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Connect the World

Interview with Vanilla Ice

Aired February 22, 2010 - 16:49   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He had one of the most recognizable songs in the world and managed to do it in just three words. Robert Van Winkle, famously known as Vanilla Ice, cemented his role in music history with "Ice, Ice Baby," the first ever hip hop single to top the Billboard charts.


ANDERSON: The song, which was written when Vanilla Ice was only 16, helped loosen the racial boundaries of rap, bringing it to a more mainstream audience.


ANDERSON: But after the initial success, the singer battled a number of issues, including financial problems. In 1994, he attempted suicide, after which he pledged to change his life and get his music back on track.


ANDERSON: Today, he has a hit rendition of "Under Pressure," with British X Factor duo, John and Edward.

From '80s bad boy to cult classic, Vanilla Ice is your Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: And I spoke to Vanilla Ice, AKA Robert van Winkle, a little earlier today from Palm Beach in Florida.

I began by asking him how he came to work with this reality they've duo, John and Edward, "Jedward," as they're known, and how he felt about that.

And this is what he said.


VANILLA ICE, MUSICIAN: Well, at first, I got a blog, you know, over here. And I saw the pictures and I was just laughing. You know, I'm actually just rolling on the floor laughing, going, oh my god, that's funny, you know?

And I didn't even know if they sang or if they were just like a gimmick, they were -- or what was going on.

And about a week later, I got a phone call saying you know those guys?

Well, Simon is doing this deal. They have a show like that's equivalent to the "American Idol." It's called "The X Factor." And these kids were on it, they didn't win, but the public fell in love with them and they're -- they're going to do a -- a song. And they're going to do your song -- I was like, get out of here -- and they want you to come do it.

So I was like, are you kidding me?

I said, sure I'll do it, it's great, you know. I actually liked them. I thought their hairdos and the twins and everything was just amazing.

ANDERSON: It's kooky (ph).

VANILLA ICE: So I actually saw it and was just, you know, yes, it's all about having fun and putting a smile on people's face.


Fans don't seem to tire of "Ice, Ice Baby."

What do you think it is about that which has helped it to have such longstanding appeal and, asks one of my producers, will you sing the first verse -- or line, at least?

VANILLA ICE: Stop, collaborate and listen, Ice is back with a brand new invention. That's what it is right there. This is the new invention.


ANDERSON: Why do you think it's lasted so long, mate?

VANILLA ICE: It's a timeless song.

The song is classic, you know?

You could release it today, like we did, and it would be a hit again. So, I mean it's -- it's one of those songs that is timeless. It's just a great song.


VANILLA ICE: I'm very proud of it. Yes.

ANDERSON: How has your life changed, Rob, since your early '90s hit now?

VANILLA ICE: Well, I can take you through a quick story.




I had a weekend that lasted a few years.


VANILLA ICE: And what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And -- and I've had a lot of success here lately in the States with reality TV programs and whatnot. And, you know, I've got a new record I'm doing right now with Sony Records and it's coming out in the next couple of months. So, you know, karma. Karma plays a -- you know, you learn -- you learn a lot through life. You know, we are who we are because of who we were. And I'm very grateful who I am today, but there was a time in my life that I wouldn't trade it with my worst enemy.

I've got a wife, two kids and I'm -- I'm happy, you know?

I'm -- I'm happier than I've ever been today.

ANDERSON: And we're delighted to have you as our Connector of the Day.

Vanilla Ice, some questions from the viewers.

Badbuff says: "If you could change anything from those years, what would it be?"

VANILLA ICE: I -- I -- well, listen, I've got a phrase that says yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. I don't harp on what I could change about the past because I can't go back and change it. But definitely a lot of things I would change.

ANDERSON: Charlie asks: "What type of music do you enjoy listening to when no one else is around?," perhaps outside of the rap genre.

VANILLA ICE: I know this will blow your mind, but most people would probably never ever get it, but I listen to classical music when nobody else is around. It calms me down and I can get into this like deep thinking mode, you know, because there's really no lyrics to it, so you're not following something that -- that you're listening to a story.

It's just kind of soothing, you know?

I could actually go in an elevator and write a record and listen to the music.



Jon K. writes in and he says: "A row over whether or not you sampled "Under Pressure" would play out very differently under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

What thoughts do you have about the balance between protection and restriction that that act offers?," he says.

VANILLA ICE: Well, you know, I went through this back in the day.

A lot of people questioned me -- did you sample "Under Pressure" from David Bowie and Queen?

And, you know, this was before the lawsuit came. Now, of course, we know I did. But at the time, you know, everybody knew I did, but I couldn't come out on camera and just go, I did, because that, you know, automatically admits it.

So we were going through a lawsuit at the time and, you know, the -- it's a great song. The great thing is, is I bought back all my royalties and I bought that song, too. So it kind of comes back around, kind of like Michael Jackson both The Beatles. So, you know, there's a reason for that. And now I -- I can do whatever I want with it, because I own it.

ANDERSON: Another question from Jon. He says: "What are your thoughts about your role as a successful white artist in an historically black medium? How different or similar are you," he says, "to an Elvis or an Eminem, for example?"

VANILLA ICE: It's not about the color of your skin, it's whatever music influences you...


VANILLA ICE: -- it's going to reflect in the type of music that you are doing.


VANILLA ICE: And it just so happens I'm white and -- and I -- I like hip hop.


VANILLA ICE: But there's a lot of -- a lot of white guys out there that love hip hop. In fact, to be truthful, Jay-Z wouldn't have a quarter of the records sold today if it wasn't for the white people buying his records. So I mean it's -- it's all really, you know, irrelevant.

ANDERSON: All right. Good answer.

Listen, mate, you -- you attempted suicide in 1994. Jonathan asks: "What was the initial signs of your downfall and what kept you going after you hit rock bottom?"

VANILLA ICE: Well, you know, I can say it with a smile on my face because, you know, I didn't succeed. I was -- everything was exaggerated, to me, by myself. You know, like every -- everything -- the way I took everything in life, I -- I over exaggerated it to myself and turned it into something that wasn't happening. And I got into this depression mode and basically, you know, I hit rock bottom.

I know the greatest values in life are not material things, they're family and friends.


VANILLA ICE: And that's the truth behind it, you know?

I mean my friends and my family are what pulled me out of that trench. It's the travel along the way that, you know, makes it all worthwhile. And without family and friends, none of it would be worthwhile.

ANDERSON: Rob, great answer.

A couple more. Quick on these ones.

A Dub says: "Can you please help us clear up this urban legend. Is it true that you were hung over a balcony and threatened with death unless you signed over a portion of your royalties?"

VANILLA ICE: No, not true.

ANDERSON: Not true?

VANILLA ICE: No, he did not hang me over a balcony. And I can see the picture -- like, yes, like my change in my wallet...


VANILLA ICE: -- and is just dangling out and he's like, Vanilla, give me your money. No, no, no, no.

ANDERSON: OK. Troy Barrett asks...


ANDERSON: -- this: "I've read that you've got monkeys, a kangaroo, a goat and a lynx.


ANDERSON: Which one animal do you like to have, or perhaps can't have, don't have? What would you like?"

VANILLA ICE: I love my kangaroo. He's been around for eight -- eight years now. It is true.


ANDERSON: And at that stage, we got cut off, which is the reason why the interview comes to a awkkk. He's telling us about his animals and he - - he said that he brought the kangaroo to London and it escaped. And I seem to remember that news story.

Vanilla Ice -- you can't get enough of him.

Tomorrow, our Connector of the Day is critically acclaimed British actor, Jason Isaacs. Now, you might know him as the sinister Lucias Malfoy in the Harry Potter movie franchise. We've already been swamped by questions from film buffs and Harry Potter fans alike.

So send us yours, is how you do it. Submit your questions there. We'll choose the best of them and you'll see that tomorrow.