Poor Vanilla Ice. Prior to the launch of The Vanilla Ice Project (which I have never watched!) the guy was a laughing stock for most people who were alive at the time of this release. (Well, for all the people who didn’t buy this album and likely for at least some of the millions of people who did buy this album.) As the people who were kids in 1990 became adults, his hits got the usual nostalgia bump and at least some people – outside of the Rate Your Music community, clearly – started viewing him more kindly. (He performed at my university 6 years before his TV show launched and, by all accounts, people loved it already. So I guess rehab takes very little time.) Still, the man’s reputation is not good. This record has a 1.61/5 on RYM, for example. It’s hard to put into words how low that truly is. (Plenty of truly bad albums have ratings in the low 2s, sometimes even higher.)
But is Vanilla Ice actually awful? He is appropriating something, certainly. And, knowing nothing about his background, I have no idea how little of a right he has to this music. And the clothes are ridiculous and some of the lines are definitely ridiculous. (I don’t know how ridiculous those lyrics were in 1990, as I was 9 and I enjoyed this, but they sound really ridiculous now.) And “Rosta Man” is unforgivable. And his attempt at showing off his beat-boxing on “Havin’ a Roni” (which I remember from childhood!) is very clearly manipulated – whether or not he can beat-box, it doesn’t really let us know.
But he wrote or co-wrote everything. He’s even credited as the producer on somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the tracks. So this is what he wanted to sound like. You may not like it, but it doesn’t appear like he’s anyone’s puppet. He’s, dare I say it, maybe actually genuine.
And, with the benefit of 30 years hindsight, I find it all mildly amusing, rather than offensive of pathetic. Now, I didn’t lose record sales to him, and I’m not a hip hop fan and didn’t have to deal with a whole bunch of white people confusing this for real hip hop. And I can imagine, if I was either, this record would make me livid. But I can’t muster the opprobrium right now. It’s just too damn harmless.