The first time Vanilla Ice entered my consciousness was in 1990 when his album “To The Extreme” was released. “Ice Ice Baby” was a huge hit, and the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts. Aside from hearing the song constantly, I discovered the song’s hook was the bassline to the song “Under Pressure” by Queen/David Bowie. Vanilla Ice and his management had not cleared the sample or credited Queen or David Bowie. Ultimately, Vanilla Ice settled out of court and agreed to pay back royalties as well as credit David Bowie and the members of Queen. This would not have been possible without the landmark case which had been argued before the Supreme Court in which Gilbert O’Sullivan sued Biz Markie for sampling his song “Alone Again Naturally.” After O’Sullivan’s victory, all samples would need to be cleared. Parody falls under fair use, so an artist like Weird Al Yankovic doesn’t need to clear any samples, though he makes sure to get the original artist’s permission because he’s a good person.
The second time, I was attending school in New Orleans. Some of my friends went to the French Quarter one evening. I believe I had to pass on joining them because I was studying. They walked by a club and saw on the marquee Vanilla Ice was scheduled to perform that evening. This was either 1999 or 2000. The club was not at capacity, and my friend was able to speak to Vanilla Ice during his soundcheck. He even got Vanilla Ice to sign one of the tickets for me. Sadly, I don’t know what happened to it.
My last story with Vanilla Ice involved bribing my students the first year I was teaching middle school. I had just moved back to the United States from Asia. While teaching in Macau, I participated in a choreographed routine to the song “Gangnam Style” (a big hit at the time) for the high school graduation. In the US, my middle school homeroom, all boys, sixth to eighth grade, were a rowdy bunch. To get them to follow my directions, I told them if they behaved themselves for the quarter, I would perform a choreographed dance to the song “Ice Ice Baby.” It was worth it to me at the time, and it probably still is, to trade in any sort of dignity for order. Not only did the students behave, but they also passed all of the worksheets I had created in an effort for them to get to know each other and the other new faculty members. I still remember two students running into the room excited because they learned one of my colleagues had gone to Dickensen for undergrad which was the answer to an upcoming worksheet. For the routine, I threw something together consisting of dance moves from the ’91 Bar Mitzvah season. Some had been invented by Dante and me during the Artificial Implant days. (Our rap group) My favorite dance we created was set to LL Cool J’s song “Milky Cereal” in which we mimed eating from a bowl of cereal. Throughout the years, I would go on to pick up some other moves to complement the “Running Man,” “Sprinkler,” “Shopping Cart,” etc; lesser-known gems like “The Spiderman Walk” and “The Bill Bellamy ‘Pop-the-top.’” Thankfully, my homeroom and I had begun to gel a little bit more. One day, we had an impromptu Beastie Boy jamboree; I blasted “So What’Cha Want” while a teacher whose classroom was next door opened the partition separating our rooms and we had a hootenanny. However, I had committed to the performance. On the day of the routine many other teachers magically appeared in the hallway outside of my room to watch. But, as I had in the early ’90s, I remembered all of the dope moves and put on an exhibition which would have probably seen me win a dance-off, and at least one round of Coke and Pepsi at a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. The only thing that was missing was the song “Joy and Pain” by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock.
Andrew Davie received an MFA in creative writing from Adelphi University. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant. In June of 2018, he survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. His other work can be found in links on his website: asdavie.wordpress.com