The man who rocked the mic like a vandal talks reality TV, the danger of being a pop idol, and his unlikely support group.
1. Making hip-hop history isn’t the only thing he’s still smiling about.
It’s hard to believe that it was 1990 when “Ice Ice Baby” became the first hip-hop single to score a Billboard No. 1. Vanilla Ice (a.k.a. Rob Van Winkle) never again saw the top of the chart, but with 10 albums to his credit, he’s still an active player in the music game. His decades onstage make him more than qualified for his latest gig as a judge on Canada Sings, an amateur glee-club competition where workplace colleagues team up to compete for a $25,000 charity prize. Ice says the secret to a stellar performance is a winning smile. “Smiles are contagious in general, and when you’re onstage, it’s even more important. It’s like, we want to see you smile a little bit! Enjoy yourself up there!”
2. He’s a home-renovation guru.
At the height of his fame, a group of professional decorators turned Vanilla Ice’s 15,000-square-foot Miami mansion into a neon-coloured aesthetic atrocity. Determined not to feel like he was “living in a nightclub,” he resolved to remodel the house himself, and a new career was born. He’s now an accomplished general contractor and the host of two small-screen renovation shows, The Vanilla Ice Project and the contest-themed Ice My House. His devotion to real estate has also helped him avoid the celeb bankruptcy curse. “I’ve made good investments,” he says. “And that’s how I didn’t end up like MC Hammer.”
3. He’s also a fiercely proud Juggalo.
The next Vanilla Ice album will appear on Psychopathic Records, the label founded by his good friends in Insane Clown Posse. He’s performed five times at the annual Gathering of the Juggalos, and he describes this fraternity of ICP fans as a tightly knit and often misunderstood subculture. “I’ve been down with the clowns for a long time,” he says. “It’s a family. We have secret handshakes, secret words, and there’s a very deep, hard-to-explain bond between us. It’s way deeper than just the music. It’s more loyal.” As it turns out, Insane Clown Posse have played a bigger role in Vanilla Ice’s resurgence than most people realize. He credits ICP with helping to rescue him from his most destructive, drug-addled days. “When I was in the trenches, going through my weekend that lasted a few years, they helped me swim to the other side. They were my paddle, and I will never forget them for that.”
4. He’s got some advice for Justin Bieber.
The whirlwind life of a mega-star, he says, “is not real. It’s an illusion, a distorted sense of what reality is.” He believes no pop musician is safe from the backlash, not even today’s most ubiquitous teen idol. “Justin Bieber’s gonna go through the fall. That’s pop music—here today and gone tomorrow. He’s living a facade, and so did I.” Having weathered the dramatic collapse of his own career, Vanilla Ice has a few words of wisdom to share with the Bieb, and he says survival all comes down to maintaining a strong support system. “That would be my advice: to stay grounded. Listen to your real friends, your parents, and the people that aren’t there for your fame and glory. That will help you have stability. And that, when the shit hits the fan, is what [pop stars] lack the most.”
Season two of Canada Sings premieres May 15 on Global at 10 p.m.