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VANILLA ICE (Buy CDs by this artist)
To the Extreme (Ultrax/SBK) 1990
Extremely Live (Ultrax/SBK) 1991

No sooner had MC Hammer released his grip on the album chart's top spot then this joker came along, jet propelled by a catchy pop single, "Ice Ice Baby," built on the bass and piano intro of Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure." Playing both sides of the racial fence with a dual (and equally unreal) image of street tough and non- threatening all-American, this third-rate rapper reached an absurd level of popularity, a phenomenon that mainly serves to underscore the primacy of marketing and prejudice in current music.

To the Extreme isn't totally wretched (not that it's good, but there are worse hip-hop LPs to be had), and "Ice Ice Baby" has the notable pop attributes of modulated chords and a real chorus (Ice isn't the first rapper to make that move, but it is a significant and valid crossover maneuver that bears further exploration). On the other hand, the notion that this is PG-rated pap for teenyboppers is completely unsubstantiated by the sex and guns lyrics; the charge that Ice has watered down the essence of rap to make it palatable to a non-black audience would seem to be the result of simple lameness more than conscious stylistic moderation.

VI has continued on through thin and thinner, trying thrash metal, a rap return, reality television and everything else imaginable for a one-hit wonder.

[Ira Robbins]