Vanilla Ice was born Robert Matthew Van Winkle on October 31, 1967 in South Dallas, Texas. He was raised by his mother, Camilla Beth (Dickerson). His father left when he was four years old and since then, he has had many stepfathers. He has German and English ancestry on his mother’s side.
In his teenage years, Robert was a poor student who got dismal grades and skipped school often. He was 18 when he was in the 10th grade, and dropped out of school. During the late 80s Ice made a living by washing cars. He observed the culture and dancing of some of his peers, and later signed up at a local nightclub as a performer. He was a natural at rapping and dancing and needless to say, the audience loved him. He later got the nickname “Vanilla Ice”, because he was white.
In the year of 1989, Ice signed up with SBK records and released his first LP, “Hooked”, which contained the single “Play that Funky Music” that was sent to radio stations to play. The single wasn’t a huge success, and “Hooked” received poor sales. Later, in 1990, a local DJ decided to turn the “Play that Funky Music” record and play what was on the other side. That single was “Ice Ice Baby”, which sampled “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie. Contrary to “Play that Funky Music”, “Ice Ice Baby” was a huge success, and radio stations everywhere received requests to play that song. Ice re-released “Hooked” as “To The Extreme”, which contained “Ice Ice Baby”, and it sold over 15 million copies and holds the record for the highest selling rap record ever.
Vanilla Ice fever was everywhere. Soon there was hundreds of merchandise, such as a Vanilla Ice doll and a board game. Ice was featured on a tour of ‘M.C Hammer’, which influenced his dress style. Soon, he was wearing baggy jump pants and large, loud jackets with a quote on the back. “Ice Ice Baby” was on the number #1 spot for 16 weeks, and so was “To The Extreme”. It was only after the success of “Ice Ice Baby” that Queen and David Bowie received credit for the sample of “Under Pressure”. Vanilla Ice joked they were different, because he adding one note in his version. Ice then released “Extremely Live”, which contained music from one of his concerts. It sold 500,000 copies and reached Gold status.
Later in 1991, Vanilla Ice decided to get involved in the movie business. He made an appearance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) and then later scored his first feature film, Cool as Ice (1991). The movie was flop, having spent only three weeks in the box office before dropping out.
Ice spent 2 years taking up motocross under his real name, and completely dropped out from the music world. In 1994, he released another album called “Mind-blowin'” which introduced Ice’s new, dread-locked, dope-smoking image. “Mind-blowin'” didn’t last long, since SBK records went bankrupt. Ice nearly died of an overdose of drugs, and was revived by one of his friends. He later married, and had two children.
In the next 4 years, Vanilla Ice focused on family life while still playing a couple of shows, mostly overseas or small venues. Then, in 1998, Ice made a comeback with his next album, “Hard To Swallow”, his first nu-metal release, produced by Ross Robinson. The album was a far cry from his earlier works, and featured explicit language. There was even a rap-metal version of “Ice Ice Baby”, called “Too Cold”. Although the album only sold 100,000 copies, it was well-received by fans and made Ice almost respected again. It was followed by “Bi-Polar”, “Platinum Underground” and “WTF”, which combined nu-metal, rap-rock and hip-hop music with other genres, including country and reggae.
More recently, he has had his biggest mainstream resurgence, hosting the series The Vanilla Ice Project (2010), and recording a debut single with Jedward, “Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)”, a mash-up of the two songs. He will also be returning to film in the Adam Sandler comedy That’s My Boy (2012). At the 2011 Gathering of the Juggalos, it was announced that Vanilla Ice had signed to Psychopathic Records.