May 24, 2009

Ice Ice Baby

Robert van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice, entertained a mostly young crowd of about eight hundred at the big Memorial Day "block party" in the local town square Saturday night. Sorry about the image quality... the stage lighting was abysmal and I was positioned standing on a curb outside the event fence shooting at maximum reach. He was set to go on at 10. I got there at 10:15, and told Bob, a business acquaintance I ran into, that I doubted he'd take the stage before 10:30. Make that 11. But the party atmosphere diffused any potential disquiet, and by the time the dry ice clouds boiled up from the stage, the crowd was giddy. He was introduced by Robert van Winkle, a local weatherman with the same name.

Vanilla Ice (named by his black middle school friends) flashed across the cultural radar a few years ago. Wikipedia credits "Ice Ice Baby", which he wrote at age 16, with being "...the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts and has been credited with helping to diversify hip hop by introducing it to a mainstream white audience." His first major album, "To The Extreme" became the "fastest selling hip hop album of all time, peaking at #1 on the Billboard 200. The album spent 16 weeks on the charts and sold eleven million copies." He's had a very colorful life and career. Though relentlessly panned by critics Van Winkle has maintained a dedicated and upbeat fan base.

He put on a pretty good show Saturday night, raucous, irreverent, good-natured, and energized despite the modest venue. Ice was shadowed on stage by a wicked-looking clown, seemingly a refugee from Insane Clown Posse with whom I think he's done some work. Lots of splash and bling. He can still dance. There is something about his intrepid buoyancy that is impossible to dislike. Van Winkle was born to rap like Dumbo was born to fly. The boy can't help it. The crowd ate it up.