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April 19, 2004

Vanilla Ice: His Beat Goes On

From: Washington Post - Washington,DC,USA - Apr 19, 2004

At Gallaudet, the Rhymes Didn't Much Matter, but the Floor Shook Plenty

Monday, April 19, 2004; Page C04

Vanilla Ice, the guy who briefly brought "word to your mother" into the national lexicon and was punished terribly for it, headlined a spring-fling party at Gallaudet University late Saturday night. Other than the audience being deaf, it was a very typical rock show. A particularly sweaty, loud and good one.

Ice's major-label debut, 1990's "To the Extreme," became the greatest selling hip-hop record of all time. But along the way, Ice suffered perhaps the most severe beating the pop culture police ever doled out. His rapping skills, artistic authenticity, race and haircut provided fodder for abuse.

But Ice never hid from the haters. Now 35, he's tried reinventing himself as a rap-metal artist and skate punker in the past decade but found no commercial success. He's also become a regular on the where-are-they-now circuit, having been bounced from the reality show "The Surreal Life" and KO'd by Todd Bridges in a boxing tournament for has-beens produced for the Fox network.

But there was nothing nostalgic, ironic or pitiable about his Gallaudet concert, held in a very crowded and massive underground loading dock as part of the school's biannual get-together with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf of Rochester, N.Y. Student groups had barbecue grills fired up near the exits, filling the room with thick smoke for the lasers and strobe lights to cut through. The subwoofer-heavy sound system was cranked up so the audience could feel the noise.

There was no sign interpreter to translate the lyrics as Ice, backed by a DJ and heavy metal drummer Chris A, thrashed around during performances of his more metallic raps, including "Oh My Gosh," "Prozac" and "Hot Sex."

He occasionally signed "I love you," a pinkie-and-index-finger move very similar to the devil horns flashed at rock shows. But the crowd clearly understood Ice's enthusiasm and kinetic antics, which had fans body-surfing, pumping fists and pogoing in time with the floor-shaking beats. A gaggle of girls hopped onstage to dance with Ice and wouldn't leave.

By the time he shrieked "Word to your mother!" and broke into "Ice Ice Baby" -- a tune recently tabbed by Blender magazine as the fifth worst song of all time -- the fans were having more fun than the security staff could allow. The campus cops appeared and threw the students off the stage. Ice then made the international sign for smoking, um, a cigarette, and waved goodbye.

-- Dave McKenna

© 2004 The Washington Post Company