Ice Ice Baby
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Ice Ice Baby
"Ice Ice Baby"
Abstract black cover with thick red band in centre and gold lettering
Single by Vanilla Ice
from the album Hooked
"Play That Funky Music"
Released 1989[1]
Recorded 1989
Length 3:46 (radio edit)
4:31 (album version)
Label SBK Records
Vanilla Ice
Vanilla Ice singles chronology
"Play That Funky Music"
"Ice Ice Baby"
"I Love You"
"Play That Funky Music"
"Ice Ice Baby"
"I Love You"

"Ice Ice Baby" is a hip hop song written by American rapper Vanilla Ice and DJ Earthquake. It was based on the bassline of "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie, who did not initially receive songwriting credit or royalties until after it had become a hit. Originally released on Vanilla Ice's 1989 debut album Hooked and later on his 1990 national debut To the Extreme, it is his best known song. It has appeared in remixed form on Platinum Underground and Vanilla Ice Is Back! A live version appears on the album Extremely Live, while a nu metal version appears on the album Hard to Swallow, under the title "Too Cold".

"Ice Ice Baby" was initially released as the B-side to Vanilla Ice's cover of "Play That Funky Music", but the single was not initially successful. When disc jockey David Morales[] played "Ice Ice Baby" instead, it began to gain success. "Ice Ice Baby" was the first hip hop single to top the Billboard Hot 100. Outside the United States, the song topped the charts in Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, thus helping the song diversify hip hop by introducing it to a mainstream audience.[2][3] The song came fifth in VH1 and Blenders 2004 list of the "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever."[4]

Lyrics and music

Head shot of Vanilla Ice with a goatee wearing a black T-shirt and baseball cap.
Vanilla Ice based the song's lyrics upon the South Florida area in which he lived.

Robert Van Winkle, better known by his stage name Vanilla Ice, wrote "Ice Ice Baby" in 1983 at the age of 16, basing its lyrics upon his experiences in South Florida.[5] The lyrics describe a shooting and Van Winkle's rhyming skills.[6] The chorus of "Ice Ice Baby" originates from the signature chant of the national African American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha.[7][8] Of the song's lyrics, Van Winkle states that "If you released 'Ice Ice Baby' today, it would fit in today's lyrical respect among peers, you know what I'm sayin'? [...] My lyrics aren't, 'Pump it up, go! Go!' At least I'm sayin' somethin'."[9]

The song's hook samples the bassline of the 1981 song "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie,[10] who did not receive credit or royalties for the sample.[11] In a 1990 interview, Van Winkle said the two melodies were slightly different because he had added an additional note, an anacrusis ("pickup") between odd-numbered and subsequent even-numbered iterations of the "Under Pressure" sample.[12] In later interviews, Van Winkle readily admitted he sampled the song and claimed his 1990 statement was a joke; others, however, suggested he had been serious.[12][13] After representatives for Queen and Bowie threatened a copyright infringement suit against him, the matter was settled out of court, with Van Winkle being required to pay financial recompense to the original artists.[14] Bowie and all members of Queen were also given songwriting credit for the sample.[12]

In December 1990, Van Winkle told British youth music magazine Smash Hits where he came up with the idea of sampling "Under Pressure":

Van Winkle described himself as the first rapper to cross into the pop market and said that although his pioneer status forced him to "take the heat for a lot of people" for his music's use of samples, the criticism he received over sample use allowed sampling to become acceptable in mainstream hip hop.[16]


"Ice Ice Baby" was initially released by Ichiban Records as the B-side to Van Winkle's cover of "Play That Funky Music".[11][17] The 12-inch single featured the radio, instrumental and a cappella versions of "Play That Funky Music" and the radio version and "Miami Drop" remix of "Ice Ice Baby".[18] When a disc jockey[who?] played "Ice Ice Baby" instead of the single's A-side, the song gained more success than "Play That Funky Music".[11] A music video for "Ice Ice Baby" was produced for $8000.[19][20] The video was financed by Van Winkle's manager, Tommy Quon, and shot on the roof of a warehouse in Dallas, Texas.[21] In the video, Van Winkle is shown rapping the lyrics while he and others dance to the song. Heavy airplay of the video by The Box while Van Winkle was still unknown increased public interest in the song.[22] "Ice Ice Baby" was given its own single, released in 1990 by SBK Records in the United States, and EMI Records in the United Kingdom. The SBK single contained the "Miami Drop", instrumental and radio mixes of "Ice Ice Baby" and the album version of "It's A Party".[23] The EMI single contained the club and radio mixes of the song, and the shortened radio edit.[24] The single was quickly pulled from the American market soon after the song reached number one, in a successful attempt to drive consumers to buy the album instead.[25]


"Ice Ice Baby" garnered critical acclaim, and was the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts.[26] It has been credited for helping diversify hip hop by introducing it to a mainstream audience.[27]

Entertainment Weekly reviewer Mim Udovitch wrote that "[Vanilla Ice] probably would have scored with his hit rap single 'Ice Ice Baby' even if he hadn't been white. There's just something about the way its hook - a sample from Queen and David Bowie's 'Under Pressure' -- grabs you and flings you out onto the dance floor."[28]

Following the song's success, California rapper Mario "Chocolate" Johnson, an associate of record producer Suge Knight, claimed that he had helped in writing the song, and had not received credit or royalties.[29] Knight and two bodyguards arrived at The Palm in West Hollywood, where Van Winkle was eating. After shoving Van Winkle's bodyguards aside, Knight and his own bodyguards sat down in front of Van Winkle, staring at him before finally asking "How you doin'?"[29] Similar incidents were repeated on several occasions before Knight showed up at Van Winkle's suite on the fifteenth floor of the Bel Age Hotel, accompanied by Johnson and a member of the Los Angeles Raiders.[29] According to Van Winkle, Knight took him out on the balcony by himself, and implied that he would throw Van Winkle off unless he signed the rights to the song over to Knight.[30] In 2012, Mario "Chocolate" Johnson told to LA Weekly that this story is false.[31]


After audiences began to view Van Winkle as a novelty act and a pop star rather than a legitimate rapper, his popularity began to decline.[32] Detroit-based rapper Eminem states that when he first heard "Ice Ice Baby", "I felt like I didn't want to rap anymore. I was so mad, because he was making it real hard for me."[33] Van Winkle lost some credibility among hip hop fans, but later began to regain some success, attracting a new audience outside of the mainstream audience that had formerly accepted him, and then rejected him.[32] "Ice Ice Baby" continues to be the song that Van Winkle is best known for internationally, although Van Winkle states that his American fans like his newer music better.[34]

According to Rolling Stone, the "Ice Ice Baby"-"Under Pressure" controversy is a landmark music copyright case, since it "sparked discussion about the punitive actions taken in plagiarism cases". The magazine's Jordan Runtagh added: "Though [Vanilla Ice] paid the price, some argue that isn't enough to make up for the potential credibility lost by Queen and David Bowie, who are now linked to him through a collaboration they had no choice in joining."[14]

A live version of the song appeared on the album Extremely Live.[35] "Ice Ice Baby" was rerecorded in a nu metal version titled "Too Cold".[36] Originally intended to be released as a hidden track or B-side, "Too Cold" was featured on Van Winkle's 1998 album Hard to Swallow, and became a radio hit in some markets.[37] In 2000, a remix titled "Ice Ice Baby 2001" was released in Europe as a single, with a newly produced music video. The remix generated new international interest in Van Winkle's music.[38]

VH1 and Blender ranked "Ice Ice Baby" fifth on its list of the "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever".[4] It was also given the distinction by the Houston Press as being the worst song ever to emanate from Texas.[39] In 1999, the song's music video was "retired" on the MTV special 25 Lame, in which Van Winkle himself appeared to destroy the video's master tape. Given a baseball bat, Van Winkle ended up destroying the show's set.[40][41] In December 2007, the song was ranked No. 29 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 90's.[42]

In 1991, Alvin and the Chipmunks released a cover version entitled "Ice Ice Alvin" for their album The Chipmunks Rock the House.[43]"Weird Al" Yankovic included the chorus as the final song in "Polka Your Eyes Out", the polka medley from his 1992 album Off the Deep End.[44] In 2010, the song was featured in the Glee episode "Bad Reputation" as performed by Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison).[45]

Track listings

1990 release

Charts and sales


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  5. ^ Rayner, Alex (November 3, 2007). "Is this it?". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 2009. 
  6. ^ Perullo, Alex; Fenn, John (2003). "Ideologies, Choices, and Practicies in Eastern African Hip Hop". In Harris M., Berger; Michael Thomas, Carroll. Global Pop, Local Language. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 25. ISBN 1-57806-536-4. 
  7. ^ Keyes, Cheryl L (2004). "Blending and Shaping Styles: Rap and Other Musical Voices". Rap Music and Street Consciousness. University of Illinois Press. p. 107. ISBN 0-252-07201-4. 
  8. ^ Fine, Elizabeth Calvert (2003). "The Cultural Politics of Step Shows". Soulstepping: African American Step Shows. University of Illinois Press. p. 145. ISBN 0-252-02475-3. 
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  10. ^ Hess, Mickey (2007). "Vanilla Ice: The Elvis of Rap". Is Hip Hop Dead?. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 118. ISBN 0-275-99461-9. 
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  12. ^ a b c Stillman, Kevin (February 27, 2006). "Word to your mother". Iowa State Daily. Retrieved 2009. 
  13. ^ Adams, Nick (2006). "When White Rappers Attack". Making Friends with Black People. Kensington Books. p. 75. ISBN 0-7582-1295-X. 
  14. ^ a b Runtagh, Jordan (June 8, 2016). "Songs on Trial: 10 Landmark Music Copyright Cases" > "Vanilla Ice vs. Queen and David Bowie (1990)". Retrieved 2017. 
  15. ^ "Feature: Has Vanilla Ice been stealing other people's songs?". Smash Hits. EMAP Metro (12-25 December 1990): 59. 
  16. ^ Hoebee, Alida (December 24, 2007). "Vanilla Ice - He's Still Cool". Australia: Inside Out. Retrieved 2009. 
  17. ^ Wartofsky, Alona (November 22, 1998). "The Iceman Returneth; Vanilla Ice: Once Hated, He's Back With a Different Rap". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009. 
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  19. ^ Corcoran, Michael (January 27, 1991). "Black and white & rap all over: Mass America moves to beat of hip-hop". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009. 
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  21. ^ Perkins, Ken Parish (March 31, 1991). "Building with Ice: Tommy Quon struggled for years running clubs - then found a ticket out". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2009. 
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  28. ^ Udovitch, Mim (November 2, 1990). "Review of To the Extreme". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009. 
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  30. ^ Fischer, Blair R. (March 12, 1998). "To The Extreme and Back". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008. 
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  78. ^ "U.S. certifications for "Ice Ice Baby"". RIAA. Retrieved 2014. 

External links


Preceded by
"Black Cat" by Janet Jackson
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
October 28, 1990 - November 3, 1990
Succeeded by
"Love Takes Time" by Mariah Carey
Preceded by
"Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers
UK Singles Chart number-one single
November 25, 1990 - December 22, 1990
Succeeded by
"Saviour's Day" by Cliff Richard
Preceded by
"To Sir, with Love" by Ngaire
New Zealand RIANZ number-one single
December 7, 1990 - January 18, 1991
Succeeded by
"Do the Bartman" by The Simpsons
Preceded by
"Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers
Australian ARIA number-one single
January 13, 1991 - January 27, 1991
Succeeded by
"I Touch Myself" by Divinyls

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