By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
"Yesterday's history, tomorrow's a mystery."
He spent his teens break-dancing on the streets of Dallas and busting moves in Miami malls. He snagged a string of motocross championships. He learned to beatbox and rhyme. And then he became the most famous rapping white boy in the world.
He immortalized the phrase "Ice, Ice, baby," reigned atop the Billboard charts for sixteen weeks, and sold 15 million albums. He dated Madonna. He costarred with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And he rocked the most astounding Caucasian flattop in the history of humankind.
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He was declared a "has-been" by the age of 27, dabbled in Rastafarianism, and developed a serious weed-smoking habit. He gobbled ecstasy, tooted cocaine, and overdosed on heroin. But he survived, covered his body with tattoos, accepted Jesus Christ, discovered the home-improvement business, started a family, joined the Juggalo Nation, and found another shot at fame as a reality TV star.
So yeah, after 46 years on Planet Earth and a seemingly endless succession of jackknife turns along the path of life, Rob "Vanilla Ice" Van Winkle — who will headline Miami New Times' Brew at the Zoo this Saturday — has learned to exist by that Zen-like, singsong maxim.
"I don't plan anything, brother," Ice insists. "I take it day by day. I wake up with a smile and try go to bed with a smile. I head out every morning to experience new things, just to see what I like. I ended up likin' music. And I ended up likin' real estate."
At the moment, this rapper, house-flipper, and TV personality is prepping his next, as-yet-untitled album for release on Insane Clown Posse's Psychopathic Records while hosting the fourth season of his handyman series, The Vanilla Ice Project. ("It's the number one show on the DIY Network," he beams, "and I'm really honored that people appreciate it.") He's also dealt with his past, its embarrassments, and the public ridicule that dogged him throughout the '90s and early '00s as he tried to reroute his career.
"You're only who you are because of who you were," Ice philosophizes, paraphrasing his former Surreal Life costar, the late televangelist Tammy Faye Baker. "All my negatives and all my positives and everything I've done, whether it be in the public eye or not, I don't regret, because I can't go back and change anything.
"My life in the '90s, I love it now. And sure, I hated it for a while," he chuckles, "because it nearly killed me. But I look back at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, doing the running man, shaving lines in my eyebrows, wearing parachute pants — I laugh at it all, because I'm honored to be who I am today."
Born in 1967, Van Winkle grew up the son of divorced parents, shuttling from Dallas to Miami and back. He rode dirt bikes. He hung out at the shopping center. He studied break-dancing videos. He didn't listen to rock and pop. He preferred hip-hop and funk. But his mother scoffed, "White kids don't rap."
Like any teen, though, Rob ignored mom, practicing his "poetry-writing skills," he says, "and lyrical flow" between biking sessions and trips to the mall.
"I was only 16 when I wrote 'Ice, Ice Baby,'" he points out. "And before that song, I was a motocrosser. So I partied, but I didn't party, meaning I didn't do drugs and I didn't even drink, because I was training.
"But I was really hyper and I liked to dance," he laughs. "And I would go break-dancing, make 40 bucks a day, chase the girls, see a movie, and still have some change left over. That's a lot of cash when you're 14 years old. And I was hustlin'."
By the time he was halfway through high school, Rob went from busting moves for money to freestyling on the mike for fun. But "like always," he shrugs, "my only plan of attack was no plan." He wasn't working on a demo. He wasn't dreaming of a record deal. He was just rapping for the hell of it.
"I'd go and battle kids from other neighborhoods at these underage parties," he recalls. "And I never thought I'd go on to do anything with rap. It was just what I was doing at the time. But then I became good at it.
"So every day, I'd skip lunch at school to jump in my buddy's Volkswagen van, and we'd crack on each other's mama," he cackles. "It was all about yo' mama jokes. And if I got demolished that day, I'd have to go home and think up something for the next day.
"Then we got into Egyptian Lover and picked up 2 Live Crew, wondering, How can they cuss like that on a record? But that was always the great thing about music — there were no limits.
"And you know, I'm not some white guy who does hip-hop, because music doesn't recognize color. People who compare me and Eminem are just small-minded."
Even 25 years after he was derided as an albino MC Hammer and mocked for his parachute pants, Van Winkle's voice still crackles with anger when he thinks about the petty critics, the backbiters, and the naysayers who dismissed him as that ridiculous cracker who raps. Somewhat ironically, though, the teenage Rob became known as Vanilla Ice precisely because he was the lone Caucasian kid in his crew.
We couldn't agree with you more Carlos! Do you have your Miami New Times' Brew at the Zoo tickets already?