Thursday, April 1, 2010

Word To Your Mother

I'm sure you're all at least passingly familiar (whether you want to be or not) with this album[left]: Vanilla Ice's To the Extreme on SBK Records from 1990. It's still one of the biggest selling rap albums of all time. The success of the lead single, "Ice, Ice Baby" led SBK to drop their entire hip-hop roster and focus exclusively on promoting the ice man for years, costing us some dope albums in lieu of lots of awful, awful Vanilla Ice follow-ups.

But how many of you are aware of the prototypical Vanilla Ice album that preceded To the Extreme and the break out success of "Ice, Ice Baby?" It was called Hooked[right] (named after the song "Hooked" which was also on To the Extreme) and came out on Ichiban Records earlier that same year. It's basically a rough, unpolished version of To the Extreme... When SBK signed him they rerecorded the music and added a bunch of extra songs.

So, yes, "Ice, Ice Baby" is on here, too. Ichiban actually originally released this as a B-side to what they thought was the hit of the album, "Play That Funky Music." It didn't take off, but as the saying goes, "B-side wins again," and "Ice, Ice Baby" started getting radio spins. And that's what led to SBK signing him.

It's actually my contention that "Ice, Ice Baby" isn't a bad song. Let's face it, the beat caught on because it was an ideal hip-hop sample (Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure")... which is why dope hip-hop acts like The UBC and The SCC used it since (and probably a lot more would if it wasn't tainted with Ice's legacy lol). The lyrics are freestyle, so while he's often criticized for not saying anything substantive on this track, that could be said of a lot of rap classics ("DWYCK," anyone?). And the delivery is actually pretty fun and effective... in fact, you may remember my theory that he lifted it from another, lesser known Miami MC named K-Ponce. So, it's a probably stolen rhyme scheme (at any rate, he certainly at least had co-writers, including his DJ Earthquake, who are credited)... but hey, I'd much rather hear a tested style that sounds good than something that's original but crappy. Unfortunately, he didn't keep stealing styles (or at least not any good ones), because he never made any songs one iota as compelling as "Ice, Ice Baby" since.

So, yeah. The songs are "remixed," but essentially they're the same. They use the same samples, lyrics etc. They've basically just been re-recorded with better technology, so the basslines sound smoother, the drums sound richer, etc. It was apparently a regular practice with SBK Records... you can read in my Keymaster Snow interview how they used the same process on Partners In Kryme's material. They also added several additional songs. The songs "Yo Vanilla," "Stop That Train," "Life Is a Fantasy," "Ice Is Workin' It," "Juice To Get Loose Boy" and "Havin' a Roni" are only on To the Extreme, not Hooked. That sounds like a lot, but a couple of those are just skits.

Hooked does have one exclusive itself, however (not counting the rough versions of all the songs as exclusives, which they really kinda are... and in some cases at least, like "Hooked," they are a little better): "Satisfaction." And it's actually one of the best songs on either album (for what little that's worth). It liberally uses the sample of The Rolling Stones' "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" married to a fun, very 80's drum track. That sample is why it was left off To the Extreme - couldn't clear it - but it's also what makes the song fun. A version without that sample would be pointless. They did eventually wind up releasing a live performance of the song on his live album, Extremely Live, but this is the only album with the original studio recorded version (although SBK eventually released a single with some studio remixed versions later on).

Anyway, it's Vanilla Ice, so it's hardly a must-have... But it's an interesting artifact, no?

Happy April First!

3 comments:

  1. In the immortal words of J-Zone: "Roll through the ghetto pumpin 'Ice Ice Baby', Think I give a fuck it's better than the shit I heard lately"

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  2. full disclosure: I fucking loved Ice Ice Baby when it came out but i was only 12 at the time.
    I'm sure I remember a story about Chuck D wanting to sign Vanilla Ice prior to him blowing up. anyone confirm this?

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  3. Hmm interesting. It's definitely possible, because Chuck later ended up doing a song with Ice.

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