The origin story of one Vanilla Ice, aka Vanilla, aka Robby Van Winkle, has been up for grabs for about 30 years now, since shortly after “Ice Ice Baby” made him a star and a ton of things (good and bad) that go with that. There is the version put forth by his label SBK Records, the version in his ghostwritten autobiography Ice by Ice, various accounts by various reporters, and several different retconned tales by the man himself.
This version, by Jeff Weiss, is maybe the most accurate, and puts the rapper’s beginnings in South Dallas front and center. It’s the sort of great story that has like four other great stories inside of it.
From Thursday night until the break of dawn Sunday morning, the dance floor [at City Lights] rumbled with a thousand rowdy but chic revelers. They freaked and hit pop locks, the Roger Rabbit, and the wop. The walls shook from Whodini, LL Cool J, Too Short, N.W.A, and the DFW’s own Fila Fresh Crew. Late at night, when you could feel the bass deep in your sternum, the spot would erupt to the seismic shake of Nemesis’s regional anthem “Oak Cliff.”
The ballers, hustlers, and dope dealers of South Dallas coexisted in uneasy communion. B-boys and D-boys intermingled with models and around-the-way girls. No evidence exists that Roy Tarpley was ever in attendance, but I’d bet on it. This was the heart of South Dallas, the trenches. Tussles were frequent, and being Texas, half the club came strapped. It was no place for the meek, but without risk, there is no reward. In the DJ booth was the surgical turntablist Floyd “Earthquake” Brown, who spotted something out of the ordinary one Saturday evening.
“I noticed this white guy dancing in the crowd,” Brown says. “City Lights was all Black, so at first I was like, ‘What does he think he’s doing?’ He could dance his ass off, and we’d never seen a white guy do that. The women was loving it and getting all up on him like, ‘Oooh, look at him.’ And he was like, ‘I’m not finna stop. I’m gonna make y’all love me.’”
The only mistake Weiss makes is later using the word “Metroplex.” But still, good stuff for a longhair from California. Give it some time.