Ice Ice Baby
|"Ice Ice Baby"|
|Single by Vanilla Ice|
|from the album To the Extreme|
|A-side||"Play That Funky Music"|
|Released||July 2, 1990|
|Format||7", 12", CD, cassette single|
|Length||3:46 (Radio edit)
4:32 (Album version)
|Writer(s)||Vanilla Ice, Earthquake, Queen (Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon), David Bowie|
|Vanilla Ice singles chronology|
"Ice Ice Baby" is a hip hop song written by American rapper Vanilla Ice and DJ Earthquake. The song samples the bassline of "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie, who did not initially receive songwriting credit or royalties until after it had become a hit. Originally released on Vanilla Ice's 1989 debut album Hooked and later on his 1990 national debut To the Extreme, it is his most well known song. It has appeared in remixed form on Platinum Underground and Vanilla Ice Is Back! A live version appears on the album Extremely Live, while a rap rock version appears on the album Hard to Swallow, under the title "Too Cold".
"Ice Ice Baby" was initially released as the B-side to Vanilla Ice's cover of "Play That Funky Music", but the single was not initially successful. When a disc jockey played "Ice Ice Baby" instead, it began to gain success. "Ice Ice Baby" was the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts. Topping the Australian, Dutch, Irish, Italian and UK charts, the song helped diversify hip hop by introducing it to a mainstream audience. The song came fifth in VH1 and Blenders 2004 list of the "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever."
Lyrics and music
Robert Van Winkle, better known by his stage name Vanilla Ice, wrote "Ice Ice Baby" at the age of 16, basing its lyrics upon his experiences in South Florida. The lyrics describe a shooting and Van Winkle's rhyming skills. The chorus of "Ice Ice Baby" originates from the signature chant of the national African American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha. Of the song's lyrics, Van Winkle states that "If you released 'Ice Ice Baby' today, it would fit in today's lyrical respect among peers, you know what I'm sayin'? [...] My lyrics aren't, 'Pump it up, go! Go!' At least I'm sayin' somethin'."
The song's hook samples the bassline of the 1981 song "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie, who did not receive credit or royalties for the sample. In a 1990 interview, Van Winkle said the two melodies were slightly different because he had added an additional note, an anacrusis ("pickup") between odd-numbered and subsequent even-numbered iterations of the Under Pressure sample. In later interviews, Van Winkle readily admitted he sampled the song and claimed his 1990 statement was a joke; others, however, suggested he had been serious. Van Winkle later paid Queen and Bowie and as a result, Bowie and all members of Queen have since been given songwriting credit for the sample. In December 1990, Van Winkle told Smash Hits magazine where he came up with the idea of sampling "Under Pressure":
|“||The way I do stuff is to go through old records that my brother has. He used to listen to rock 'n' roll and stuff like that. I listened to funk and hip hop because rock wasn't really my era. But having a brother like that, well, I just mixed the two, and he had a copy of 'Under Pressure'. And putting those sounds to hip hop was great.||”|
Van Winkle described himself as the first rapper to cross into the pop market and said that although his pioneer status forced him to "take the heat for a lot of people" for his music's use of samples, the criticism he received over sample use allowed sampling to become acceptable in mainstream hip hop.
"Ice Ice Baby" was initially released by Ichiban Records as the B-side to Van Winkle's cover of "Play That Funky Music". The 12-inch single featured the radio, instrumental and a cappella versions of "Play That Funky Music" and the radio version and "Miami Drop" remix of "Ice Ice Baby". When a disc jockey played "Ice Ice Baby" instead of the single's A-side, the song gained more success than "Play That Funky Music". A music video for "Ice Ice Baby" was produced for $8000. The video was financed by Van Winkle's manager, Tommy Quon, and shot on the roof of a warehouse in Dallas, Texas. In the video, Van Winkle is shown rapping the lyrics while he and others dance to the song. Heavy airplay of the video by The Box while Van Winkle was still unknown increased public interest in the song. "Ice Ice Baby" was given its own single, released in 1990 by SBK Records in the United States, and EMI Records in the United Kingdom. The SBK single contained the "Miami Drop", instrumental and radio mixes of "Ice Ice Baby" and the album version of "It's A Party". The EMI single contained the club and radio mixes of the song, and the shortened radio edit. The single was quickly pulled from the American market soon after the song reached number one, in a successful attempt to drive consumers to buy the album instead.
Ice Ice Baby garnered critical acclaim. "Ice Ice Baby" was the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts. It has been credited for helping diversify hip hop by introducing it to a mainstream audience.
Entertainment Weekly reviewer Mim Udovitch wrote that "[Vanilla Ice] probably would have scored with his hit rap single 'Ice Ice Baby' even if he hadn't been white. There's just something about the way its hook – a sample from Queen and David Bowie's 'Under Pressure' — grabs you and flings you out onto the dance floor."
Following the song's success, California rapper Mario "Chocolate" Johnson, an associate of record producer Suge Knight, claimed that he had helped in writing the song, and had not received credit or royalties. Knight and two bodyguards arrived at The Palm in West Hollywood, where Van Winkle was eating. After shoving Van Winkle's bodyguards aside, Knight and his own bodyguards sat down in front of Van Winkle, staring at him before finally asking "How you doin'?" Similar incidents were repeated on several occasions before Knight showed up at Van Winkle's hotel suite on the fifteenth floor of the Bel Age Hotel, accompanied by Johnson and a member of the Los Angeles Raiders. According to Van Winkle, Knight took him out on the balcony by himself, and implied that he would throw Van Winkle off unless he signed the rights to the song over to Knight. Ice did not give the rights to Knight and the dispute was settled in court.
After audiences began to view Van Winkle as a novelty act and a pop star rather than a legitimate rapper, his popularity began to decline. Detroit-based rapper Eminem states that when he first heard "Ice Ice Baby", "I felt like I didn't want to rap anymore. I was so mad, because he was making it real hard for me." Van Winkle lost some credibility among hip hop fans, but later began to regain some success, attracting a new audience outside of the mainstream audience that had formerly accepted him, and then rejected him. "Ice Ice Baby" continues to be the song that Van Winkle is best known for internationally, although Van Winkle states that his American fans like his newer music better.
A live version appeared on the album Extremely Live. "Ice Ice Baby" was rerecorded in a rap rock version titled "Too Cold". Originally intended to be released as a hidden track or B-side, "Too Cold" was featured on Van Winkle's 1998 album Hard to Swallow, and became a radio hit in some markets. In 2000, a remix titled "Ice Ice Baby 2001" was released in Europe as a single, with a newly produced music video. The remix generated new international interest in Van Winkle's music.
VH1 and Blender ranked "Ice Ice Baby" fifth on its list of the "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever". It was also given the distinction by the Houston Press as being the worst song ever to emanate from Texas. In 1999, the song's music video was "retired" on the MTV special 25 Lame, in which Van Winkle himself appeared to destroy the video's master tape. Given a baseball bat, Van Winkle ended up destroying the show's set. In December 2007, the song was ranked No. 29 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 90's.
In 1991, Alvin and the Chipmunks released a cover version entitled "Ice Ice Alvin" for their album The Chipmunks Rock the House. "Weird Al" Yankovic included the chorus as the final song in "Polka Your Eyes Out", the polka medley from his 1992 album Off the Deep End. In 2010, the song was featured in the Glee episode "Bad Reputation" as performed by Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison). It is lip-synched by Dale's brother during a flashback in the movie Step Brothers.
Charts and sales
"Black Cat" by Janet Jackson
|Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
November 3, 1990 (1 week)
"Love Takes Time" by Mariah Carey
"Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers
|UK Singles Chart number-one single
December 1, 1990 – December 22, 1990 (4 weeks)
"Saviour's Day" by Cliff Richard
"To Sir, with Love" by Ngaire
|New Zealand RIANZ number-one single
December 7, 1990 – January 18, 1991 (7 weeks)
"Do the Bartman" by The Simpsons
"Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers
|Australian ARIA number-one single
January 13, 1991 – January 27, 1991 (3 weeks)
"I Touch Myself" by Divinyls
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