I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this is a blog, and this is a post about Vanilla Ice, so you know where it’s going: The 5:10 express to snarkopolis. How wrong you are, o cynical reader! Yes, this post is about Vanilla Ice’s new album. And yes, the new album is a fairly horrible amalgam of pseudo-rave, pseudo-metal, pseudo-rap, and awful flow. But though Vanilla Ice may be once again doing something he probably shouldn’t–his rap-metal incursion, making Ron Jeremy look mature, pissing off Suge Knight–he is, at least, doing something new: a covers album. A rap covers album. Called Vanilla Ice is Back: Hip Hop Classics.
Before getting into the analysis, let’s dispense with the tracklist:
1. Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice, VanWinkle, R.
2. You Dropped a Bomb on Me – Vanilla Ice, Leeson, M.
3. Fight the Power – Vanilla Ice, Boxley, J.
4. Jump Around – Vanilla Ice, Schrody, E.
5. Baby Got Back – Vanilla Ice, Ray, A.
6. You Gots to Chill – Vanilla Ice, Sermon, E.
7. I Got It Made – Vanilla Ice, Taylor, D.
8. Buffalo Soldier – Vanilla Ice, Williams, N.
9. Treat ‘Em Right – Vanilla Ice, Simpson, R.
10. Insane in the Brain – Vanilla Ice, Freese, L.
11. Ice Ice Baby [Rock Hero Mix] – Vanilla Ice, VanWinkle, R.
12. Ice Ice Baby [Club Crasher Mix] – Vanilla Ice, VanWinkle, R.
13. Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice, VanWinkle, R.
I’m no expert in these matters, but as far as I know, no one has done a covers album like this before. Yes, there are albums of rap covers, but only done in different styles, like folk or indie. Mr. Van Winkle, however, is covering rap songs as a rapper, and that would seem to be something new.
What’s more interesting, though, is how it’s being framed. Check out the cover (above): that doesn’t look like a hip-hop album. In fact, the cover design is an homage to an Elvis album, as is the album’s title. Weird! But it makes sense, kinda. Leaving aside the Clash echoes, this album really does hearken back to an older style of music, one in which the singer mattered more than the song. Van Winkle is casting himself–hilariously, but still–in the mold of classic vocalists covering standards and newer hits by other artists. And sure, it seems ridiculous. But it’s not necessarily a bad idea in the abstract. Pop music is experiencing a glut of songs, and we can all think of great songs that just haven’t gotten the right exposure. Why not covers?
Of course, that’s pop, not rap, and for rap it maybe seems like less of a good idea, if only because no one’s done it before and the first person to really run with it is Vanilla Ice. But maybe it’ll be like a Nixon in China thing!