs widely popular with my fellow students at the time that drove me mad, right up there with the Wonder Stuff’s Size Of A Cow and The Levellers’ diabolical One Way.

    Back to Mr Van Winkle, I seem to remember there was about a week or two when there was a certain amount of debate about whether Ice Ice Baby was any cop or not – and then the consensus among people I knew/respected tipped towards the conclusion of rubbish.

    On the white rapper front, nobody has mentioned 3rd Bass, who at the time of Ice’s rise would’ve been held as showing how it could be done (their flows being rather more fluid – as it were – than the Beasties*). Not sure how well their records have aged, mind. (& Pete Nice wore suits).

    *Don’t get me wrong, I love Paul’s Boutique.

  50. 50
    Mark M on 15 Feb 2011 #

    3rd Bass’ finest hour – there’s a lovely bass line. As bonus, those with a passing interest in underground hip hop get to see what future mysterious metal masked rapper MF Doom looked like when he was young and innocent.

  51. 51
    Kit on 15 Feb 2011 #

    “what is ‘collaborate’ doing there”

    Ice is inviting the collective memory of a generation to join with him in making this record become a significant cultural event, greater than the sum of its parts, elevated by our mutual and various responses to an icon, rather than a forgotten regional novelty. We are all willing collaborators in this pop axis.

  52. 52
    weej on 15 Feb 2011 #

    My main memory of this song is from Reading Festival 2001. The people camping next to us used to play ‘Ice Ice Baby’ on their portable CD player and hoot with laughter each day, then go on to listen to music they genuinely enjoyed – the kind of F-grade nu-metal and ska-punk that was big at the time.

    FWIW, I quite enjoyed IIB – yes, the words seem nonsensical, but I’d rather have that than faux-meaningful, and the bassline may be nicked but you couldn’t say the track has anything else in common with Under Pressure. Whatever the backstory (and poststory, if that’s a word) it just sounds like a fairly good example of hip-hop-pop in 1990.

    Re: #38 – Looking at the list of US number ones for 1990 there may be no Bombalurina, but there does seem to be a fair few potential 1-3 scoring tracks, Michael Bolton is the first one I’d pick out.

  53. 53
    swanstep on 15 Feb 2011 #

    @weej, 52. I think the point is not that the US charts were (or have ever been) bilge-free, on the contrary they’re full of it (and always have been). The point is that tops of US charts (both because of the size/decentralization of the market and the way the charts are computed incl. airplay) have tended to be relatively free of that specific sort of cheap/nasty-sounding/novelty/outsider record that regularly tops the UK charts.

  54. 54
    weej on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Is this really a novelty / outsider record though? It doesn’t seem that different from a lot of stuff that was around at the same time – MC Hammer being the obvious example given above.

  55. 55
    swanstep on 15 Feb 2011 #

    @weej. It does to me sound much tinnier than Hammer or janet jackson, say, and it did emerge through non-standard/outsider channels (tiffany’s I think you’re alone now is similar in these respects). The point is just that IIB (like Tiffany’s record) doesn’t stand out as much in the wilder, more novelty-record-inclusive UK chart-tops.

  56. 56
    weej on 15 Feb 2011 #

    I get what you’re saying, swanstep, and you do have a point, but I can’t escape the feeling that the scorn heaped upon him later is due to his hairstyle, his vague air of pomposity and his ludicrous public statements rather than the record itself.

  57. 57
    Tim Byron on 15 Feb 2011 #

    I’ve been reading Popular since the mid 80s or so with some fascination, but decided I should only start commenting at the point where I started paying attention to pop music, which is late 1990 or so (as an 8 year old). My impression of what I thought about “Ice Ice Baby” as an 8 year old was that it was quite alien. I’m pretty sure it and “U Can’t Touch This” were more or less the first time I had heard rap – before that it hadn’t penetrated my white suburban Australian bubble. I didn’t know or really care about the sample, but to my ears it seemed mysterious and pretty sparse (especially compared to a lot of the mainstream corporate pop of the time), which totally suited the alienness of the whole idea of rapping. I don’t recall ever paying attention to the lyrics, but I suppose the “I’m tough and from the street” vibe in the lyrics worked for me as an 8 year old – how was I meant to know better?

    Now, of course, it sounds pretty clunky. I recall that in the late 90s VI tried to reinvent himself as a nu-metal rapper, and without ever (wanting to be) hearing his nu-metal efforts, it seemed an appropriate genre for him.

  58. 58
    hardtogethits on 15 Feb 2011 #

    #38, #53. To be specific, Jive Bunny’s “Swing The Mood” made #11 in America, and the follow up hit the Top 100. I’m guessing it was the sales that got it so high (rather than airplay)… but whatever it was, it’s not true to say the US charts are immune to the stuff.

  59. 59
    swanstep on 15 Feb 2011 #

    @weej. OK, I think we basically agree. There was some musical objection to VI but plenty of non-musical objection you’re right. Still, for the most part I think the objections were musical in the first instance. Bobby Brown was a buffoon with horrible hair just before this period, but he had the slamming records/tunes to quiet those objections. VI didn’t.

    @hardtogethits. Yes, the difference mainly emerges at the level of what gets to the *top* of the charts. Fewer Jive Bunnies, Crazy Frogs, and the like make #1.

  60. 60
    Mark M on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Re 57: detailed discussions at this point of the horrors of nu-metal and its abuse of hip-hop embargoed under Popular house rules, I believe…

  61. 61
    Lex on 15 Feb 2011 #

    OMG the last line of this review. OMG.

    I have absolutely no memories of the verses of this – and I’m not going to rectify this – all it is to me is the bassline and “ice, ice, baby”, which is actually fine in my head because it’s a great bassline and this allows me to enjoy it without having to endure Queen. Is there an instrumental version?

    But over here, more credible hip-hop tracks never had much chance of reaching #1 – from the mid-80s you’d find rap singles bouncing around the lower 20s, but it was always the gimmicky stuff that sold

    “Ice Ice Baby”‘s very clumsiness is what makes it accessible – a big friendly sample, an easy to imitate flow, no great technical skill

    PLUS ÇA FUCKING CHANGE :(

    (yeah I know things are better than they were in 1990, although the past couple of years have seen a regression, but…that still pretty much applies.)

  62. 62
    punctum on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Although it wasn’t quite the last number one of 1990, “Ice, Ice Baby” ensured that the year more or less ended as it began, with a mild-mannered white kid trying to be a hard man. As the subsequent litigation and out-of-court settlement concerning the record’s uncredited and extensive samples from “Under Pressure” confirmed, Vanilla Ice was anything but hard; and it is rather depressing that the first hip hop number one single in Britain should be by a white artist. Didn’t the Beastie Boys and Eminem deserve a better missing link (Kurt Cobain or Tupac Shakur – take your pick)?

    As a backing track “Ice, Ice Baby” isn’t too bad, all clenched knuckles of darkness, crouching in a cobwebbed corner, alternating between “Under Pressure” finger snaps and furtive Miami Vice synth bass, but the Iceman’s wan attempts at rapping, like Richie Cunningham practising with the aid of a theoretical Rap In A Day With Ice-T instruction booklet (since Ice-T is unsurprisingly whom Vanilla Ice sounds like most), are atrociously feeble (“I’m trying to get away before the jackers jack,” “Wax a chump like a candle,” “Feasible rhymes that you can vision and feel”), and as the final “chorus” (“Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it”) confirms, his timing is so off he would have done better to wave some huge red flags from somewhere in the Rockies, or at least could have landed a role in Santa Barbara. In addition, “Ice, Ice Baby” fails to dislodge the Walker Brothers’ “Orpheus” from its status as the most creative use of the word “harpoon” in a pop song. It is indeed “a hell of a concept,” but not in the way he thinks.

  63. 63
    Tom on 15 Feb 2011 #

    #57 welcome to commentland Tim!

    #60 I think V Ice’s specific contributions to nu metal are well up for further exploration here!

    #62 “Feasible rhymes that you can vision and feel” achieves a kind of awful greatness in that it sounds uncannily like something you’d hear on a particularly bad corporate training course. Probably w/the word “strategies” replacing “rhymes”. Maybe the suit went deeper than we thought.

  64. 64
    Chelovek na lune on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Dubonnet was the late Queen Mum’s favourite tipple, wasn’t it? Mama said knock you out, indeed…

    But, my goodness, this is tedious rubbish. Although perhaps marginally less embarrasing than his follow-up singles. “Rollin’ in My 5.0” – well, Derek B did that better on “Good Groove”, and he is far from the apogee of good rap. And as for his take on “Satisfaction”, the less said the better…

    Dimples D’s “Sucker DJ”, however – that was fun, vaguely gimmicky, but joyous rap – maybe geared up for Christmas parties, but it still sounds OK. It’s not as if it has pretentions of getting above its (perfectly fine) station. And as for MC Hammer, well “Do Not Pass Me By”, with its gospel undertoe, was he only single of his that I could stomach, let alone stand…

    The thing that struck me greatly about “Ice Ice Baby” at the time (and which strikes me still) was how intensely melancholic it was – most untypically so for a big pop hit of its time. I still think it is a strange sound – closer in spirit, almost, to, dare I say it, shoegazing music of the time to mainstream pop.

    Dare I posit that fans of Chapterhouse and Spiritualized, not to mention Slowdive, were responsible for making this a hit, by rushing out in droves to buy something they regarded as poppy?

    I still don’t understand its success, today.

  65. 65
    Matt DC on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Pretty sure Vanilla Ice would sound like Rakim when compared to most nu-metal rapping.

  66. 66
    Rory on 15 Feb 2011 #

    @64 Dare I posit that fans of Chapterhouse and Spiritualized, not to mention Slowdive, were responsible for making this a hit, by rushing out in droves to buy something they regarded as poppy?

    Pistols at dawn, sir! As a (subsequent) fan of the first two, though not so much Slowdive, I wouldn’t touch this with a 10-foot hammer.

  67. 67
    Chelovek na lune on 15 Feb 2011 #

    @66 I quite like Slowdive, but not the other two so much….

    but if their aim was to discredit the concept of “rap music”…?

    Well, Mr Bond, I think they had a little degree of success.

  68. 68
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 15 Feb 2011 #

    When I played this last night I was struck by how very obvious VI’s ineptness nowappears, not so much of flow as of non-mushmouth diction: he sounds like he’s tripping over his own tongue half the time. As I say, I reviewed the LP for City Limits at the time, and I’m fairly sure I *didn’t* so much notice this aspect then. Which I guess says that the intervening 20 years of listening to rap has given me at least a bit of an ear for the skills involved — and of course it’s given everyone else this ear too, so that even fairly downlist rappers these days are way better at this aspect. The genre’s basic required technical talents are today long bedded in. (The derisive review he got in Village Voice I recall as mainly being about how mockably bad the words were…)

    And probably they were in 1990 too, but I don’t think I knew how to hear them then. I’ll see if I can dig out the review!

    (My all-time favourite hopeless white rapper is Dick van Dyke in Diagnosis Murder…)

  69. 69
    Rory on 15 Feb 2011 #

    “Ice Ice Baby” marked pretty much the end of my paying attention to what made number one on the Australian charts; I was only sporadically aware of them from here on. I’d like to say that the reason was the one-two blow of seven weeks of “Unchained Melody” at number one followed by three weeks of this, but the real reason was that at the end of Vanilla Ice’s reign in January 1991 I moved interstate, and that kind of upheaval plays havoc with TV viewing, which had been my main way of keeping track of the charts. The Australian equivalent of TOTP, Countdown, had made a slight return in 1990 as Countdown Revolution, which had meant I was reasonably aware of the charts during my honours year, but that was cancelled in December. But only two of Australia’s number ones of 1990 had made it into my own collection anyway (Sinéad O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” and Faith No More’s “Epic”), so the time was right to leave the charts behind, or so it seemed.

    But not before Vanilla left his icy mark. My brother was keen on the track, but I wasn’t: as a dedicated fan of the Australian version of Queen’s Greatest Hits, which included “Under Pressure”, I felt his use of that iconic bassline was little short of theft, and took offence on John Deacon’s behalf. Strange, really, because I was never that big a fan of “Under Pressure”, but it was the principle of it. Lucky, also, that I’d never heard “Super Freak”, or I might have taken equal offence at “U Can’t Touch This” instead of enjoying its five-week run as an Australian Number one in mid-1990. All that was really happening was that “Ice Ice Baby” was the first major hit whose blatant appropriation of another song’s hook was obvious to me. But that was enough.

    What also rankled was that the media at the time – chiefly the Australian Rolling Stone, in my case as reader – were touting Vanilla Ice as the Elvis of rap, which seemed a pretty weak claim on the basis of a single song built around a pinched bassline. I don’t remember the song being pitched or received as a novelty: people seriously expected Vanilla to be huge, as if the collective unconscious was willing Eminem into existence before Marshall Mathers was ready.

    How do I feel about it now? Compared to some of the stuff we’ve encountered in 1989-90 it’s relatively harmless, but it still feels pretty weak. 3 on a bad day, 4 on a good day.

    One abiding memory of this is that it was riding high in the Australian charts at the exact moment that the bombs rained down on Baghdad in the Gulf War: my first memory of round-the-clock news coverage, and possibly my last chance to watch such coverage; the last long summer’s day I can remember doing nothing except watch television. Zip, flash, boom, doo do-do-doo do-do-doo-do.

  70. 70
    Rory on 15 Feb 2011 #

    @67 If singles had been pennies each in 1990 you might be onto something there, but what dedicated shoegazer would have thrown serious coin at this when there were so many Ride EPs to collect?

  71. 71
    Izzy on 15 Feb 2011 #

    All the way to #48 before we get a dissenting view – I am genuinely shocked, this is an obvious big pop moment and I smell revisionism and (dare I say it) forgetting what Popular‘s usually about here.

    Sure, it’s a little long, he might be a bit clumsy (though who are we comparing him to? 3rd Base were certainly not going to be troubling any #1 slots) and the video looks silly. But jeez – the hooks, the vague menace, and (as I remember it at least) kids genuinely thrilled by the sound of it. 8 from me.

    All that said, though – ‘Justify My Love’ would’ve been an absolute beauty of a #1 and I’m gutted it missed out here. But the way I remember it, it was seen as something of a shark-jumping moment for Madonna, forgetting to include a tune, overdoing the risqué, and letting herself be manipulated by Lenny Kravitz adding up to an abdication. Not here though, it’s always been a most stunning of records.

  72. 72
    nicknick des bois on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Hello ! First time poster.

    I have a hazy, and quite possibly false, recollection of Vanilla Ice being quite favourably reviewed in Hip Hop Connection as a credible underground/regional release, several months before hitting the charts. I’m also fairly sure that arouind the same time (or possibly after VI made US n° 1), I saw a quote from Public Enemy’s Chuck D to the effect that he’d tried to sign Vanilla Ice to his label to ensure that someone black profited from ‘Hip Hop’s Elvis’.

  73. 73
    Rory on 15 Feb 2011 #

    There’s a question for the Popular hive-mind: does anyone have a source showing the changing average price of singles and albums over the years, at least for the UK but possibly elsewhere as well? Early on I got in the habit of peeling off price labels, so my recollection is hazy before 1993 (cough, started recording price of every purchase in personal database, cough). When I started buying them in 1983 it was A$3 for a 7″ single and A$11 for an LP, but there was a fair bit of inflation in the 1980s. By the late 1980s I’d switched to CD albums and very few single purchases, with CDs costing a premium at the time, A$25 or so compared with around A$18-20 for LP/cassette, I think (but wouldn’t swear to it). By late 1993, when I started keeping track, I was forking out A$28-29 for newly release CD albums, but can see some discounted new releases at A$22-24, and CD singles were going for A$7-8 a pop. This was at a time when it was around A$2.20 to the pound.

    So I’m guessing that Vanilla Ice’s number one at the end of 1990 set people back… three quid? Does that sound right?

  74. 74
    flahr on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Oh, #3 watch: “Unbelievable” by EMF. Better rapping than this.

  75. 75
    23 Daves on 15 Feb 2011 #

    #64 – oddly, far more than Chapterhouse or Slowdive, parts of “Ice Ice Baby” remind me of some of the more minimal seventies German electronic music I’ve been listening to recently. However, I hugely doubt that sales from fans of Kraftwerk, Cluster or Neu! would have pushed the track to number one.

  76. 76
    Rory on 15 Feb 2011 #

    @74 Aw, man! Can we talk about that instead? One of the sounds of 1991, for me.

  77. 77
    punctum on 15 Feb 2011 #

    #71: Given twenty years of subsequent life and hindsight it would be difficult not to have changed one’s mind about certain records in the interim but that’s hardly “revisionism.” I didn’t reckon much to “Ice Ice Baby” at the time either for what that’s worth.

    What is Popular usually about, then?

  78. 78
    Chelovek na lune on 15 Feb 2011 #

    @75 Yes, that makes perfect sense. On both counts

    It strikes me (in a year in which even That Petrol Emotion, Primal Scream – or, for that matter, Brother Beyond – submitted their songs to radical dance remixes – with a surprising degree of success – although TPE’s finest pop song of the year, released to limited interest twice, “Sensitize”, wasn’t) that some skilled remixer could have done something entirely different and artistic with the track (on which the rapper would have made no appearance whatsover).

    EMF = Vanilla Ice for middle-class English NME readers aged under 14. Or a similarly talented remake of The Farm for Southerners…

    @73 As I recall my earliest 7″ singles (1981/82) cost either 99p or £1.25, and by 1988-90 they were more usually £1.49 or £1.75. I seem to recall 12″ singles typically costing £2.99 or £3.29 at that time, and CD singles I guess must have been £3.49 or £3.99. But I bought far more reduced to clear, either from Woollies or the surprisingly good independent record shops in places now entirely devoid of such things (both Barking and Barkingside, for starters)

  79. 79
    Steve Mannion on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Rory I think 12″ singles in 1990 were starting at £3.99. This is around the time I made my first purchases of them – from Oxford Street’s HMV no less, the releases in question being 808 State’s follow-ups to ‘Pacific’ sans MC Tunes (surely better than Vanilla Ice but by priding himself on fastness, in common with many UK hardcore rappers at the time, not as easy to follow). I’m not sure why I bought them on vinyl as opposed to tape – possibly the extra cool points but also the extra third track which many cassingles tended to lack.

  80. 80
    Mark G on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Singles were 50p for as long as I could remember (1972 to 1979?), until I think one of The Saints’ ones went to 99p which seemed extortionate.

    Albums I remember as being £1.99 or £2.99 around that time.

  81. 81
    Tom on 15 Feb 2011 #

    #71 and #77 – yeah, no revisionism here. I came late to dance music and grossly underrated a lot of its #1s at the time, but I was already – not a hip-hop snob by any means but a casual fan in upstanding NME reader style, going out and buying Fear Of A Black Planet when it came out, worrying over NWA, feeling a bit guilty for liking Hammer, etc etc. So I felt I had a reasonable basis for disliking Vanilla Ice. Also this was the era when most clumsy rapping was FAST and done on big dance records – I would totally have taken MC Tunes over this guy.

    I think it’s true though that when I started Popular this was one of the records I was expecting to quite enjoy! But no.

  82. 82
    Tom on 15 Feb 2011 #

    #75 my inexpert impression is that there’s lots of minimal electronic stuff in amongst the bass in late 80s Miami rap, which as we’ve ascertained is roughly what VI is shooting for here. Someone more familiar could provide recommendations I hope!

  83. 83
    Tom on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Also can we rewind back to discussion of Madonna’s SEX, since she won’t be turning up again until well after? This book was published in my first week at University (a couple of years after) and predictably dominated early icebreaker discussions. One bumptious lad introduced himself to me as a big Madonna fan.

    “Oh,” I asked, “Have you got Sex yet?”

    “I’ve HAD IT and I’ve got it!” he said with a horrible leer.

  84. 84
    thefatgit on 15 Feb 2011 #

    I’d stick my hand up for MC Tunes’ delivery as more menacing than most UK rappers (Overlord X included). I’m not sure if “The Only Rhyme That Bites” would have translated well in the states, when “bites” has a negative connotation attatched to it, Stateside. I’m sure certain Americans would have loved to hear the theme from “The Big Country” sample that the song is built around.

  85. 85
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Didn’t Andrew Neil (of all DO NOT WANT presenters) dedicate an entire horribly leering Yentobbish documentary to Sex as media phenom? I own a rather battered copy I got secondhand years later — it is somewhat water-damaged :/ –:0 Xp but in the age of the internet the actual contents are tame to the point of mumsy quaintness.

  86. 86
    Tom on 15 Feb 2011 #

    It was always a solid seller when I worked in the second hand bookshop. We would be somewhat cruel to interested customers, putting it up on a high shelf, bagged so they would have to ask us to get it down and open it. Naturally we would loudly confirm their muttered request to be sure we got them the right item.

  87. 87
    Steve Mannion on 15 Feb 2011 #

    “This customer’s asking how much for SEX” etc.

  88. 88
    thefatgit on 15 Feb 2011 #

    My only experience of Miami Rap around that time was 2 Live Crew’s “As Nasty As They Wanna Be”, which was just plain filthy. Unfortunately, none of the basslines or samples were particularly memorable, save for that infamous “Full Metal Jacket” lift.

  89. 89
    Russ L on 15 Feb 2011 #

    #72 – You’re not alone, I’m sure I’ve heard/seen/read an interview in which Chuck D said that.

    ***

    I don’t mind this. Where others see awkward lyrics in it, I find them amusingly surreal. I love the “pound of bacon” bit.

    I’d never have guessed it was from 1990, though. I’d have gone for about two or three years later than that, when I was about 12/13.

  90. 90
    lonepilgrim on 15 Feb 2011 #

    I seem to recall reading a piece by Norman Mailer at the time basically complaining that he couldn’t see Madonna’s lady bits in SEX – although he might not have used that phrase.

  91. 91
    Andrew F on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Been thinking about my surprise at my contrarian position. One of the things that it does underline is that I’ve always had a tin ear for ‘flow’, never really understood what makes one rapper technically better than another. VI says the words in the right order and with the right emphasis – that’s pretty much all I’m looking for.

    Also of course one of the reasons that I’ve become more fond of this recently was its appearance on one of the first editions of SingStar with the ‘Rap Meter’, which was a bonus for those of us who are generally lacking in proper singing chops. This meant that I got quite well acquainted with it, and came to associate it with being both good fun for all concerned, and really bloody difficult – he may not be up to MC Tunes’ speed, but I assume that it was a staple Karaoke Trap for years.

  92. 92
    Tom on 15 Feb 2011 #

    #91 re. flow: at the risk of sounding like one of Those Academics Who Get Into Rap, can you tell the difference between someone reading Shakespeare badly and well? Often the bad Shakespearian – I’m an example – gets seduced by the metre and whatever has been written comes out as purely iambic pentameter, the rhythms and stresses falling very regularly. But a good shakespearean will shape the verse so it brings out the meaning – this is v much not doing it ‘naturally’, but conjuring up a kind of unnaturalness which is a collaboration between the language, the metre and the performer.

    And I think that’s what flow is too – I think of it as the way the rapping negotiates with the beat and the meaning. VI, on this, gets kind of trampled by the beat and loses the meaning. There’s lots of other ways a rapper can be good of course but yeah flow is v important!

  93. 93
    Tom on 15 Feb 2011 #

    & it’s a function of your own accent, background, what you’re used to hearing, etc – some US rap heads seem to hear grime as really clunky and weak in ways that UK listeners can’t usually process

  94. 94
    Al Ewing on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Re: the film career of V. Ice:

    Has anyone apart from me seen Vanilla Ice’s astonishing and possibly straight-to-VHS movie Cool As Ice? It’s a fascinating look at what rap and biker culture in the 1990s was almost certainly not like, as well as a slightly blatant homage to Footloose.

    Points of note: Superman’s Dad as an artist putting up Ice and his chums in the massive art installation he shares with his wife. I’d have liked to see a film with those two shaking up a small conservative town rather than Mr. Ice, but it was not to be.

    Also, Vanilla Ice says “Drop the zero and get with the hero”.

    (Vanilla Ice also played a vital role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret Of The Ooze.)

  95. 95
    Cumbrian on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Very quick word of praise for John Deacon – Tom says himself that nicking the Under Pressure bassline is the main weapon that IIB has in its arsenal.

    The guy wrote at least two absolutely indelible basslines and was an under-rated songwriter. I happened to be listening to A Day At The Races last night and it’s clear from The Millionaire Waltz alone that he was also bloody good at his instrument – capable of great dexterity but also knows when to sit back and let the rest of the band take over, not intruding on anyone else’s space.

    It’s a shame that the Under Pressure bassline is perhaps beyond redemption for usage by another artist. Whenever it comes on, people are going to think of IIB, particularly if someone starts rapping over it (being 9 when IIB came out, I still even think of it when I listen to Under Pressure – and I like Queen – so there is something to be said for formative influences I guess). There is undoubtedly a great hip-hop track waiting to be made using this line – and its unlikely to happen.

  96. 96
    MikeMCSG on 15 Feb 2011 #

    # 92 Of course some of us out there hold out for the idea that there are no ways a rapper can be good :-}

  97. 97
    Lex on 15 Feb 2011 #

    #96 are you serious?

    #83 yeah let’s talk Madonna!

    It was around this time that I first became aware of her – my introduction to her was “Crazy For You” (checking now, it seems to have been re-released after “Justify My Love” for no apparent reason). I didn’t really realise I was a fan until the Bedtime Stories era, the first album of hers I owned, although I loved all the Erotica singles (and 20 years on I think it’s her best album).

    I didn’t really have any idea of who she was or what she’d done in the ’80s, apart from that she was Very Famous and a Big Deal. She was also the first pop star I’d encountered that I felt I was actually forbidden to like (in a specific sense rather than all-pop-music-is-bad-for-you) – I got the definite impression she was a thoroughly immoral Whore of Babylon (and when I acquired Bedtime Stories, felt I had to hide or at least play down that I enjoyed Madonna’s music). Sex and Erotica seemed to be examples of this rather than the causes of it.

    I didn’t see what was embarrassing about any of it though! Possibly because I liked the music so much (and never saw, only read about the book), but also because around this time I perceived a real mystique around her – I didn’t know why she was doing any of this, especially when it was met with such disapprobation, but she seemed so definite about the way she went about it: This is what I do, and if you don’t like it you can fuck off. And even though, at the age of 9, I didn’t really know what sex was, I didn’t understand how it made her beyond the pale.

    (Didn’t hear “Justify My Love” until years later. Think it’s one of her best. “Tuneless” my ass! It’s genuinely sexy and sultry and the beat is DEEP and who gives a fuck whether your mum can sing along to it on the radio. And the Beast Within mix is one of the mostmental things I’ve ever heard, and so disturbing but so RIGHT to listen to at eg 6am afterparties in “altered states”, shall we say.)

  98. 98
    Tom on 15 Feb 2011 #

    The Beast Within mix is AMAZING.

    I think I only looked through Sex once. There were layers of controversy around it viz:

    – This is porn and will corrupt our children.
    – This is porn and Madonna is a bad feminist.
    – I don’t mind porn but this is too kinky*
    – This is pretentious, whether it’s porn or not.
    – This is bad art, whether it’s porn or not.
    – This is a rip-off, whether it’s porn or not.
    – If she put as much effort into her music… **
    – This is just a publicity stunt.
    – This is lame porn.***

    *Mostly centred on one shot which could be vaguely interpreted as a rape fantasy, IIRC.

    **particularly annoying!

    ***I feel like this has become a more common criticism, I didn’t hear it at the time.

  99. 99
    Tom on 15 Feb 2011 #

    (The “bad art” one is the one that sticks most, I suspect)

  100. 100

    The cover is made of fairly serious metal — it would be a noisy and unhandy tome to sneak into a quiet corner with, should you have reason to consider so doing. Which I imagine is entirely part of the conceptual gag.

  101. 101
    Mark M on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Re 90: Pretty sure The Observer had Martin Amis writing about Sex – two slightly past their sell-by date ’80s figures is what I thought at the time. Justify My Love is probably the last Madonna song I truly enjoyed, and for all is a fairly silly record that takes itself ridiculously seriously.

    Select had the Vanilla Ice pic and one other in their end of year (’92) issue, I’m almost certain.

  102. 102
    Mark M on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Re 101: the difference being, obv, that Madonna was once properly ace and Martin A was always terrible.

  103. 103
    Mark M on 15 Feb 2011 #

    Great job by Tom in the piece itself trying to pinpoint what makes Ice’s rapping so bad. Dodgy rapping is so much easier to spot aurally than it is to explain (and before anyone gets too relativist, there definitely is bad rapping as opposed to just rapping one doesn’t like – for instance, I know Lil Wayne isn’t remotely a poor rapper, but I can’t abide him or anyone else who says ‘thurrrr’). But while it might assume bad rapping is defined by inept lyrics, there are a number of powerful in the business but hugely clumsy or weak voiced MCs who had their talented mates write the words for them.

  104. 104
    swanstep on 16 Feb 2011 #

    A couple of points about Madonna’s Sex book.
    1. At least in the US it was kind of bound up with the right/left culture wars. Artsy nudes from Robert Mapplethorpe faced big obscenity trials in 1990, and the Sex book was sort of pushing in that direction.
    2. I’d been with Mad. from the beginning, but by the time of Sex and Erotica I was pretty sick of her. A whole ‘Madonna studies’ industry had sprung up in universities, and she had been literally everywhere in the media for years by 1991. (I sound a little bit like Nik Cohn whining about the Beatles in ’68 here!) She was overexposed and then Sex and Erotica seemed to make that overexposure literal. Bleech I thought (Erotica’s since grown on me). At any rate, even Madonna seemed to realize that she needed to dial things back a bit content-wise and to just go away for a while/give the culture a breather from her royal highness-ness. Grunge/riot grrl stuff was a good circuit-breaker for her (at least in the US) and M. returned scrubbed up and almost like a breath of fresh air in 94/95 w/ the excellent Bedtime Stories, happy to cede the notoriety market to Courtney Love (see the famous madonna/courtney mtv showdown here). I’m surprised to hear that so many people don’t *really* like or rate Ray of Light/Music era M. – that stuff’s among her v. best in my view.

  105. 105
    Steve Mannion on 16 Feb 2011 #

    On an episode of The Word one time they did a thing about ‘Justify My Love’ apparently containing Satanic worship messages when played backwards (maybe The Beast Within mix specifically). It creeped me out so much I couldn’t hear the song again for a long time after. Serves me right for watching The Word I guess.

  106. 106
    swanstep on 16 Feb 2011 #

    @102. Martin Amis was always terrible? He’s always been obnoxious/arrogant and has always had limits as a writer, but he’s got plenty of runs on the board surely (no one reads The Rachel Papers, Money, London Fields etc. and thinks that they’re literally terrible). Perhaps you mean just that he’s never been quite as good as he’s thought he is or as the hype about him suggested (he’d have to be Dickens at least to measure up to all that I suppose, and it’s true that he’s not nearly *that* good or important).

  107. 107
    Ed on 16 Feb 2011 #

    @102, @106 ‘Money’ *owns* the eighties, partly because it *is* the eighties.

    It is more eighties than a Charles and Di Rubik’s cube. That plays ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’. And is sitting on Margaret Thatcher’s desk, next to a picture of Arthur Scargill wearing a “Frankie Say” T-shirt.

    Really, if any young person wants to understand the collective madness that took control of Britain between the Falklands War and Black Monday, ‘Money’ is what they need to read.

  108. 108
    Mark M on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Re 107: you do appear to be comparing Money to a lot of surface noise… If I gave Money to my nephew, would it help him to understand what I or pretty much anyone I know that can think of experienced of the ’80s? Not really. My feeling on Amis is 1) he’s an emblematic writer of his time, but so was his father, and I would recommend that anyone read KA, either and 2) he good a lot of mileage out of being “daringly unpleasant”, which after a couple of his books I decided was just “unpleasant” and there was nowt brave about it.

    I rather think a better starting point would be some of the stuff on here: Rosie’s autobiographical snippets, or the discussions about football in British society in the ’80s, for instance.

  109. 109
    MikeMCSG on 16 Feb 2011 #

    # 97 Well, halfway Lex. My record collection isn’t entirely rap-free and I do concede that an artform which has lasted over thirty years now has validity and good/bad practitioners that fans like Tom (and perhaps yourself)can seperate. To me and some others of my age and older they all sound like thugs shouting over stolen music and it’s just incomprehensible. But still part of life’s rich tapestry of course.

  110. 110
    Chelovek na lune on 16 Feb 2011 #

    IM(nv)HO “London Fields” towers above the rest of M.A.’s fiction, but its still only a medium rise block. A master of style rather than of substance, mostly.

  111. 111
    Matthew H on 16 Feb 2011 #

    #97 I think Crazy For You was reissued to promote The Immaculate Collection. Just a guess though.

    Obviously we all treated VI as a joke, but Ice Ice Baby was great to dance to, after a skinful of 80p lagers down the Studio in Bristol. I’m sure I looked fantastic.

  112. 112
    swanstep on 16 Feb 2011 #

    I tend to think of Money as a counterpart to High Hopes & Life Is Sweet-period Mike Leigh whereas London Fields corresponds v. specifically for me to Naked. I resonate a little with Mark M., 108’s complaint about Amis’s unpleasantness/crampedness (some people feel that way about Leigh too) but think the first few Amis’s one reads that isn’t a problem, so my conclusion is that he’s worth reading a bit of! (It does make me wonder tho’, assuming we’re typical, who if anyone is reading Amis’s recent books?)

  113. 113
    the pinefox on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Bizarre to find MA being discussed here. Money is his greatest work by many air miles, and is a major feat of writing full stop:.

    I do think London Fields is literally terrible.

  114. 114
    Andrew F on 16 Feb 2011 #

    #92: I think this might fall down at the bit where I haven’t as far as I know heard anyone reading Shakespearian verse.

    #108: I think it would be difficult to engage with the 80s without a considerable amount of surface noise! And indeed the erasure from a then-forming (and now shattered) cultural record of a lot of people _and_ all the people they knew is also a part of the story of the 80s.

  115. 115
    wichita lineman on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Re 110: agreed. “Pub hair” has become part of my everyday language.

  116. 116
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 16 Feb 2011 #

    I like the pinefoxian formula “full stop:.”

  117. 117
    Ed on 16 Feb 2011 #

    @108 Fair enough; I was joking about the surface noise, really. What I mean is that the greed, the cynicism, the aggression and the anti-intellectualism that I remember as the defining characteristics of England in the 1980s – the south-east of England, anyway, which was where the power was – are all there in ‘Money’, to dazzling effect. It is all the more impressive in that Amis caught it so early, in 1984.

    That is not to say that his later output isn’t worthless, of course. ‘Sex’ is a better book than anything Amis has written since about 1986.

  118. 118
    pink champale on 16 Feb 2011 #

    i think a lot of the problem with MA is that he is (or at least was) an incomparable prose stylist who is actually a bit stupid. so when his books were style over substance (rachel papers) or style is substance (money) they were pretty great, but since he’s started to try and say something profound (the rot seemed to have set in with einsteins monsters, wherein he realises that nuclear weapons are a Bad Thing) he’s really struggled against the fact that he really doesn’t have anything profound (or even not actively laughable) to say. (see ‘the second plane’ for truly shocking lack of grip).

    ‘ice ice baby’ on the other hand is pretty good, i think. I like the minimal, dirgy, melancholic side to it, heightened by the brilliant bits in the video where him and his oddly dressed mates do the strange dance in a poorly lit room, looking for all the world like a goodfella’s outtake. and vanilla himself isn’t that terrible a rapper – i’d put his flow above dre’s for one. (though i guess, what with being the single most important figure in the history of hip hop and making a whole ton of great records, dre’s horrible bark deserves a bit of slack)

  119. 119
    Chelovek na lune on 16 Feb 2011 #

    I once read the whole of “Times Arrow”, having just borrowed it from the library, while waiting for a 145 at a bus stop in Ilford.

    The bus services are definitely better now.

    It may well have been the last MA book I bothered – or could be bothered – to read all the way through.

    Although I think that the imposition of a relatively short word limit, which forces “Mark Asprey”to reign in his self-reverential excesses, at least a bit make some of his forays into the realm of journalistic essays…at least bearable, sometimes even (because of his mastery of style) a pleasure to read, at least as much as something simialr by Julian Barnes would be. Dealing with serious themes at greater length (as indeed, first demonstrated, after a fashion, by “Times Arrow”) really doesn’t suit him though.

  120. 120
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 16 Feb 2011 #

    I really really find it hard to concede he has a “mastery of style” in non-fiction: I think he has a total tin ear for prose rhythm, so that even his (rare) good sentences seem more a product of luck than judgment. I am happy to conclude this is because he never read children’s books as a kid.

  121. 121
    lonepilgrim on 16 Feb 2011 #

    ‘Times Arrow’ was the last MA book that I read – a laborious exercise that, over the length of a (thankfully short) novel, repeated an idea that took a paragraph in ‘Slaughterhouse Five’.
    I agree with Pink Champale at 118. He really doesn’t have anything interesting to say as a fiction writer. His essays on other writers like Saul Bellow are/were OK.
    Is ‘the second plane’ the one where he says something like ‘this was worse than terrorism, this was horrorism’? Dreadful.

  122. 122
    Kit on 16 Feb 2011 #

    #57 (hi Tim!) and #69:

    I remember U Can’t Touch This being a playground turning point for the lumpenyouth of Australia in re sampling – specifically one c-level jock type (in the corridor before a Latin class!) shockedly revealing to another “they played this other song by some guy on the radio last night, and he’s completely stolen it!” Years deep in Run DMC, Public Enemy, De La, Beasties and UK house myself, I quietly rolleyed to avoid that day’s “shutupfaggot”-punching, but by the time IIB hit a few months later, the tone of the discussion was much more a knowing “well, it’s taken from Queen there, isn’t it…”

    Although this may have had a lot to do with the pre-familiarity of Under Pressure vs Rick James!

    Amusing that we touched on Big Daddy Kane earlier and are now deep in SEX, where Ice and Kane made one of the most awkward-looking threesomes ever avec Madge.

  123. 123
    Tom on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Yeah having only read Amis in non-fiction he doesn’t strike me as a particularly great stylist. But I never really know what “great stylist” means, even.

  124. 124
    punctum on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Someone who gives you a really nice haircut?

  125. 125
    Tom on 16 Feb 2011 #

    I wouldn’t know :(

  126. 126
    Kit on 16 Feb 2011 #

    BTW Dr Dre is an excellent and compelling vocal presence on many wonderful records – his flow may not be any cop in and of itself, but he’s never actually shamed himself, and has largely been very very canny about using his own performance as a counterpart to other voices who immediately contrast him tonally, far before you start considering technical ability. cf No Diggity, Guilty Conscience, Next Episode, G Thang, 100 Miles (the only good post-Cube NWA track that he does a verse on)…

  127. 127
    Chelovek na lune on 16 Feb 2011 #

    To me it means someone who draws attention to the surface of the writing, the use of linguistic sleight of hand and playfulness (perhaps even what some might term pretentiousness – although a little bit of that is not always a bad thing, otherwise we’d just be grunting all the time and speaking in Sun headlines), ideally to make a serious point.

    Isaak Babel (above all in his “Red Cavalry” cycle of short stories, about a melancholy Jewish intellectual from the notably un-pious city of Odessa fighting alongside some fairly vicious Cossack thugs in the Russian-Polish war of 1919/20) does it a lot more proficiently than Amis, though. (The Penguin Classics translation into English generally reflects this, too)

  128. 128
    MBI on 16 Feb 2011 #

    If I can add to the sub-conversation that I started way upthread, yes, America certainly has a lot of shit — in fact, 1990 is possibly the worst year ever for the American pop charts — but it’s easy to label Vanilla Ice as the worst thing ever because with few exceptions don’t have things like Jive Bunny and Bombalurina, novelty acts that no one seems to actually evaluate on the same level as actual “artists,” study their discography and contextualize.

    If Jive Bunny did briefly make it onto this side of the Atlantic, he made close to no impact, and certainly no one over here remembers him now.

  129. 129
    Andrew F on 16 Feb 2011 #

    #121 – and an idea that took 3 pages in one of Alan Moore’s 80s Future Shocks!

    #127 – Ahh, I get what you’re saying. So, like Carter USM, then?

    (Unsurprisingly I also have a tin eye for writing style. But then I’m fairly suspicious of all “this song/book is much better than it sounds/reads”, and as a result am about as bothered by my twin failings as by my inability to tell a good guitar solo)

  130. 130
    Izzy on 16 Feb 2011 #

    #118 and 119 are dead on about Amis and correct to draw in Barnes (and you could include any of their pals too) is right because they all suffer from exactly the same problem – wonderful at doing writing, but nothing to say when they get there. No-one will read these guys in a couple of decades’ time beyond the odd time they got lucky despite themselves – Atonement and Money spring to mind, which I suspect might be down to their having written about their own (or close others’) real experiences, and thereby tapping into real feeling, as opposed to theoretical. The rest of the time it feels like they’re writing about things they know other people find interesting and that’s it – why Amis thinks he’s the man to write about the holocaust I do not know, and I can only imagine the tedium of McEwan tackling climate change, say.

    That said, I have sometimes enjoyed Amis being a snotty provocateur to the dinner-party consensus over the last few years – asking an ICA symposium if they felt morally superior to the taliban, and only a third of them daring to say they did, is pretty funny. Again, though, there’s something frivolous there, as if he’s chosen his topic knowing it’ll get a reaction, but being incapable of developing any useful thoughts beyond that.

  131. 131
    Chelovek na lune on 16 Feb 2011 #

    #127 Ish.

    I was a MASSIVE fan of Carter at the time (well, I was 15 in 1990 – so that would be “Christmas Shoppers’ Paradise” I guess), saw them in concert several times in 91/92. Anyway, I’d say they (or their lyrics) are mostly more about bad puns incorporating the names of run-down Sarf London suburbs into other popular culture references than artistry, sleight of hand or beauty of style, to which Amis and Barnes, at least, aspire.

    But broadly speaking, I suppose I more or less give a slightly grundging nod of near-agreement. But maybe not in as much as whereas Amis wants to appear well-read (or Babel to demonstrate his “cultivation”/being kulturnyi), Carter want you to know that they are extremely familiar, above all, with a selected subset of the contents of the London A-Z. Stylists of the gritty pavement, perhaps.

    #121 I think Le Monde’s coining (13 Sept 2001) of “hyperterrorisme” (and its English equivalent) far superior to all this “horrorism” nonsense.

  132. 132
    pink champale on 16 Feb 2011 #

    @123 “great stylist” –i.e. amis has (had) good flow, obv.
    @126 – yeah, that’s a fair point about dre knowing and working round his limitations – certainly all those are great records.
    @121 – the ‘second plane’ is also where amis reveals that one of the characteristics of radial muslims is that they don’t obey traffic lights. this has always reminded me of the chris morris ‘gays can’t swim’ sketch.

  133. 133
    koganbot on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Those interested in the Madonna book need to listen to verse one of this song (Gary Allan’s cover of Todd Snider’s “Alright Guy”).

  134. 134
    koganbot on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Always thought “Under Pressure” was a stone cold bore, but then I don’t think I heard it until after I’d heard “Ice Ice Baby,” which I love (or strongly like). I think it helped that I originally heard “Ice Ice Baby” when it was first appearing in hip-hop strongholds (major urban markets) but before it hit nationally or the video showed up. So I was hearing this utterly ominous bassline across the chill San Francisco night, and an uninflected voice going “Ice ice baby” in a cold synthesized whisper. It didn’t feel cute or energized or pop at all, and was better for this. I paired it in my mind with another Bay Area hit that summer, Paris’s “Break The Grip Of Shame,” with similar menace from the bass and barren delivery, the same dark atmosphere. Interestingly, “Break The Grip Of Shame” is a “conscious” black militant rap, a fact that I noticed but wasn’t key one way or another to why I liked “Shame” (and I didn’t for several umpteen listens even know that Vanilla Ice was white, though I suppose I should have figured it out from his name).

    I’m guessing that “Ice Ice Baby” entered my life in a sonically different manner from how it entered most of yours. And getting it through the radio I was hearing it fit the nightscape rather than concentrating on words or dexterity or anything. But also, for me, still, it works overall as a track, not as a vehicle for a rap. And maybe I tend to listen to music differently from some of you – not that I listen to everything the same, and I can, you know, decide to follow a Charlie Parker solo or hear Louis Armstrong re-order space in a single breath, and be totally taken by a master like Spoonie Gee ruffling across some syllables and digging into others. But I generally am taken by an overall sound, not this or that particular element, which is why the first forty or so times I heard “Ice Ice Baby” I didn’t even notice Ice’s clumsiness and his falling behind the beat, and these don’t strike me as debilitating flaws now, even though I’ve since been made hyper conscious of them.

    Mark, I think Chuck came across the song the way I did (was picking it up on Detroit radio, unless he’d already moved to Philly), though without the benefit of “Break The Grip Of Shame” as an atmospheric buddy.

  135. 135
    koganbot on 16 Feb 2011 #

    You know the controversy ratings that Dave does over on the Singles Jukebox? I invented them in 1991 in Phil Dellio’s Radio On to register that, though 3rd Bass’s “Pop Goes The Weasel” garnered all sorts of vehement commentary, almost everybody acknowledged its uninspired competence and gave it a 6.0 or thereabouts, whereas Boyz II Men’s “MotownPhilly” got a smattering of subdued and mostly respectful commentary but scores veering wildly (0.0 from my ex-wife Leslie to 10.0 from my one-time crush Patty). Unlike at the Jukebox, people were allowed to rate tracks even when they didn’t write them up. Anyhow, I decided to see just what the difference was, so did an average deviation on all the tracks that issue, hence the controversy ratings. “MotownPhilly” was highest with 2.88, beating out “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”‘s 2.56. “Pop Goes The Weasel” was way down at 1.11, but the least controversial was the KLF’s well-received “3 A.M. Eternal,” with a piddling, unflappable controversy rating of only 0.89.

    This is all intro to my quoting from some of the Radio On reviews of “Pop Goes The Weasel” (this was summer 1991); these are mostly excerpts, not the full reviews:

    GREIL MARCUS – These guys are creeps, making a whole career out of being holier than thou. I’ll take Vanilla Ice any day (he has a much better name, no one can argue with that). Seeing some joker sneer doesn’t make my day, and that’s all they’re selling.

    CHUCK EDDY – Well, they’re obviously morons. Vanilla Ice is obviously a greater artist. Anti-sellout rock has been a sham since the days of “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” (anti-Monkees, that one). But I have to admit they have a passable way with a radio hook (I kinda like “Steppin’ To The A.M.” too), and in a year when rap hooks are extinct, I can’t *hate* this no matter how hard I try. [Later in the blurb he says he’d give “Ice Ice Baby” a 10.0.]

    PATTY STIRLING – Music’s great, but I get sick of the nonsense talk of these guys – I’m no reader of Finnegans Wake. Pete Nice is quite sexy. [When Patty said “nonsense talk” she wasn’t referring to the Ice bashing, which she didn’t even notice!]

    SCOTT WOODS – So righteous are they, they oughta move in with Michael Stipe and open up a T-shirt shop. And sure, “Ice Ice Baby” is a great single, and Vanilla Ice is (was?) more interesting than they’ll ever be (to listen to, to read about). But as far as dissing goes, this isn’t terrible. And the “Sledgehammer” sample is kinda funny too.

    FRANK KOGAN – Vanilla Ice could make the best single of 1990, which he damn near did, and stodgy journeymen like Rob “Overview” Tannenbaum would write generic Village Voice quasipolitical tedium condemning the guy for whatever it is that is considered quasipolitically wrong with him (having white skin and an ordinary voice, I guess). [I went on to say Mickey Dolenz had an ordinary voice and then listed a whole slew of great Monkees’ tracks, winding up by conceding that “Pop Goes The Weasel” has some energy. My “Vanilla Ice could make the best single of 1990” thing was a response to a Greil Marcus line that Phil had quoted in the previous issue, “Pia Zadora could make the best record of 1987, and we’d all (those of us honest enough to admit it) be scurrying to figure out what that meant.” My response, in ’91, was that if Pia Zadora were to make the best record of 1992 rock critics would ignore her only slightly less than they ignored Company B for making the best single of 1987 and Stacey Q for making the best album of 1988.][Might have been unfair to Tannenbaum: some other of his stuff I might have liked, though I can’t really remember.]

    PHIL DELLIO – As for this record, I’m sure I’d rate it lower if there *wasn’t* such a noxious idea behind it. Strictly on its own merits it strikes me as inept (as did “Steppin’ To The A.M.,” though the one time I heard “The Gas Face” it sounded good), making their bizarre crusade the one entertaining thing about them – I’m actually starting to believe they’re serious! But then I remember why I hate them anyway: they corner me into rooting for Vanilla Ice, and I know he’s not worth the effort. “Ice Ice Baby” is a 7.5 or an 8.0, I like it fine; “Satisfaction” and “Rollin’ In My 5.0” are even lamer than this. And Vanilla Ice is gutless, besides – not a “fraud,” whatever that means, but gutless. I’m thinking of the time I saw him on Arsenio Davidson last year, where Vanilla was getting the third degree something fierce. I kept waiting and waiting for him to shoot back with “Yeah, and what makes *you* such a hip-hop scholar, pal?”; of course, he didn’t, though, Vanilla was so needlessly defensive I could’ve sworn he begged Arsenio Griffin right then and there to clear his name with true rap fans everywhere. So if 3rd Bass wants to get vicious about Vanilla Ice the person, they’re being fatuous and naive and incredibly obvious, but my heart’s not into taking major offense, I think they’re probably right; if, however, they consider Vanilla Ice and the Beastie Boys interchangeable – if they object to Vanilla Ice as being emblematic of some “syndrome” they’re going to save us all from, which indeed seems to be the case – well, that’s not fatuous, it’s out-and-out stupid; and if this record is a fair example of how they plan to spend their lives saying *whatever* it is they want to say, they badly need another medium. [Phil then suggests they move to Toronto and become rock critics.]

    CHRIS COOK – I guess I’m going to be known here at Radio On as “The Guy Who Likes 3rd Bass,” since everyone else hates ’em. I know blasting people for “being commercial,” not being “authentic,” and “lacking street credibility” is pointless. And I would’ve figured any song sampling “Sledgehammer” would be dull. However, this song is loads of fun. Maybe Vanilla Ice and Hammer aren’t morally reprehensible or whatever, but they do lack an ability to rap, which I guess is what’s meant by “authenticity.” Pete Nice is funnier looking than anybody in Color Me Badd by a long shot.

    But after all that, no one gave “Pop Goes The Weasel” higher than an 8.5 or lower than a 4.0.

  136. 136
    koganbot on 16 Feb 2011 #

    Also, that issue had Rob Sheffield doing a terrific explanation of why he adores “Justify My Love,” including the immortal line: “Like Patti Smith says, beauty will be Kajagoogoo or not at all.” Don’t have time to type up the whole spiel, unfortunately.

  137. 137
    Chuck Eddy on 16 Feb 2011 #

    I think Chuck came across the song the way I did (was picking it up on Detroit radio, unless he’d already moved to Philly

    I was in Detroit; first heard it on a black/urban station, a rap show, and thought it was great — made me think of a catchier version of NWA, on first hearing. Had no idea the color of Ice’s skin, at the time. Just assumed he was a black guy, since he was on a black station. I’d still give the record a 10.0. (Have written about it here and there over the years, but sadly don’t have time to dig out those justifications now.)

  138. 138
    Chuck Eddy on 16 Feb 2011 #

    (“Under Pressure” and “U Can’t Touch This” would probably both be around 7.5 for me, fwiw. All three artists had much better songs — Hammer with for instance “Turn This Mutha Out” and “They Put Me In The Mix,” from his previous album.)

  139. 139

    […] latest Freaky Trigger post on “Ice Ice Baby” inspires the usual febrile responses. For the record: if you think […]

  140. 140
    the pinefox on 17 Feb 2011 #

    #130: are Amis, Barnes and McEwan actually similar as writers, in the texture of the large amounts they have written?

    Was Atonement really about McEwan’s or even ‘close others” own experience? Most of it is about a country house in the 1930s and Dunkirk. A great deal of imaginative reconstruction needed. And the novel is utterly unlike Amis in any case.

    These writers have nothing to say? Well, what creative writer does have something to say? What do Kafka or Beckett tell us? If you paraphrase it, it might not sound very interesting. That might be true of Amis & pals too. But whatever they all have to ‘say’ is presumably not a reducible statement, but the whole body and experience of one (or all) of their works. _Money_ for instance if reduced to a message might be banal (come to think of, Amis said this) – but if the 400pp of the book are the message, then it’s incredibly rich.

    It looks like I’m carrying a torch for these writers – I don’t really, far from it. I have most of the same problems with MA that everyone else does, though I do think _Money_ is a major work that does connect with real life (yes, partly cos MA was writing from experience – why not?). Barnes, I think had problems of voice – the English embarrassment kind of thing that James Wood complained about. Maybe the recent book about death is better. McEwan: well, Atonement seems a major work to me – not sure about the others. The Child in Time for instance is wildly ragbag as a construction.

  141. 141
    Izzy on 17 Feb 2011 #

    Barnes and McEwan have some similarities I think, Amis not really – they do get lumped together due to location and era I suppose, which is a bit lazy of me but then they do get touted as representatives of some sort of British thought so not abnormal to do so.

    I understood that Atonement grew out of McEwan’s father being evacuated at Dunkirk, which is what I’ve put the ‘real feeling’ in that case down to. Really it’s the characters though, for once something was at stake that I cared about for most of it, whereas in his other books that was never the case for me (and I say that having enjoyed a number of them).

    I should clarify: by ‘something to say’, I’m not looking for a message or anything, I’m after creating real characters and stories and showing us something about their lives. If it’s reducible to anything, it should be something like: ‘this person is like this’ or maybe just ‘what a great story’. So I think I agree with you, but I’m not sure those authors do – I always get the impression they’re trying to capture ‘science’ or ‘England’ or ‘darts’, and forgetting about what creative writing is actually good at.

  142. 142
    Mark M on 17 Feb 2011 #

    Re 142: I think they lumped themselves together by hanging out at the Pillars of Hercules in the 1970s – they were all big chums. But being part of a social scene doesn’t mean you’re doing the same thing artistically (Televison/Blondie/Talking Heads/Ramones). I don’t think Barnes has much at all in common with Amis in either his style or areas of concern.

  143. 143
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 17 Feb 2011 #

    I read quite a lot of non-fiction Barnes in the late 80s bcz he wrote the New Yorker “Letter from London”. He came across as personable (ie not A.N 4rse H0le)– and utterly at sea when it came to politics or social or cultural matters not relating to his specific calling. Not sure if I’ve ever read anything by Ian McEwan, though I *have* read Julian Gloag’s book that The Cement Garden “borrows” its plot from: Our Mother’s House

  144. 144

    Haha I also read the SF novel where “Time’s Arrow” found ITS plot, come to think of it.

    Attempts hilarious joke about *Baudelaire’s Budgerigar*

  145. 145
    the pinefox on 17 Feb 2011 #

    Happily I find that I agree with much of the above.

    Yes they made themselves a scene which, as #142 says, doesn’t really have to mean aesthetic convergence, though is interesting in itself. The NYC new wave comparison is remarkably good cos you can see similarities between these acts, as well as big differences, and maybe you can do that with the writers too.

    I like and tend to agree with the idea that ‘this person is like this’ is potentially good as content for a work of fiction, and I can see that MA’s fiction is often bad in precisely this way. He doesn’t really have a traditional concept of literary character, or if he does he can’t execute it. Though I’d still come back to the differences between them, eg: the narrator of Flaubert’s Parrot is very far from an Amis character.

  146. 146
    DanielW on 18 Feb 2011 #

    Not much I can say about this record that Tom hasn’t already said in his brilliant opening review which basically covered all the problems I have with this record. Not that it’s awful though, for a truly awful Vanilla Ice record I would have to nominate his desecration of “Play That Funky Music”

  147. 147
    scottw on 19 Feb 2011 #

    I still think “Ice Baby” is a good record if for no other reason than that it’s a good home (a much better home) for a great bass line. It’s “dance music” to me, I always liked it without ever feeling much need to concentrate on V.I.’s words or flow or bacon bites (couldn’t have quoted you a couplet from the song then, still couldn’t now). In ’91 I was barely more invested in Ice himself than I was in the rappers from Snap, KLF, etc. World of difference, I know (Ice was the star of his song, those other guys just seemed to function as another instrument or sound effect on theirs), but for whatever reason all that stuff melded together in my pop-DJ brain and functioned in a very similar way. I haven’t heard “Ice Ice Baby” in its entirety for eons, I’ll probably actually pay more attention to the specifics that just flew by me at the time when I do listen again… Still pretty sure I’d stand by something close to my original judgment, though.

  148. 148

    Only semi-germane to the qualty of what’s in the groove, but DEARIE ME this is a shoddy LP cover! It’a a review copy so I’m assuming it’s not actually a crappily xeroxed pirate cut-out — it very much resembles one. The front cover photo is extremely out of focus, inc.artist name and album title. The dark thick-line frames round two of the four inset photos don’t join up cleanly. The cropped screen-grabs of Ice’s head in the insets seem more random than positioned. The large pic on the back is crisper, but the Benday Dots are pretty massive. All these could be deliberate choices — but the effect is “Sleeve that took 15 mins to throw together, bcz no one involved gave a fuck”

  149. 149

    As for the LP cut-per-cut, can’t tell if its severe tinny flimsiness is an artefact of i. hooky copy supplied for review purposes ii. very ancient vinyl or iii. miserably bad production or iv. really fvcked-up fifth-hand record player :(

    will have to find “other sources” i think

    My general impression rehearing it now is that the entire project was a misfired joke that the perpetrators didn’t have the chops to sustain — a sort of parody of rap memes as mimicked by an earnestly unself-aware white dude* with (at best) an intermittent ear; so intermittent you can’t tell when he can’t tell it’s not really right. Someone on the team does has an ear for sparseness of arrangement; some of the scratching is as clumsy as any you’ve heard.

    ie Ice as a sort of 2D cartoon character: the Poochie of hiphop

    I tend to agree with Scott that “Ice Ice Baby” uses the bassline better than the orginal, which is very saggy rhythmically.

  150. 150

    I tracked down the original VI LP — “Hooked” — that was restructured and recut and reissued as “To The Extreme”: from the title on in, the earlier version seems a lot better, sound-wise and concept-wise, even though most of the songs are identical. Is it remixed? Is that what makes the difference? My LP and LP player are in too crappy a state for me to judge.

  151. 151
    koganbot on 20 Feb 2011 #

    What Scott says makes sense: the only other Vanilla Ice song I own is “It’s A Party,” which is like the more club-oriented hip-hop of the time, w/ interpolated diva hooks, “It Takes Two” type shouts, and so forth. So yes, dance music. (Not that most hip-hop isn’t dance music, but it doesn’t get classified in the broad genre “dance music”; of course, the south, where Ice grew up, wasn’t going along with that division to the extent that New York did. [According to Wikip, he spent time in both Dallas and Miami growing up, traveling between his step-dad and his mom, they being divorced.])

  152. 152
    Erithian on 21 Feb 2011 #

    Perhaps I was at my most rockist, but I thought the use of the “Under Pressure” bassline was total sacrilege at the time, even though it purloined something from one of the Queen tracks I’m least protective about. Listening to it again now, it’s surprisingly effective, and even when the verses get underway that menacing undertone works extremely well. Maybe the reason we still think of it as a joke is that Van Winkle just looked so stupid and the rap was one long boring big-up for someone whose hair made him look ripe for a take-down. So props for the sampled music and thumbs down for the original element.

    I guess, though it might not stand up to much scrutiny if you analysed the sample-based records I had time for as opposed to those I didn’t, that it’s a matter of how you use the sample – as the main element of the song or as a launch-pad for your own creativity. The example of the latter that springs to mind – and I’d be interested to know if other Populistas loved it as much as I did – was Soho’s witty and wonderful “Hippychick”, which took bits of Johnny Marr and Soul II Soul and created something fabulous in its own right.

    (I’m another who liked “U Can’t Touch This” and wasn’t aware it was a sample, btw…)

  153. 153
    Chuck Eddy on 21 Feb 2011 #

    Pretty sure he had a couple good, propulsive hip-house-style tracks — “It’s A Party” being one, the other being maybe “Cool As Ice (Everybody Get Loose)”? (From his 1991 movie — don’t quote me on that, I could be wrong and haven’t gone back and checked. It charted #81 Stateside; think that’s the one.)

    And yeah, I’ve always been under the impression that the mix on the original Ichiban 12-inch version of “Ice Ice Baby” sounded somehow sharper and more vicious than the one on SBK that eventually hit, too, though I was never sure whether the difference was just something I’d imagined. Never played them
    back-to-back, I don’t think, and I stupidly got rid of the Ichiban single somewhere along the line. May still have that mix on cassette somewhere though.

    Here’s something I wrote about one of his later singles on ILX a couple years ago; never made the connection between the B-side and his indie debut album:

    Vanilla Ice “Road To My Riches”/”Hooked” (SBK West Germany, 1991). Last one. Not sure if this was a single in the States or not; supposedly off his Extremely Live CD. Can’t believe I didn’t hear “Road To My Riches” before (or at least never noticed it) — AC/DC “Back In Black” riff all through, like the Beastie Boys’ “Rock Hard,” with a Bowie “Let’s Dance” hook or two mixed in like Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines.” He throws a wet towel and the girlies go wild, and he talks about his “thigh pole” I think I heard him say once. Kind of love his white urban wannabe street-tough voice introducing the song at the beginning — it’s a voice that goes back at least as far as the Belmonts (or even further, in movies), and really not that far from what House of Pain or even Ice’s nemeses 3rd Bass were doing a couple years later. (I think he also uses the word “nemesis” somewhere.) On the 45 sleeve, he’s sort of lurking in the shadows, flashing a fake gang sign and showing off his rings. Also, says he’s not like Milton Bradley (didn’t catch why) but is “like Charley, I like the good and plenty.” Song is suppposedly live, but doesn’t sound live at all except during Ice’s intro, and when some hypeman comes in a ways into the song to hype up the non-crowd. B-side, which actually sounds slightly more familiar, has a wobbly “Brass Monkey” sort of horn thing going on, and Ice scolding his buddy who is is hung up on some girl who treats him “like a dirty diaper/Use ya once and then tries to wipe you…out!” Recommends his friend visit a shrink — helpful advice, what friends are for!

  154. 154
    Chuck Eddy on 21 Feb 2011 #

    Just dug out from the file cabinet catacombs a review of Extremely Live I wrote for L.A. Weekly in 1991. I don’t know how great a case I make for “Ice Ice Baby” in it, except saying that it doesn’t sound de-energized and de-hookified and self-glorified like most other rap music was sounding to me in the early ’90s. (Not claiming I was right about that.) Some excerpts though:

    “I bought my copy as a 12-inch on Miami’s Ultrax label after hearing it on black radio in Detroit, before SBK picked it up. It was the only new rap record I bought in 1990. And for months, it never occurred to me that Ice might be white.”

    (Ultrax was an Ichiban subsidiary, I think? Something like that.)

    “When those gunshots ring out like a bell, the violence surprises you, mugs you from behind and steals your bubblegum, like in Trickeration’s ‘Western Gangster Town’ or Spoonie Gee. If gangsta life was the whole point, we’d take blood for granted. It’d be impotent.”

    “I’m not saying Vanilla Ice is an especially talented person (and I really don’t see why it should make a difference whether he is — this is a democracy, right?), but I will say I got more of a kick out of watching him on talk shows and award shows last winter than I have out of watching Yo! MTV Raps these last two years. I mean, wow, here was an MC who didn’t drain his corpus of energy by trying so hard to be a cartoon (maybe because he already was a cartoon), what a revelation!”

    “The beats (on the live album) are thin, and Ice needs to learn to put more details in his stories, yup yup, but the nine-minute ‘Ice Ice Baby’ is as avant as 3rd Bass wanna be — Ice lets his audience (all white girls, sounds like) sing more of his words than any performer ever has in the history of the human race. So in some ways, this isn’t his live LP, its theirs. Word to their mothers — a hell of a concept indeed.”

    I’d also included “Ice Ice Baby” in a singles roundup column I wrote for Creem in 1990 (once the song had hit big), in conjunction with other new rap singles I was liking from Florida at the time by Young & Restless and 2 Live Crew: “The Vanilla Ice hit, top 10 as I write, is of course bubblegum NWA from a white boy, with samples of Queen/Bowie’s “Under Pressure” and a mood out of Grandmaster Flash’s ‘White Lines.'”

  155. 155
    Ed on 21 Feb 2011 #

    #152 I loved ‘Hippychick’, too. I seem to remember the album was great, although I lost the cassette a long time ago.

    I agree that it is a great example of taking something that is wonderful in its original context, and making it wonderful again in a completely different context. The life-force of the riff survives the transplant to a new host.

    ‘Ice Ice Baby’ and ‘Under Pressure’ have a similar relationship, although I agree that Mr Ice makes more of it.

    As Jay-Z says: “Yeah I sampled your voice; you was using it wrong.”

  156. 156
    Mark G on 22 Feb 2011 #

    The album was “alright” but nothing was as good as the hit single, which was unfollowuppable…

  157. 157
    Ed on 26 Feb 2011 #

    @152, 156 So I went and listened to ‘Goddess’, the Soho album, and you are right: it is rather “meh”, and a bit of a let-down after the brilliance of ‘Hippychick’.

    In fact, I am pretty sure that what I was thinking of was actually ‘Love and Life’ by Definition of Sound, which really is a great album.

    I remember we bought it solely on the strength of the big hit single:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzKuEefxjaA

    which totally rocks, and we ended up listening to the album non-stop.

    They were not very much like Soho, I suppose, except in a shared sensibility in the Daisy Age / Soul II Soul positivity zeitgeist. Some people found it a bit nauseatingly saccharine; I loved it.

    And like Soho, they had a sort of swirly nu-psychedelic album cover. And both bands’ big hits were based on a sample of a classic guitar riff.

    So in my defence, m’lud, I would suggest the confusion is understandable.

  158. 158

    Oo oo I just found my Dec 1990 review of VI! Will type it up when I have a moment.

  159. 159

    City Limitd Dec 13-20 1990
    TO THE EXTREME
    VANILLA ICE
    (SBK/EMI)

    Matter of taste: matter of cool. He may not quite be black (he looks like Bros cut in half), but Van the Wan went to school with 2 Live Crew’s Luke Skyywalker in Miamii Lakes, Fa., has shared rap-stages with Easy E, Ton Loc and lots lots more, and ‘Ice Ice Babv’ had the slinkiest techno-bassline of anything ever. He’s on it, right?

    No. Strong bright sound, cruising crisp and dry (go for ‘Rosta Man’, a truly neat RoboReggae rap), no filler songs,. better and better basslines, sure: but sonics aside, the Iceman Sucketh. Unlike — for example — one-woman frost-goddess Tairre B, whose attitude and aesthetic roll out unstoppably entwined, who interrupts NWA mid-rant, stands up to their strategically placed open mikes and detonates genuine argument (which is the political theatre they’ve always aimed for anyway), VI is no more than this many perfectly faked moves — brilliantly empty Xerox poses, phrases, rhythms and rhymes, hey, he sounds black! (Hey, didn’t Elvis?)

    So, the same deft theft game the White Man’s been playing for 30 years, by now a well-useless way of thrilling. At least Zeppelin bent the blues into weird shapes before they gave them back: there isn’t even the (classic) serendipity of rockhead misunderstanding here. White chart idols looking more like models than bikers is still daring stateside (it reads fag, a valuable corrective in a country where glam never hit). But sadly Billi Vanilli blows even this, by winning three national championships for Team Honda before he took up Rap. What kind of a rubbish macho role model’s that for youth, hey? Everything he says he is, isn’t so, is all. Good-bad but not evil? ‘Be on the lookout in your vicinity/I’m robbing virgins of their virginity‘ Oh, just fuck off.

  160. 160

    Tairre B!!! I wonder if I’d actually heard anything by her then. Doubt it, probably just read about her: later she went metal, forming Manhole (great name) and Tura Satana (re whom RIP, incidentally).

    ‘Rosta man’ now seems to be named ‘Rasta Man’ everywhere — I wonder f that was just a typo on the incredibly sloppily put-together sleeve?

  161. 161
    Ed on 26 Feb 2011 #

    @154, 159 etc Thanks for all of those. It is fascinating to see how important Vanilla Ice was in all sorts of arguments over race, class, sex, taste, authenticity etc etc.

    Those were the days….

  162. 162
    Mark M on 6 Mar 2011 #

    Re Amis and chums (from about 100 onwards): someone (Rose Tremain?) last night on BBC2 was talking about the famous Granta 1983 young British novelist list and saying that on the bus to the photo shoot (I think), Amis and McEwan were at the front of the bus giggling together and everyone else was sitting about five rows behind, knowing their place.

  163. 163
    wichita lineman on 5 Apr 2011 #

    Can I nominate the Halifax “ISA ISA Baby” commercial as the weakest ‘joke’ ever put forward by an ad agency? This is a major client! Who thought of it? Who accepted it? Who would find it funny? It makes Hale & Pace look like Galton & Simpson.

    I’d seriously thinking of changing banks just because of it… if only I didn’t owe my soul to the company store.

  164. 164
    Steve Mannion on 5 Apr 2011 #

    As bad as the Halifax ad is, the worst ever use of a #1 single in a commercial goes to Confused.com and their dreadful ‘Somebody To Love’ and especially ‘Chain Reaction efforts. Crudely drawn characters but with a ridiculous amount of time and effort spent on animating various dancing ladies bosoms. It’s a disgrace!

  165. 165
    Mark G on 5 Apr 2011 #

    I’d give their “Chain Reaction” one extra point for not being a song about being lonely as performed by the mass union of cartoon characters all coming together as one in a spirit of unity and fraternity.

  166. 166
    Tom on 5 Apr 2011 #

    I would rather hear a hundred Halifax or even Confused ads than endure that faux-folk “from me to you” cover again.

  167. 167
    vinylscot on 6 Apr 2011 #

    I wonder how the actress who does the “ISA ISA Baby” bit can show her face in public. Not only is it a terrible pun, but the nauseating look on her face when she sings the line…… god it’s bad…. is she meant to be “teasing” the guy? is it meant to be “sexy”?

    Absolutely horrific and many times worse than Vanilla Ice himself.

  168. 168

    The bit in the confuseddotcom ad that i always enjoy is when the stripey-jumpered logolady with her “confused” hair stops smiling and dancing with one and all, and returns to the logo in the closing moments: her cheer is once more wiped from her face, and she is alone again, bug-eyed and insane. This creates quite a poor impression of the effectiveness of the product.

  169. 169
    Mark G on 6 Apr 2011 #

    #167, I’m fairly sure these are not actors/actresses, but are actually ‘young employees’ picked for their resemblance to Sybil Ruscoe ability to scrub up alright.

  170. 170
    vinylscot on 6 Apr 2011 #

    The ads started out using real bank employees like Howard, but they are now using actors. The pretty blonde in the “Lucky You” ad is Sarah Applewood – if you Google her, you’ll find she’s been in loads of commercials etc.

    A quick Google shows that the actress in the excruciating Isa Isa Baby ad is one Fliss Walton, who I trust is suitably embarassed.

  171. 171
    Steve Mannion on 6 Apr 2011 #

    I say she’s doing the best she can with some pretty weak material.

    The blonde guy in it appeared in other ads, “notably” those stupid “Friend-chips” Doritos ones from a few years back.

  172. 172
    Cumbrian on 6 Apr 2011 #

    @168 My current favourite mixed message ad campaign is the First Direct one which starts out with the young girl getting bollocked in class for talking. The message appears to be “fuck around at school, wind up working in a call centre”.

  173. 174
    thefatgit on 6 Apr 2011 #

    #173, if I picture that image in my head every time I fancy a Whopper meal, I’ll be running* to the nearest Maccy D’s!

    *Ok, waddling.

  174. 175

    […] whether you prefer stunning virtuosity or blunter energy, song-specific ephemera and annoyances (at Popular, Tom Ewing criticizes Ice’s metaphor choices, among other things) — but you’ll […]

  175. 176
    Patrick Mexico on 9 Apr 2013 #

    Q. Why did this guy drown in his jacuzzi today?
    A. Because Thatcher wasn’t around to soft-scoop Vanilla Ice out of the tub.

    I thank you.

  176. 177
    Cumbrian on 26 Jul 2013 #

    Whilst we’re talking about rap:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxCKw3VbU54

  177. 178
    hollister co. on 26 Feb 2016 #

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  178. 179
    Erithian on 26 Feb 2016 #

    #178 There you go Vanilla, try rapping that…

  179. 180
    Vieuphoria on 12 Jan 2018 #

    I saw Vanilla Ice live last year. It was at a 90s festival with other such nostalgic favourites like, Colour Me Badd, Young Mc, Coolio, Tone Loc and Salt n Pepa. The latter of which where are still a genuinely capable and viable live act, the rest not to much. Vanilla had had more time than Salt n Pep, which was odd considering the the hit ratio between each act. Ice spent the entire set throwing full water bottles into the crowd, and asking if we all remembered fanny packs (and other innocuous inanimaties).
    REMEMBER?? REMEMBER?? REMEMBER THE 90s, REMRMEBRR ME? PLEASE REMEMBER?? He then broke into, what he described as a “freestyle” but most of the words were indeed “free” and “style”. The highlight was his invitation for the ladies to stage invade, and a group of dunk middle aged men stormed on, geography teacher types. Seeing his face drop was spectacular. He also accidentally threw a bottle of water in his drummers face, real hard. What a show!

    Also, this was number one on the day if my birth. Great stuff

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