First Hit #1: November 3, 1990
Is it possible for stupidity to be a talent? Vanilla Ice asks that question, since Ice Ice Baby is so stupid it’s kind of genius. The sample that makes the core of the song – David Bowie and Queen’s Under Pressure – is basically unaltered, to the point that it raises a question of the musical validity of sampling. Then there’s Ice’s frankly transcendentally idiotic lyrics. A lot of these phrases have become part of our cultural lexicon just because of how weird and slightly off they are. What does “Wax a chump like a candle” even mean? Does it matter? It’s a goofy song, but it’s not a deliberate goof, it feels as though he wants to be taken seriously as an artist and a rapper, but is held back by his profound and glorious stupidity.
It’s tempting to dismiss Ice Ice Baby as a guilty pleasure song, but I actually really enjoy it. It might crib a beat from much more talented artists, but it’s a good beat. He tries to make himself sound tough – the interlude where he encounters some “dope fiends” and then drops all his ammunition – but the way he delivers the story makes him sound like the least tough person in the world. And that’s actually endearing, because it wouldn’t work if he was actually tough. Here is a man who uses bravado and music to try to overcome his somewhat obvious shortcomings, and then accidentally reveals all of those shortcomings through the song. And then gets a hit out of the bargain, but it actually ruins his career because nobody can take him seriously anymore.
It’s a terrible way to get introduced to hip hop, and it undercuts a lot of what people were trying to accomplish with the form, which is probably why lots of people hate Vanilla Ice. But, you know, I have to say I get a certain joy out of listening to it, and I’m not ashamed of that.