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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Anyone Remember Vanilla Ice?

Oooh, who can forget him? The white boy with the solidly gelled-up hairdo and the raised eyebrow, making strange signs with his fingers (doesn’t it look strangely like the Vulcan welcome gesture?) and making everyone suddenly start thinking rap is cool and clean fun?

(Sidenote: This is the second in the start-stop series of Anyone Remember... series, where I reminiscent about some forgotten star of the 80’s and 70’s. The first one was Milli Vanilli. Boy, was that a good one...! End of sidenote.)

In 1990-91, ‘Ice Ice Baby’ was everywhere, man. My neighbour was so into it, he went out and bought the tape, and played it at full volume on his boombox (to the annoyance of his grandmother), while he tried to keep up with the lyrics in the liner notes.

Speaking of lyrics, Ice Ice Baby has got to be a poetic masterpiece. Who else can come up rhymes like (my comments in red):

  • "Something grabs a hold of me tightly , Flow like a harpoon daily and nightly" (WHO uses a harpoon 24 hours a daily? Captain Ahab?!)

  • "To the extreme I rock a mic like a vandal , Light up a stage and wax a chump like a candle" (what's a chump? And what's it doing waxing a candle?)

  • "I'm cooking MC's like a pound of bacon, Burning them if you ain't quick and nimble" (other rappers obvious didn't take his threats of cannibalism very seriously...)

  • "Reading for the chumps on the wall, The chumps acting ill because they're so full of eight balls" (eight balls?! no comment...)

Yes, yes, its one of those things from the 80’s that is unbelievably corny like shoulder pads and Teen Wolf.

Below: shoulder pads.

Below: Teen Wolf!

My friend Ray told me he tried to record a cover version with a few other friends once. To get the sound effects in the opening bars, they put some rice grains in a glass bottle, and used the cymbals on the church drums. Then you can imagine a Malaysian Chinese ah beng trying to rap like Vanilla Ice (yeah, I know it sounds funny) going, "Rolling, in 5.0, with the rag top up so my hair can blow..."

If that copy of the cover version survived to this day, I bet Ray could make some good money for it on eBay. Or at least on YouTube.

Anyways, Vanilla Ice made it big for being the first white guy to hit it (as opposed to the black rappers of the day like Run DMC and er, MC Hammer...), and with hooks sampled from Queen and Bowie, rose dramatically, and sank equally fast after that.

Vanilla Ice and his 'Ice Ice Baby' lives on in those flashback shows on VH1 every week, not to mention on the receiving end of jokes by late night show comedians.

Some years ago, I heard that he grew dreadlocks and ran a motorbike shop. On the cold winter nights, when the bike shop is closed and everyone has left, I wonder if he clears the workspace, and trace back that kicking dance move as the cranked up PA system goes:

"Dum-dum-Dum-dum-duh dum-dum, Alright, stop, collaborate and listen..."


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