Best known for his 1990 hit single “Ice Ice Baby,” Vanilla Ice
was born Robert Matthew Van Winkle on October 31, 1967 in Dallas, Texas. While he did achieve stunning popularity with this song, it was very short lived. His sharp and quick fall from the music scene was also one of the most well-known in the American music industry.
Vanilla Ice attended R. L. Turner High School in Carrolton, Texas, but dropped out when he was 16. He then became interested in breakdancing and rapping. He earned a reputation in the predominantly black local club scene during the 1980s. By this time, he was already opening shows for then rap giants Public Enemy and M.C. Hammer. He released a little-known debut album "Hooked" with an Atlanta-based independent recording company.
The release of “Ice Ice Baby” was accidental. It was not the carrier single for Hooked. It caught on with listeners, though, and the record's seeming overnight success was enough for Vanilla Ice to earn a record deal with a more established label, SBK Records. Vanilla Ice's next album “To the Extreme” was basically a repackaged version of Hooked. In November 1, 1990, "To the Extreme" ended M. C. Hammer's 16-week reign at the top of the Billboard Top 200 and stayed there for 16 weeks as well.
A barrage of copyright complaints and threats of lawsuits hit his virtually overnight rise to the top. To salvage his image, his label released a biography containing mostly false information about the rapper. When all these were revealed, Vanilla Ice's popularity shot down and became the subject of many parodies, mostly focused on his falsified image.
In 2004, Vanilla Ice was cast in VH1 reality show The Surreal Life
season 2, touted as the best season yet. The show features celebrities who are said to be past their primes and puts them in a Hollywood Hills mansion for two weeks. On the show, he was very cool about his old image and even made fun of it. In one of the season's funnier moments, he got on former child star Gary Coleman's nerves after he bugged him to say his catch phrase “What'chu talkin' ‘bout, Willis?' several times during the diner episode.
(Photo courtesy of VH1)