Vanilla Ice Says He Broke Down Sampling Barriers And Took Rap Mainstream
Vanilla Ice has gone Amish—really. Rob Van Winkle, better known as Vanilla Ice, recently bunked up with the Amish while embarking on a journey to learn the ways of the traditional clan, leaving behind his smartphone and all other essential electronic equipment in efforts to film his DIY series Vanilla Ice Goes Amish. Reflecting on the experience, the pop icon spoke to XXL about the Amish having been strongly misunderstood in society, and the lessons he learned along the way—including the birth of kitten he named "Baby Ice.
Along with playing mid-wife, the Ice also indulged in the many other practices of the Amish, including the shoveling of "pig shit" and grooming sheep. "They know what’s going on," he says in a phone interview. "They’re very hip. Just cause they don’t have these things doesn’t mean that they’re not connected to what’s going on in the world. I don’t think they’re really in tune with the latest dubstep mix from Knife party or something like that but they’re still in tune with the news." Ice also said that a part II of the series is definitely on his list.
Although Ice has been exploring new avenues recently—including a career in real estate and construction, as well as his own lighting line—he assured that all is not lost music-wise. Stating that he plans to return to music, Ice also mentioned his many hip-hop contributions that are often overlooked. "Sampling barriers, I broke down," he says. "They made a spectacle out of it and it made it okay for Puff Daddy and everybody else to go make music. They figured it out. There was nobody before me that I could use as a guideline. [I] took rap mainstream." —Miranda J. (@Randa_Writes)
"I had to help a cat give birth; it’s head got stuck half way out. I had to reach in there and pull this thing out. It was at the same time disgusting and emotional, too. So I had to birth this very cute and beautiful little baby cat that I named Baby Ice.”
Are there any rappers today that remind you of yourself?
No, I’m kind of a Renaissance Man. I just kind of get in where I fit in. I just enjoy life, I take life day by day.
What would you say about the evolution of hip-hop?
Sampling barriers, I broke down. They made a spectacle out of it and it made it okay for Puff Daddy and everybody else to go make music. They figured it out. There was nobody before me that I could use as a guideline. [I] took rap mainstream. I had the first rap song that had ever been No. 1 on the pop charts. The most-sold rap record in the history of the world, and that’s extreme. 160 million. The fastest-selling [hip-hop album] of all time, and it still stands today. I don’t think it will ever be broken at this point.
Moving to your television show. Would you say it was a culture shock, being with the Amish?
Definitely a culture shock. Not having a cell phone and all other electronics was extremely difficult. The Amish do not swim. So they don’t own any swimming trunks or any of that. They do everything by hand. And they bake amazing apple pies. Great apple pies.
Did you ever say, “I’m not doing that” to one of their requests? Something that you thought was completely crazy and just outlandish?
There were a lot of those, but I ended up doing them because they’ll kind of frown on you if you don’t. I got chores, I had to shovel pig shit, manure and scatter it across the field for fertilization. I had to clean the stalls, I had to dag the sheep, which means I had to groom the hair that grows on the sheep and trim it off. I put the world’s first Vanilla Ice zig-zag hairdo on a sheep. I had the shaped line in the back of my hair so I did that on a sheep and it was hilarious. I drove a buggie everywhere, drove it through a drive-thru. I wanted to kill the rooster and make breakfast with it. And just feeding the animals, taking care of the babies. I had to help a cat give birth; it’s head got stuck half way out. I had to reach in there and pull this thing out. It was at the same time disgusting and emotional, too. So I had to birth this very cute and beautiful little baby cat that I named Baby Ice. You just get used to it after a while. You get used to taking showers once a week. It’s the way they do it and if you really want to walk in their shoes, you’ve got to do it like that.
What’s one thing that people have just totally wrong about the Amish?
That they don’t pay taxes. That they don’t pay social security because they take care of their own. Another misconception is that the biggest population is in Pennsylvania—it's actually in Holmes County, Ohio. They wear the same shoes everyday, they’re not allowed to show any glamorous lifestyle; no electricity, no TVs, no cars, but they do own cars which is strange. They don’t have birth certificates so they don’t have driver’s licenses. They have cars that other people drive.
I’ll tell you the biggest misconception, people think that the Amish community is dwindling because of modern technology and all that, it’s exactly the opposite. Every 10 years the Amish community doubles in population. They’re growing and with the money they make, they buy more land. They’ve got land all over Pennsylvania and in Canada. Some are in Fort Myers, Florida. A lot of them ride bicycles and play sports and stuff like that. They only go to school until the 8th grade. After their education, they’re ready for work.
"It’s not a light switch. I don’t do it for financial reasons, I make music 'cause it’s my diary and I love poetry. I will always make music, I never left it. When you have a couple of passions that you really love, I don’t think you have to focus on just one.”
It’s interesting that they’re around a lot of electronics and all these things that they’re not allowed to use. How do they deal with that?
Well they have this thing called Rumspringa, where they turn 16 and can go out on their own and enjoy cell phones and do whatever they want. But believe it or not, they don’t miss it. Out of sight, out of mind. They’re so busy taking care of the farm, feeding the animals, plowing the fields, mowing the grass and making dinner that they don’t miss it at all. And if they do want to watch the World Series, each family is encouraged to have 10 or more children with the hopes that 1 or 2 of them come back to the Amish church. And the rest of them will go on usually to be Mennonites which is the same teachings religion-wise but they are allowed modern luxuries like phones, cars, and all that stuff. So they get into the horse, they drive over to their kids’ house and watch TV, the World Series, they get on Google and check everything out. They know what’s going on. They’re very hip. Just cause they don’t have these things doesn’t mean that they’re not connected to what’s going on in the world. I don’t think they’re really in tune with the latest dubstep mix from Knife party or something like that but they’re still in tune with the news. They read newspapers. They figure out how to do it and they’re comfortable.
How did you even get into designing and construction in the first place?
I got into construction because I found another passion. I love building and it’s been 18 years. I get contracted to build many homes. I have a lighting line. I make chandeliers and all kinds of different things, and just do it really well. I’m coming out with my second line next month.
So what would you say is next? Do you plan to continue to with construction or continuing in the acting field or music?
Well I just had a movie with Adam Sandler called That’s My Boy, it did well at the box office. I do plan to continue with my acting but I’m not focusing on that right now, I’m focusing on the Amish thing. After the Amish show airs we’re filming right now another season [of the Vanilla Ice Project]. I’m definitely going to continue with real estate. It’s fun, it’s a passion. It’s been bad news for real estate for about eight years and people are trying to get back into living the dream, which is owning your own home and decorating it the way you want. Many people’s dream has been ripped right out from in front of them because of foreclosures and tuition or something like that. This puts people in a different mindset. It’s motivating and inspirational and we come up with some great ideas.
Do you ever plan on returning to music?
I never really leave music. I love poetry, I’m always writing poems. One day I will [come back]. It’s not a light switch. I don’t do it for financial reasons, I make music 'cause it’s my diary and I love poetry. I will always make music, I never left it. Right now I’m into construction and real estate. The show is No. 1 on the network, and I’m really proud of it. We’re enjoying the experience. When you have a couple of passions that you really love, I don’t think you have to focus on just one.