N-Ice to see you again ... rapper Vanilla Ice is heading back to the charts with Jedward
By NICK FRANCIS
Published: 06 Feb 2010
TWENTY years after Ice Ice Baby, the original white rapper is back.
Vanilla Ice's blond quiff and multicoloured suits are also back - but this time there are two of them, on Jedward.
Everyone's favourite X Factor rejects have teamed up with Mr Ice to re-release the iconic track. And the trio are this week in a chart battle for tomorrow's No1 spot.
POSE ... Vanilla Ice with Sun man Nick Francis
Peter Jordan/The Sun
Way back in 1990, Vanilla - real name Robert Van Winkle - took Britain by storm, selling 600,000 copies of his hit in the UK alone.
In the States, the hip-hop community despised him for being a white man performing black music. But pop fans could not get enough.
On the surface Vanilla was living the dream. By 1993 he had amassed a £12million fortune and had even dated Madonna.
But behind the scenes his life was in meltdown.
A downward spiral into drink and drugs forced him off the music scene. He hit rock bottom with a suicide bid in 1994, and in the UK was quickly consigned to the list of one-hit wonders.
But two weeks ago he joined Jedward on stage at the National Television Awards and later announced plans to release Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby), a song they performed on X Factor.
Rob, 42, now lives in Palm Beach Florida, with wife Laura, and daughters Dusti, 12, and nine-year-old KeeLee.
And don't feel too sorry for him - on paper he is a very successful artist, still worth millions after years of careful investment.
But the rapper reckons he could just as easily be dead.
"I tried to kill myself, it got that bad for me," he explains. "I wrote the note, took an overdose and didn't expect to wake up.
"I was revived by having cold water thrown over my face and realised then no one will get me out of this mess except me. That moment I decided to turn over a new leaf."
To find out where it all went wrong you need to go back four years to 1990, when Vanilla was riding the success of Ice Ice Baby.
Living the dream ... Vanilla Ice at the height of his fame with Madonna
He says: "If you'd asked me my name I wouldn't have been able to tell you it, I was that messed up.
"I basically had a weekend which lasted four years. I did it all - sex, drugs and rock and roll. I took every single drug going including cocaine, ecstasy and even heroin.
"I was surrounded by fake wannabes who were leading me into nothing but trouble. I totally lost sight of the real world.
"When you're in the rock-star lifestyle, things like drugs and booze are readily available and there's always someone to encourage you to shove it down your neck.
"I had all the money in the world but I wasn't happy, and I was surrounded by plastic wannabes.
"Supposed friends would come over to my house and break a £500 vase and be like, 'Whoops, sorry dude. Where's the beer?'
"I had houses, cars, yachts, girls. But I looked in the mirror and thought, 'I hate life. This sucks'. I honestly wouldn't wish my life at that point on my worst enemy."
Vanilla reckons the moment he first knew he had hit the big time is when Madonna turned up secretly at one of his gigs.
He says: "I didn't expect someone so famous to even know who I was.
"Madonna and I dated for about eight months, it was cool. We had to put on all sorts of disguises to meet up - wigs, make-up, the lot.
"That level of fame is really damaging to your sanity. I couldn't go to the shops, visit my family, chat with friends in the street. That's what led me to go on the downward spiral. I was looking for an escape but looking in the wrong places.
"After the suicide attempt I moved away from where I was living in Dallas, changed my number and didn't speak to anyone. I just cut myself off from Vanilla Ice. That was the year I met Laura, which was a huge turning point.
"I now know that nothing in life really matters except family and friends. I had spent a lot of money on my lavish lifestyle but still had quite a bit left.
VANILLA SPLICE ... Rap star Vanilla Ice joins Jedward on stage
"I'd made a lot from the first album, To The Extreme.
"I made sound investments. I've lots of property and an exotic car rental business.
"My life's quite straightforward now but it took a lot to get to this level of calm."
In the past five years Vanilla has been making music again - but his style is far from Ice Ice Baby. He says: "It's very dark, aggressive hip hop. I've worked with artists from the Wu-Tang Clan and Public Enemy. I've got four albums, which have gone platinum, and toured the world, doing around 100 shows a year.
"When I arrived on the scene I was a joke to the black community and now they take me seriously."
Cynics out there might take that with a pinch of salt, considering Vanilla is back in the charts with a pair of tone-deaf Irish twins who have a passion for loud suits and lairy trainers.
But then he seems to have the measure of them. "I don't take these guys too seriously," he says, laughing. "I only heard of them two weeks ago. Sony asked me to meet them and consider a re-release.
"Simon Cowell performed Ice Ice Baby at the American Idol wrap party, so I was pretty humbled to hear he was a fan.
"I said before I met them that if they acted like they deserved the success, like they were great musicians, I'd walk away without even shaking their hands.
"I don't really agree with what they represent, the reality TV music act. But they're cool. Ten minutes into the first meeting, they were like, 'We didn't even know how to hold a microphone until six months ago'. I liked that - it shows they're not taking themselves seriously. We were rehearsing and I heard them sing. I was like, 'You dudes gotta work on your voices - you don't sound good'.
"They just laughed and said, 'Yeah, we're not the best singers'.
"That's very endearing, they're nice guys. I gave them some advice, told them to make sure it's all smiles - no need to be serious about stuff. They get it."
Jedward appear to be very much like the Vanilla of 20 years ago - it's a case of either love or hate.
But whichever view you take, they're still laughing all the way to the bank.