The Iceman returns
More than 15 years have passed since Rob Van Winkle, more commonly known as Vanilla Ice, topped the Billboard Hot 100 with his hit "Ice, Ice Baby" and its follow-up, "Play That Funky Music."
In concert: 9 p.m. Sunday
Place: Pipeline Cafe
On the Web: www.vanillaice.com
Now, as the cyclical nature of mainstream culture brings the '90s back to the forefront, the 38-year-old finds himself with a newfound resurgence in popularity. The memory of who Van Winkle once was, coupled the past few years with VH1's brand of "Celebreality" television, seems to have extended his 15 minutes of fame.
Honolulu residents have the chance to catch up this weekend, when Ohana Entertainment presents a concert with Van Winkle at Pipeline Cafe on Sunday.
BORN IN Florida, Van Winkle spent his early childhood in Miami before moving to Texas as a teenager.
He wasn't the best student, choosing to hang out with other kids who claimed gang affiliations even though he actually lived comfortably in the suburbs with his mother. Dancing was another favorite activity; Van Winkle has repeatedly cited the movie "Breakin'" as an inspiration.
By the late '80s, he had started entering local talent shows as a rapper, picking up the name Vanilla Ice in response to his ethnic background and cool demeanor. "Hooked" was released independently in 1989, and sold about 50,000 copies before Van Winkle was signed to SBK Records. When "To the Extreme" was released a year later, his popularity exploded.
Depending on whom you ask, the album sold between 7 million and 17 million copies -- more than enough to make Van Winkle an incredibly wealthy young man. Other than the Beastie Boys, he was the only white rapper embraced by the hip-hop community, and just the second artist to top the Billboard charts with a rap song. The first? "Rapture," by Blondie.
BUT SUCH a meteoric rise meant Van Winkle would undoubtedly tumble back to reality.
That fall from grace would come just a year later, as word got out that he had lied about his background and the seriousness of his criminal past. By the time he put out the movie "Cool as Ice" and embarked on a world tour in 1991, fans and critics alike were starting to call him a fraud.
"That (stuff) was all fabricated and made up from the record company," Van Winkle told Newsweek earlier this year. "I was just a crazy little kid (and) I didn't have anything to do with that."
The next few years turned into a living cliché, with Van Winkle turning to drugs to deal with the pressure. He's admitted to using Ecstasy, cocaine and heroin, and even tried to commit suicide. "Mind Blowin," released in 1994, reflected how strong his addiction was with its many references to illicit substances.
For much of the next decade, Van Winkle spent most of his time riding motocross and releasing albums of little success. "Mind Blowin" was followed by "Hard to Swallow" in 1998, where Van Winkle gave up trying to be like Cypress Hill in an effort to reassert his gangsta persona.
After that failed, he tried to mix hip-hop with rock, dropping "Bipolar" in 2001, "Hot Sex" in 2003 and "Platinum Underground" in 2005. He also joined the cast of "The Surreal Life" in 2003, teaming up with other celebrities who needed a shot of promotion to bolster their careers.
That tactic, followed by an appearance on VH1's "Remaking Vanilla Ice," seemed to succeed in engineering a career rejuvenation. He's re-signed with VH1 to participate in the "Surreal Life Fame Games," and recently teamed with Turbo Tax to host a tax-themed rap competition online in conjunction with YouTube.com.
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," Van Winkle said. "I've had therapy and everything, so I'm good with it. ... I was hating on myself for a while, but I accept it now.
"It's pretty cool to accomplish and do what I've done."