90s Hip-Hop Artist Vanilla Ice Looks Back With Gratitude


Associated Press

Vanilla Ice performing at the 2013 NBA All-Star game.

Rob Van Winkle might not be a name you recognize at first, but he’s done a lot in his 48 years. 

He’s an accomplished motocross and jet-ski racer. 

He has a home improvement show on Home and Garden TV and has appeared in multiple feature films. 

The man known as Vanilla Ice was also the first white rapper to top the pop charts in the United States and continues to record and release music today. 

Tonight, he kicks off the Throwback Thursday concert series at the Luxor in Las Vegas.

He joined us on KNPR's State of Nevada to talk about his past, his present and the unexpected gifts life can offer.


How does it feel to be headlining a throwback show?

"It's awesome! Are you kidding? You get to relive the greatest moments in history and that's what it is all about is for people to come out and put the spandex on and do your hair up maybe put the Z. Cavaricci's on and relive some of the greatest, fun, dancing times ever."

What did you learn from opening for some of the early creators of hip-hop?

"Well I watched the movie "Straight Outta Compton" and I remember the set they had reproduced. It is exactly the way it was. Because I was performing on that set as an opening act and that was behind me."

Support comes from

"It's great. It's a lot of fun. The energy is all there. But the impact was amazing. It's embedded in people's memory like a tattoo. The culture took over. The fashion came in. It was a sign of the times that people go back to because they miss it."

Why did you get in rap?

"I was heavily influenced before rap by Parliament Funkadelic, Rick James, Zapp, Roger Troutman so the funk era really got me. I had an older brother who was more into the rock 'n' roll and AC-DCs and Motely Crues and all of that, but I was into the funk"

You never thought you would be come this star and sell 160 million records. 

"The fact that it happened I still have to pinch myself. It's amazing. You couldn't expect that? You could expect that? It was a phenomenon and I'm very honored and very grateful for the people who appreciate everything that I've done. I cater to those people."

There was a hubbub about the sampling of David Bowie and Queen's "Under Pressure" for "Ice, Ice Baby." Do you regret that?

"Heck no! How can you regret selling 160 million records. Sampling was done before I came along but it was never made a big issue over because nobody sold any records. The lawyers didn't have anything to go after. So, once you sell 160 million records, there's money there. So they made a bigger issue out of mine than they had previously"

Did you ever talk to Bowie about the sampling?

"Yeah Totally! He was kind of introverted. Kind of quiet guy with a good smile. Kind of laid back not the center of attention. Really good guy. They loved it! They loved it! Listen their song only went to number 6 on the charts. I made them a lot of money. I ended buying the song. For me, I ended up buying back all the publishing and everything. It was cheaper than the lawsuit"

How did you come to be able to ridicule yourself or poke fun at your image?

"That is the key. Don't take yourself too serious. And lower your expectations on what would make you happy. Because now I'm easily entertained, which means I'm always happy."

With all that you have, everything that's there at your beck and call, why did you attempt suicide in 1994?

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. You enjoy the whole entire thing. right? You have this dream and then you achieve it and then you're sitting there and you think this real. This is my real life. All the paparazzi, the fans and everything there. And you think, 'Wow! This is ultimate!'"

"I lost my ego many years ago. One of the best things is it grounded me and it showed me that 'you know what, all this is artificial. Because I had a weekend that lasted a few years." 

"Everything negative that has happened in my life, like this suicide attempt when I had $100 million in the bank goes to show you that it's not about money. It's not about material things. Let me tell you what life is about folks: It's family and friends and without that you really got nothing. And I'm living proof of that. That's why I'm so happy today! I'm so grateful."

What do your kids think of your fame?

"They love it. All the clothes I used to wear. I was so embarrassed! Like your grandma pulling out all the pictures of you when you're a kid and you're like 'Put those back grandma!' Well mine is out there for the world! My kids think that's the coolest thing ever! So, they relive it. They know every world. They come up on stage with me sometimes. They'll sing "Ice, Ice Baby" and do the running man and I just look over and start cracking up!" 


Robert Van Winkle, otherwise known as Vanilla Ice

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