Robert Matthew Van Winkle (born October 31, 1967), known professionally as Vanilla Ice, is an American rapper. Born in South Dallas, and raised in Texas and South Florida, Van Winkle released his debut album, Hooked, in 1989 on Ichiban Records, before signing a contract with SBK Records, a record label of the EMI Group which released a reformatted version of the album under the title To the Extreme. Van Winkle's single "Ice Ice Baby" was the first hip hop single to top the Billboard charts.
Although Van Winkle was successful, he later regretted his business arrangements with SBK, which had paid him to adopt a more commercial appearance to appeal to a mass audience and published fabricated biographical information without his knowledge. After surviving a suicide attempt, Van Winkle was inspired to change his musical style and lifestyle. While later albums by Van Winkle haven't charted or featured much radio airplay because of their less mainstream, rock-oriented sound, Vanilla Ice has had a loyal underground following. In 2009, Van Winkle began hosting The Vanilla Ice Project on DIY Network. His latest album WTF – Wisdom, Tenacity & Focus was released in August 2011. Van Winkle is currently signed to Psychopathic Records.
Robert Matthew Van Winkle was born in Dallas, Texas. Van Winkle has never known his biological father; he was given the family name of the man his mother was married to at the time of his birth. When Van Winkle was four, his mother divorced. Afterward, he grew up moving between Dallas and Miami, where his new stepfather worked at a car dealership. Hip hop had an impact on Van Winkle at an early age, saying "It's a very big passion of mine because I love poetry. I was just heavily influenced by that whole movement and it's molded me into who I am today." Between the ages of 13 and 14, Van Winkle practiced breakdancing, which led to his friends nicknaming him "Vanilla", as he was the only one in the group that was not African American. Although he disliked the nickname, it stuck. Shortly afterward, Van Winkle started battle rapping at parties and because of his rhymes, his friends started calling him "MC Vanilla." However, when he became a member of a breakdance troupe, Van Winkle's stage name was "Vanilla Ice" combining his nickname "Vanilla" with one of his breakdance moves, the "Ice". When Van Winkle's stepfather was offered a better job in Carrollton, Texas, he moved back to Texas with his mother. He attended R. L. Turner High School for a short time before dropping out. When Van Winkle was not learning to ride motorbikes, he was dancing as a street performer with his breakdancing group, now called The Vanilla Ice Posse. Van Winkle wrote "Ice Ice Baby" at the age of 16, basing its lyrics on a weekend he had with friend and disc jockey D-Shay in South Florida. The lyrics describe Ice and Shay on a drug run that ends in a drive-by shooting while praising Van Winkle's rhyming skills.
In 1985, Van Winkle was focusing all of his energy on motocross, winning three straight titles at the Grand National Championships in Dallas. After breaking his ankle during a race, Van Winkle was not interested in racing professionally for some time, using his spare time to perfect his dance moves and creating his own while his ankle was healing. Van Winkle used his beatboxing and breakdancing skills as a street performer with his friends at local malls. One evening he visited City Lights, a South Dallas night club, where he was dared to go on stage by his friend Squirrel during an Open Mic. He won the crowd over and was asked by City Lights manager John Bush if he wanted to perform regularly which he accepted. Ice would be joined on stage with his disc jockey D-Shay and Zero as well as Earthquake, the local disc jockey at City Lights. The Vanilla Ice Posse or The V.I.P. would also perform with Ice on stage. As a performer for City Lights, Ice opened up for N.W.A, Public Enemy, The D.O.C., Tone Lōc, 2 Live Crew, Paula Abdul, Sinbad and MC Hammer.
In January 1987, Van Winkle was stabbed five times during a scuffle outside of City Lights. After spending ten days at the hospital, Ice signed a contract with the owner of City Lights, Tommy Quon and his management company, Ultrax. Two years later, Van Winkle would open for EPMD, Ice-T, Stetsasonic and Sir Mix-A-Lot on the Stop the Violence Tour. Quon saw commercial potential in Van Winkle's rapping and dancing skills. Buying studio time with Quon's earnings from City Lights, they recorded songs that had been perfected on stage by Ice and his acquaintances with various producers, including Khayree. The two year production was distributed by an independent record company called Ichiban Records in 1989. The rapper's debut album Hooked sold 48,000 copies in the south." Play That Funky Music" was released as the album's first single, with "Ice Ice Baby" appearing as the B-side. Tommy Quon personally sent out the single to various radio stations around the US, but the single was seldom played and when it was, it did not get the reaction Quon was hoping for. When disc jockey Darrell Jaye in Georgia played "Ice Ice Baby" instead of the single's A-side, the song gained a quick fanbase and other radio stations followed suit. Quon financed $8,000 for the production of a music video for "Ice Ice Baby", which received heavy airplay by The Box, increasing public interest in the song.
Following the success of "Ice Ice Baby", record producer Suge Knight and two bodyguards arrived at The Palm in West Hollywood, where Van Winkle was eating. After shoving Van Winkle's bodyguards aside, Knight and his own bodyguards sat down in front of Van Winkle, staring at him before finally asking "How you doin'?" Similar incidents were repeated on several occasions. Eventually, Knight showed up at Van Winkle's hotel suite on the fifteenth floor of the Bel Age Hotel, accompanied by a member of the Oakland Raiders. According to Van Winkle, Knight took him out on the balcony by himself, and implied that he would throw him off the balcony unless he signed the publishing rights to the song over to Knight; Knight used Van Winkle's money to help fund Death Row Records.
On the basis of Van Winkle's good looks and dance moves, Public Enemy tried to convince their producer, Hank Shocklee, to sign Van Winkle to Def Jam, but Van Winkle later signed a contract with SBK Records in 1990. SBK remixed and re-recorded Hooked under the title To the Extreme. The reissue contained new artwork and music. According to Van Winkle, SBK paid him to adopt a more commercial, conventional appearance. This led Ice to later regret his business agreements with SBK.
To the Extreme became the fastest selling hip hop album of all time, spending sixteen weeks at #1 on the 200Billboard and selling eleven million copies. SBK Record executive Monte Lipman stated that he received calls from radio stations reporting over 200 phone calls requesting Ice Ice Baby. SBK wanted Ice on the road as soon as possible. MC Hammer, an old acquaintance from his club days, had Ice on as an opening act on his tour. Reviews of To the Extreme were mixed. Entertainment Weekly reviewer Mim Udovitch gave the album a B, citing "Ice Ice Baby", "Play That Funky Music", "Dancin'" and "It's a Party" as the album's highlights. Robert Christgau gave the album a C− rating, writing that Ice's "suave sexism, fashionably male supremacist rather than dangerously obscene, is no worse than his suave beats". Criticizing the technique and style of Vanilla Ice, Allrovi reviewer Steve Huey wrote:
Ice's mic technique is actually stronger and more nimble than MC Hammer's, and he really tries earnestly to show off the skills he does have. Unfortunately, even if he can keep a mid-tempo pace, his flow is rhythmically stiff, and his voice has an odd timbre; plus, he never seems sure of the proper accent to adopt. He's able to overcome those flaws somewhat in isolated moments, but they become all too apparent over the course of an entire album.
In late 1990, Van Winkle began an eight-month relationship with Madonna, and appeared in photographs for her book, Sex. In the height of Van Winkle's popularity, SBK licensed a 12" doll which was made by THQ. In January 1991, he was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Van Winkle branched out into the film industry with an appearance in the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, which he later called "one of the coolest experiences" of his career. Van Winkle was very secretive about his personal life, with the intention of protecting his family. When a Dallas Morning News reporter asked Van Winkle what his mother’s profession was, he replied "None of your fucking business". In an attempt to rectify this, his former label wrote a fake biography in his name and tried to pass it off as his official life story without his knowledge. While on tour in 1991, Van Winkle found out that SBK had instigated the publication of the biography which detailed false biographical information, including claims that he had attended school with Luther Campbell and exaggerating his living conditions in Miami, which Ice later had to debunk by himself.
Van Winkle's second major release was the live album Extremely Live, released in March 1991. The album was a live recording during Vanilla Ice's performance in Miami during his To The Extreme tour. Premiering new songs like Rollin' in My 5.0, Road To My Riches and Satisfaction, the album peaked at #30 on the 200Billboard, but it received mainly negative reviews, with Entertainment Weekly reviewer David Browne calling it "one of the most ridiculous albums ever released", comparing it to The Best of Marcel Marceau, an album which consisted of two sides of silence opened by brief applause. According to Browne, Extremely Live "affords you the chance to hear inane stage patter [...] and unaccompanied drumming, during which, one assumes, Ice and his posse are onstage dancing." Monte Lipman later stated that SBK only released the live disc to make more money from Ice's fame. In April 1991, Ice began to film the SBK produced Cool as Ice, in which he played a leading role.
Cool as Ice opened on October 18, 1991 in 393 theaters in the United States, grossing $638,000, ranking at #14 among the week's new releases. Reviews of the film were negative. Film website Rotten Tomatoes, which compiles reviews from a wide range of critics, gives the film a score of 8%. Van Winkle received a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst New Star. SBK stated that they overexposed Ice and Van Winkle decided to stop taking their business advices as well as distancing himself from the image that SBK was trying to create for him. In late 1991, Ice appeared in the Circus of the Stars and Sideshow, driving his motorcycle through a wall of fire. While his fame in the United States had severely dropped, Ice continued performing to sold out crowds in his 1992 world tour, playing in South America, Europe, Australia and Asia, premiering new songs like "Get Loose", "The Wrath", "Now & Forever", "Where the Dogs At? (All Night Long)", "Minutes of Power" and "Iceman Path". After a performance in Acapulco, the city honored Van Winkle with a medal that represented "all the respect and admiration to [Van Winkle's] music and to [him] as an artist from the Mexican people". Van Winkle also served as a spokesperson for Nike and Coca-Cola throughout 1991 and 1992. In 1993, Ice toured Eastern-Europe again and premiered songs off his upcoming album in St. Petersburg, Russia in front of President Boris Yeltsin. At this time, Vanilla Ice was working closely with legendary DJ/Rap duo Rodney O and Joe Cooley. Alongside Insane Poetry frontman Cyco, the group called themselves Tha Hit-Men and co-produced various tracks together. Their most known collaboration being the single U Don't Hear Me Though (about how their music went unnoticed by the public) which was shot at Vanilla Ice's Star Island Mansion where the group resided during this time period.
After almost nothing but non-stop touring for the past three years, Van Winkle took a small break from music in 1993 and started competing in Jet skiing as well as Motocross racing again. Van Winkle was interested in responding to his critics by having his next album surpass his earlier and popular work. In 1992, Ice started writing response songs aimed at 3rd Bass and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Together with his disc jockey Zero, the new album started production yet again, scrapping a lot of finished songs and re-doing others.
By 1994, Van Winkle received less publicity and became removed from the public spotlight. After becoming more interested with the Rastafari movement, Van Winkle became a vegetarian, grew dreadlocks and talked more openly about smoking cannabis. On March 22, 1994, Van Winkle released his second studio album, Mind Blowin. Reviews were unfavorable. Entertainment Weekly reviewer James Bernard called the album "more clunky than funky". Rolling Stone reviewer Danyel Smith praised the song "Get Loose" as "snappy", writing that although the lyrics are "inane", "the song is a thumping party, one of the few places where Ice loosens up. He sounds solid at the beginning of 'The Wrath' as well [...] In 'Now and Forever,' a wet dream kind of song, Ice goes back to goofy lyrics."][ Allrovi reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that "There isn't a single moment that establishes a distinct musical identity, and the whole thing is rather embarrassing." Primus bassist Les Claypool stated in response to Van Winkle's cannabis-oriented lyrics: "That's all fine and dandy and cute, but it could be misconstrued and manipulated by the wrong people." When asked about the drug oriented sound years later, Vanilla Ice said "A lot of the record is drug oriented because I was doing a lot of drugs at the time". Shortly afterward, SBK went bankrupt.
At around this time, Van Winkle began using ecstasy, cocaine and heroin. During periods of heavy drug use, Van Winkle received many tattoos from artist acquaintances. According to Van Winkle, he "was in [his] binge days. [He] didn't even realize how many [he] was getting". Van Winkle attempted suicide with a heroin overdose on July 4, 1994 but was revived by his friends.][ After being revived, Van Winkle decided that it was time to change his lifestyle. As a symbol of his attempt to begin anew, he got a tattoo of a leaf on his stomach. After expanding his Mind Blowin’ tour overseas in 1995, Van Winkle sold his estate in California and took a break from music, rather focusing on motocrossing and jet skiing in Florida. By the summer Van Winkle was the world's No. 6-ranked sit-down Jet Ski racer, competing nearly every weekend and earning a Kawasaki sponsorship. He met future wife Laura Giaritta a year after his suicide attempt at a Fourth of July party in 1995.
Uncertain about his future career, Van Winkle studied real estate and started working on the side renovating and selling houses. In late 1995, Van Winkle set up a recording studio in Miami and joined a grunge band, Pickin Scabz. The name was set to reflect Van Winkle's career and how he was healing from his suicide attempt and that he was now "picking up the pieces". Van Winkle expressed an interest in performing hip hop-influenced rock music, but found that the band was unable to produce the sound he was looking for. In 1996, longtime associate and friend Monte Lipman signed Van Winkle as an artist for Universal Republic Records. He did guest vocals with no stage name for the song "Boom" by Bloodhound Gang on their CD One Fierce Beer Coaster. Later that year, Van Winkle opened up a Miami-based Extreme sport store that focused mostly on water sports and surfing, which he and girlfriend Laura named after his first mainstream album, '2 The Xtreme'. On March 30, 1997, Van Winkle married Laura.][ His relationship and different professions helped anchor Van Winkle, who thought about leaving music behind just as he did hard drugs.
Van Winkle later developed a friendship with producer Ross Robinson, who had become known for producing music by Deftones, Korn, Limp Bizkit and Sepultura. Robinson and Van Winkle shared an interest in motocross racing. Monte Lipman hoped that Robinson would produce a new Vanilla Ice album. According to Robinson, others had attempted to discourage him from working with Van Winkle, saying it might hurt his reputation. Rather than being dissuaded, their fear encouraged Robinson who agreed to work with Van Winkle. In an interview, Robinson stated "It's the most punk-rock thing you could do." Despite not being happy with his old image, Winkle stated that he never had a problem with his older music. Van Winkle decided against changing his stage name to something else, as he felt no need to run from his past, despite being uneasy with some of it and started performing again, booking a hundred shows a year.
Van Winkle's third studio album, Hard to Swallow, featured a darker sound and lyrics than Van Winkle's previous work as well as various mixtures of different styles of hip hop and hard rock which caught the media's attention. Van Winkle attracted a whole new audience when he started touring again, some who were even unfamiliar with his more mainstream sound. Despite getting its own audience and going Gold, reviews of the album were generally negative. Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote "The most earnest new song, Scars, condemns an abusive father. The sentiments would sound more genuine if Korn hadn't gotten there first." Richard Torres of Rolling Stone gave the album two out of five stars, writing that while "nothing, however, can redeem Ice's wack boasting," the album "isn't half-bad." In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, Rob Kemp gave the album three out of five stars, writing that it contained Van Winkle's "most convincing music". A lot of executives at SonyBMG were predicting that the album would do better than 'To The Extreme'. In promotion of Hard to Swallow, Van Winkle toured with a seven-piece live band which included bassist Scott Shriner. The band opened with rock-oriented material from Hard to Swallow and concluded with older hip hop songs. The setlist also included "Power", based upon Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song". Van Winkle said that writing the songs and performing them were like therapy, as he had tried to hide his anger when making his older songs but Robinson was the first producer who told him to use it to create.
Vanilla Ice was a member of the softball team The Hip Hop Stars alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Method Man in a 1999 game shown on MTV Rock N' Jock . Later in 1999, MTV asked Vanilla Ice to join their cast to "retire" the music video for "Ice Ice Baby" on the MTV special 25 Lame, in which Van Winkle himself was asked to destroy the video's master tape. When Van Winkle was given a baseball bat, he ended up destroying not only the film but the show's entire set as well. In 2001, DJ ReAnimator remixed "Ice Ice Baby" with Vanilla Ice re-doing his vocals for the track. Ice Ice Baby 2001 was released as a single and music video for the European market spawning a wave of new overseas interest in Vanilla Ice.
Having attracted a following outside of his former mainstream audience, Van Winkle began recording independently, despite still being signed at Universal. During a recording session, Ice met the all-female American hard rock band from Southern California, Betty Blowtorch. The late Bianca Halstead bonded with Van Winkle and asked if he wanted to contribute a rap interlude to the their track Size Queen. On Van Winkle's collaboration with the band, lead vocalist and bassist Halstead was quoted saying "I asked him if he could rap over [the track] and he said he can rap over anything. And he could!" Per his stepfather's request, Van Winkle started working with his former manager Tommy Quon again, while hoping to re-create some of the magic that they worked hard on in the early 90's, Van Winkle denied any interest in trying to become big again and that his only passion was music, not fame.
In May 2000, Van Winkle wrestled in a match promoted by Juggalo Championship Wrestling, then known as Juggalo Championshit Wrestling, filling in for Insane Clown Posse member Joseph Utsler, who had been injured during a match. MTV News reported that Insane Clown Posse would make an appearance on Van Winkle's next album, tentatively titled Bomb Tha System. In October 2000, Van Winkle announced that his next album would be titled Skabz, and that Chuck D was confirmed to appear on the album. It was initially planned as a double album featuring a disc containing rock-oriented material and a disc of hip hop songs. In July 2001, Van Winkle performed at the second Gathering of the Juggalos. On October 23, 2001, Skabz and Bomb Tha System were released as a together as Bi-Polar. The album also featured La the Darkman, Perla, Insane Poetry and Bob Kakaha. Bradley Torreano of Allrovi disliked the album, criticizing it as "wildly uneven and at times hilariously bad", but also stating "Vanilla Ice is still better than a lot of the rap-metal bands that erupted in 2000/2001." and the rap beats on Bomb Tha System "are surprisingly solid". In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, Rob Kemp gave the album one out of five stars, calling the album "utterly listless". According to a Sony BMG executive, sales of Bi-Polar were "not bad...for Vanilla Ice. That's pretty respectable. Seriously."
With Quon back as manager, Van Winkle was scheduled to appear in various reality TV programs. Ice, still an entertainer at heart, felt that the experience would be good for him. In 2002 he appeared on Celebrity Boxing, fighting Todd Bridges under the name 'Bi-Polar'. In 2003, he appeared in five episodes of Hollywood Squares, eight episodes on 'The Farm' and three episodes of Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge as well as a cameo in The New Guy in 2002. Around this time, Vanilla Ice also returned to the world of motocross. He auditioned for the 2002 X Games in the freestyle division and placed seventh at the 2003 Suzuki Crossover challenge, according to Sports Illustrated. He told the magazine that the track "is where I'm happiest."
In 2003, Van Winkle contributed vocals to "Off the Chain" by 7x70, a side project of Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain and Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz. A demo of the song was leaked in June. In 2003, Ultrax reissued Bomb Tha System (the second part of "Bi-Polar") under the title Hot Sex, which was a single from the original album.
From January to February 2004, Van Winkle appeared on the reality television series The Surreal Life. Although much of the series was staged, Van Winkle found the experience to be therapeutic, stating that a comment made by Tammy Faye Messner during filming; "We are who we are because of who we were" helped him accept his past.
On August 2, 2005, Van Winkle released his fifth studio album, Platinum Underground. Van Winkle stated that the title of the album reflected the fact that he could maintain a fanbase without mainstream airplay. Allrovi reviewer Rob Theakston panned the album, writing that it "has more bad spots in it than most". After getting requests to do Ninja Rap live, Ice decided to make a song entitled Ninja Rap 2 (also known as Go Ninja Go) which was set to be a hardcore remix. Despite the name, the song has very little connections to Van Winkle's original 1991 single, but rather stays true to Ice's current lyricism, where Ice talks about his appreciation to his fans, his love to perform at clubs and playing at the Gathering of the Juggalos with Insane Clown Posse. Ninja Rap 2 was the first song to be released from Platinum Underground and was available to download for free off of Ice's official website.
In 2007, Van Winkle returned to a spin-off to The Surreal Life entitled The Surreal Life: Fame Games where he again trashed the set after being voted off. In September 2008, Van Winkle signed a contract with Cleopatra Records, recording the cover album Vanilla Ice Is Back! at the label's request. The album was released on November 4, 2008, and contained covers of songs by Public Enemy, House of Pain, Bob Marley and Cypress Hill. IGN reviewer Spence D. called the album "an embarrassing endeavor that sounds like it should have stayed locked inside Ice's studio (or at the very least leaked on YouTube and passed off as a piss take)." On February 27, 2009, Van Winkle performed as part of a joint performance with MC Hammer in Orem, Utah called "Hammer Pants And Ice", which featured 24 dancers and a full choir.
In August 2009, Van Winkle announced on his official Twitter account that he had signed a contract with StandBy Records; however, Van Winkle later left the label. Ice was a special musical guest at the 2010 National Television Awards in January, performing with Jedward for their remix and debut single "Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)". Van Winkle also recorded his verse for their album Planet Jedward and appeared in the music video. Vanilla Ice was a part of The Back2Kool concert tour with Turbo B and MC Hammer, playing worldwide in late 2010. Ice reunited with his former DJ; Floyd 'Earthquake' Brown for the shows overseas. In early 2011, Vanilla Ice appeared on the sixth season of the UK show Dancing on Ice as well as various ice skating tours surrounding the show.
In 2009, Van Winkle started filming a reality television series called The Vanilla Ice Project which premiered on DIY Network on October 14, 2010. The season is focused on renovating a house in Palm Beach, Florida with each episode dedicated to a different room in the house. In 2011, Van Winkle published a book on the subject, Vanilla Ice Project – Real Estate Guide on how to succeed in real estate. The book was made available as a free digital download on his real estate website. The second season aired January 2012 while the third season started airing January 2013.
In June 2011, Van Winkle filmed a role in the film That's My Boy (released in 2012). In the film, Ice portrayed an exaggerated version of himself, called Uncle Vanny. He also worked with Andy Samberg in the movie and while shooting, Ice collaborated both with Samberg and Sandler musically In August, Van Winkle performed at the 2011 Gathering of the Juggalos, where it was officially announced that he had signed with Psychopathic Records. His sixth studio album, WTF, was released on August 19 through Radium Records. While the record featured an array of different styles, like other recent Vanilla Ice albums, it also featured Ice's return to Electronica, with songs like "Turn It Up", "Rock Star Party", "Nightmare Disco" and "Cadillac Ninjas". On the new record and it's vast amount of musical genres, Ice was quoted saying "It's like techno hip-hop. European. I live a lot in Europe, and when I'm over there I get way into the techno stuff and I get into new music. So I thought I'd make a record of it. I did the thing and it was a lot of fun".
In December 2011, Van Winkle played Captain Hook in the Chatham, Kent Central Theatre pantomime production of Peter Pan, a role that previously belonged to Henry Winkler. He also turned on the Christmas lights for Rochester, Kent in Rochester Castle, as part of the promotion for the panto. On May 12, 2012; Vanilla Ice helped in the launch of the Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast roller coaster at Six Flags over Texas in Arlington with a free concert for valid daily park ticket or 2012 Season Pass holders.
Van Winkle is currently recording an album for Psychopathic with production by Mike E. Clark. During an interview with The Socially Awkward Radio Show, Van Winkle stated that the album will feature various guest appearances from the Psychopathic label.
In mid 2013, Vanilla Ice joined the New Kids on the Block tour alongside Boyz II Men, playing to sold out crowds.
Van Winkle dated Madonna for eight months in the late 1990s. Van Winkle married Laura Giaritta in 1997; they have two daughters, Dusti Rain (born 1998) and KeeLee Breeze (born 2000). Van Winkle is a Juggalo and a vegetarian.
On June 3, 1991, Van Winkle was arrested in Los Angeles on firearm charges after threatening a homeless man, James N. Gregory, with a pistol. Gregory had approached Van Winkle's car outside of a supermarket and attempted to sell him a silver chain. Van Winkle and his bodyguard were charged with three weapons offenses. Van Winkle pleaded no contest.
In January 2001, Van Winkle was arrested by police in Davie, Florida for assaulting his wife, Laura. According to the criminal complaint, Van Winkle and his wife argued as they drove on Interstate 595. Van Winkle admitted to pulling hair from her head to prevent her from jumping out of the truck's window. He pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct four months later and was sentenced to probation and ordered to attend family therapy sessions.
Van Winkle's pet wallaroo, Bucky, and pet goat, Pancho, escaped from his Port St. Lucie, Florida home in November 2004. After wandering around local streets for over a week, the animals were caught and returned to Ice. He had to pay a $220 fine for expired pet tags and an undisclosed fine for the escape of the animals.
Van Winkle appeared in West Palm Beach court on September 2007 to be arraigned for driving with an expired license. In the months leading up to the court hearing, Ice had been pulled over for doing 74 in a 45-mph zone, violating high-occupancy vehicle lane restrictions and having illegally tinted car windows.
On April 10, 2008, Van Winkle was arrested in Palm Beach County on a battery charge for allegedly kicking and hitting his wife. He was released the following day after she declared that her husband had only pushed her. In court, the couple's neighbor, Frank Morales, stated that it was merely a verbal argument. Van Winkle was ordered by a Florida court to stay away from his wife following his arrest, and to communicate with his children only if Morales accompanied him. The judge told Van Winkle that he could only contact his wife via telephone. On April 29, 2008, Van Winkle's lawyers, Bradford Cohen and Joseph LoRusso, were able to get the case dropped after providing the state attorney with evidence that conflicted with what was originally reported.
Van Winkle's current live performances feature a mix of newer, rock and techno-influenced material and old school hip hop. Van Winkle performs with a live drummer and DJ, and sometimes sprays his audience with bottled water. Van Winkle's performances often feature an inflatable grim reaper balloon, a dancer in a clown mask, and confetti thrown into the audience. Describing his performances, Van Winkle stated "It's high energy, stage diving, pyrotechnics, girls showing their breasts. It's crazy party atmosphere."
Van Winkle stated that his musical style was influenced by underground music, rather than mainstream music, and that his influences included hip hop and funk artists such as Funkadelic, Rick James, Roger Troutman, Egyptian Lover and Parliament. Van Winkle is a big fan of 50's and 60's Reggae and Bob Marley's work and has also stated that he enjoys Rage Against the Machine, Slipknot and System of a Down.
Van Winkle sometimes plays bass, drums and keyboards on studio recordings. Vanilla Ice referred to his mainstream music as "above-ground" rather than underground, as he tried to make danceable beats and removed expletives so that the songs could reach a wider audience. A lot of his early hits had Ice boasting sexual conquests, in 1991, Van Winkle was quoted "I rap about what I know. Girls and stuff. That's what is going through my head.".
Ice's lyricism evolved with him and when asked about his darker sound in 2002, Ice replied; "Music is about reflection and I’m just reflecting my life and everything it’s been and there’s no way I’m going to be able to stress what I want and mean over a break beat, you know, it’s too emotional and it’s too intense, so you have to have the intensity of the band, it’s like a symphony, you know, you have to build on the intense parts, and so it just wasn’t going to happen, to come extreme over some hip hop record, so to exercise my demons I had to have the band."
Along with Beastie Boys, 3rd Bass and House of Pain, Van Winkle was one of the earliest white rappers to attain major success. Chuck D has credited Van Winkle as a regional breakthrough, stating "He broke through in the mid-South, in a Southern area in Texas, in something that was kind of indigenous to that hip-hop culture down there. He just doesn’t get credit for it." In 1991, 3rd Bass released a single called "Pop Goes the Weasel", and in the lyrics comparing Van Winkle unfavorably to Elvis Presley. The song's music video featured Henry Rollins as Van Winkle, who is depicted as being assaulted by 3rd Bass. Van Winkle responded to "Pop Goes the Weasel" with his 1992 song "The Wrath". Del tha Funkee Homosapien referred to Van Winkle in the lyrics of "Pissin' on Your Steps", which appeared on his 1991 debut album I Wish My Brother George Was Here. Similar to 'Pop Goes the Weasel', the song negatively makes a connection between Van Winkle and Elvis, while saying Ice alongside MC Hammer are mocking hip hop by being commercial. Vanilla Ice answered back to most of his critics in the song Hit 'em Hard.
Robert Van Winkle appears as a video game character in Championship Motocross released in 2001 on PlayStation 2. The hairstylist character in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is also molded after Vanilla Ice. Former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion Chuck 'The Iceman' Lidell used Ice's song Too Cold for his entrance to the ring. In 2007, Nike released Vanilla Ice shoes for their Fallen Heroes pack. Rapper G-Child, best known for her appearance on ego trip's The (White) Rapper Show, has credited Van Winkle as being a major influence on her work. After meeting Van Winkle in 2000, G-Child performed freestyle raps at six of Van Winkle's performances, and opened for him four times. The late rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard appeared on stage with Vanilla Ice during the 2004 Gathering of the Juggalos and expressed interest in working on a song together after stating that he was Ice's "greatest fan". In March 2009, Van Winkle participated in a Virgin Mobile advertising campaign titled "Right Music Wrongs", apologizing for his 1990s image. As part of the campaign, Van Winkle was placed on "trial", and was voted innocent by users of the campaign website. He also appeared in a commercial for the South African light beer Castle Lite. In 2010, Vanilla Ice was featured on the debut single of the Irish duo Jedward, a mashup of "Under Pressure" and "Ice Ice Baby". "Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)" was released in the United Kingdom on January 31, 2010 via download and as a physical single on February 15, 2010. In 2010, Serbian musicians Slađa Delibašić and Shwarz released the single and music video Dizel Power. The music video and song feature various references to Vanilla Ice, including the performers dancing next to a graffiti mural of Ice. The video has reached two million views on YouTube.
After signing with Psychopathic Records, Violent J mentioned that Insane Clown Posse were longtime fans of Ice's work; “We were bumping him way before "Ice Ice Baby" blew up. We were bumping him when he had his first record out on Ichiban. Shaggy had the vinyl and we used to bump that shit up in his room. It felt like two summers before that shit blew up.” "Thanda Thanda Pani" (Cold Cold Water) by Baba Sehgal was inspired heavily by Vanilla Ice's music and style. Rapper Riff Raff has mentioned in interviews that Vanilla Ice was one of his biggest influence.
Eminem has often name-dropped Vanilla Ice in his songs. Starting during taped freestyles he did with rapper Proof in 1992 where they performed against each other portraying Ice and MC Hammer, respectively. In his first single "Just Don't Give a Fuck", Eminem mentions Ice alongside Everlast, boasting in a playful manner that he's a better rapper. In "Role Model", Eminem says he ripped out Vanilla Ice's dreadlocks. Van Winkle responded to in a magazine interview with Vibe saying that Eminem "raps like a girl". While Vanilla Ice and Eminem neither look at their responses as an actual beef, Eminem did reply to the quote in his song "Marshall Mathers" which also featured a verbal attack on the Insane Clown Posse. Eminem mentioned Ice again in the song "Purple Pills" in 2001, which caused Vanilla Ice's only response in song. On his album Bi-Polar, Ice mentions Eminem in a positive light ("Hip Hop Rules") and in a negative light ("Exhale"), however, Van Winkle stated that he has no bad feelings towards Eminem. In a 2002 interview, Vanilla Ice stated that he thought Eminem's references were flattering, going on to say "I give him credit, I think he’s talented, I think he’s a killer rapper, you know I don’t compare myself to him because he’s another white rapper, I don't compare myself to any other rapper period, I don’t colorize hip hop, it’s stupid, but for people who are doing that are just looking through the eyes of a racial standpoint, and it really shouldn’t be looked at that way, you’re looking at two musicians that are in a broad brand of hip hop, so you don’t need to compare us two. Following me, any white rapper is going to have to hear 'oh, you think you’re Vanilla Ice?', so I am sure he’s heard that." In April 2009, Van Winkle appeared in the music video for Eminem's song "We Made You". In the 2011 single Fast Lane, Eminem raps about riding in his car while listening to Ice Ice Baby.
American Music Awards
People's Choice Awards
The Factual Entertainment Awards
Golden Raspberry Awards
Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor
Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song