Four Vanilla Ice Jokes in Search of a Deep Thought About I Love the ’90s

The Joint is soon to be jumping with a half-dozen of the top musical acts from the decade of flannel, Rwanda and Ally McBeal. In preparation for the I Love the ’90s Tour, here are a few intriguing ideas about the headliner, Vanilla Ice, each prompted by a joke centered on a pop star who frolicked nude in the pages of Madonna’s infamous Sex book, and who pumped up the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before their final battle with Shredder in their second movie, Secret of the Ooze (1991).

How does Vanilla Ice prefer to drink his tea? With ice, ice, baby.

When we first heard his name, we laughed. Before Eminem, what was cool about a white rapper? Absolutely nothing. If the name intended to provoke negative reactions, it worked. To the dismay of classic-rock fans (including me), he built his hit single “Ice Ice Baby” around the bass line from Queen’s “Under Pressure” (written and performed by the band and David Bowie), refusing to credit and pay royalties to the artists. The song remains divisive, with Rolling Stone readers voting it No. 4 on a 2011 list of the Worst Songs of the 90s. But assholes are like opinions, everybody farts one out, and it doesn’t change the fact that, when you drop “Ice Ice Baby” during a wedding, bar mitzvah or even a post-funeral gathering, you can’t keep people from moving and lip-synching.

When his crowds shout “Go, white boy, go,” they’re actually asking him to leave the stage.

Eminem was quoted as saying he’d wanted to scrap his rap career after hearing Vanilla Ice. Funny, yet it minimizes how daring the effort was at the time. In 1990, white guys wanted to join rock bands to sound like Bon Jovi. Daring to break into gangsta rap (after all, the lyrics in “Ice Ice Baby” describe a shooting) was stupid or, well, daring. Some hesitate to give him his due, but Vanilla Ice was a pioneer.

Marriage is a lot like the rapper Vanilla Ice. We think it’s a good idea at first. Then our self-respect kicks in.

Vanilla Ice is nothing like marriage. But he is a musical institution in a decade that went darker the longer it went on. Rock and rap got so nihilistic that each genre’s leading voice (Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur) died gruesomely before the ’90s were halfway done. Along with his I Love the ’90s bill-mates—Naughty By Nature, All-4-One, Tone Loc, Young MC, Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath—Vanilla Ice represents a bright, optimistic moment, just before we all learned where Bosnia was located on a world map.

Vanilla Ice

Vanilla Ice is an important figure in the history of dance. He proved that, no matter how hard they try, white men truly cannot dance.

Not true. Dude had moves, still does. OK, he didn’t last long in a recent Dancing With the Stars appearance, but he was invited back last November for the finale. And that’s what’s remarkable about the guy—he never surrenders. He’s survived slings and arrows, depression, drug abuse and Hollywood Squares appearances, reinventing himself more often than Lady Gaga. From reality TV to real estate investment to recording for Insane Clown Posse’s label, Ice never says die. For people who called him a flash in the pan, the joke’s on them. If there’s a ’90s survivor, it’s him.

I Love the ’90s Tour

The Joint in Hard Rock Hotel, 8 p.m., Feb. 3, $45-$200,, 702-693-5000.