This samples the 1980 song "Under Pressure
" by Queen and David Bowie, but Vanilla Ice never got permission to use it. No lawsuit was filed, but it is likely that Vanilla Ice agreed to pay Queen and Bowie a settlement. According to industry insider Hans Ebert, Brian May of Queen first heard this song in a disco in Germany. He asked the DJ what it was, and learned that it was #1 in the US.
When this became a hit, it made "Under Pressure" more popular, as a lot of kids now recognized the tune. When Queen released their compilation album Classic Queen in 1992, they wrote in the liner notes: "In 1990 the bass and piano featured again on Vanilla Ice's number one single Ice Ice Baby."
A producer for Death Row Records claimed that he wrote this. Suge Knight, the head of the label and former football player, visited Vanilla Ice and convinced him to sign over the publishing rights to Death Row. It is rumored that part of the convincing involved hanging Vanilla Ice over a balcony by his ankles. Knight made a lot of money from those publishing rights, which went into Death Row Records and the development of artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac.
On the liner notes of the album, the composer credit is given to Vanilla Ice, Earthquake, and Mr. Smooth. They also thank MC Hammer, Ice T, Public Enemy, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Cash Money, EPMD, and 2 Live Crew, but there is not mention of Queen or David Bowie.
When Vanilla Ice was still unsigned, he released this as the B-side of "Play that Funky Music," which is a cover of a song by Disco band Wild Cherry. A DJ on a radio station in Columbus, Georgia flipped the single and played "Ice Ice Baby," which led to a record deal with SBK records. "Play that Funky Music" was released as the follow up, and Ice was also sued by Wild Cherry frontman Rob Parissi for not crediting him. Vanilla Ice was forced to pay over $500,000 in royalties.
This was the first single by a rapper to hit #1 in the US.
At one point, SBK Records pulled the single to boost sales of the album, which went on to sell over 7 million copies.
This was nominated for a Grammy in the category Best Rap Performance. The award went to MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This." It was only the second year a Grammy was given in the category, and the first was won by DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) for "Parents Just Don't Understand." These choices didn't go over well among many in the rap community who felt they were awarding irrelevant songs that could hardly be considered rap. Public Enemy was nominated along with MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice, and protested the show. 10 years later, attitudes changed and Eminem was a big winner at The Grammys.
This was used in holiday commercials for The Gap.
Vanilla Ice (real name, Robert Van Winkle), claims he was not happy with the image the record company created for him, but he went along with it because they paid him so much money. After this dropped off the charts, he became a bit of a joke, going through severe drug problems and depression as a result. In the late '90s he emerged as a hard-core artist, remaking this into a song called "Too Cold" on his 1998 album Hard To Swallow. In 2004, he appeared on the TV show The Surreal Life, where he shared a house with porn star Ron Jeremy, model Traci Bingham, and other sort-of famous people.
Vanilla Ice was a top Jet Ski racer around the time this came out.
When this went straight to #3 in the UK it was the highest entry for a new act. In 1994 the Danish singer Whigfield went straight in at #1, making her the first artist to go directly to #1 in the UK with a debut single.
Vanilla Ice has become a running joke, but at the time most people took him (sort of) seriously. The folks at the sketch comedy show In Living Color, however, jumped on the opportunity to ridicule him, putting Jim Carrey (the only white male member of the cast) in the role of Ice performing "White, White Baby." Sample lyric: "I take real rap and dupe it!" M.C. Hammer and Milli Vanilli were also basted on the show long before most people saw the inherent comedy in their acts.
The duo Jedward had a huge UK with with their reworking of this song, which was titled "Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)
." Vanilla Ice featured on their version.