(July 2, 2020). I’m not a comedian by any stretch of the imagination, but the jokes just write themselves for this article.
To start, it was reported on July 1 in Entertainment Weekly and several other outlets that ‘90s rapper and two-hit-wonder Vanilla Ice (real name Robert Van Winkle) will “perform for thousands” at a Texas venue this Friday, July 3.
I say “it was reported” because I will need an out when someone wakes me out of my stupor and tells me “you got punk’d!” by “fake news” if what I’m posting here turns out to be a hoax.
For the kiddies out there who are more familiar with the term “fake news” than “punk’d,” Vanilla Ice is the rapper who – along with MC Hammer – owned the mainstream charts from 1990-91. His album To the Extreme contained his only two hits: “Ice Ice Baby” – the first hip-hop single to top the Billboard Hot 100 (in 1990) – and “Play That Funky Music,” his top-5 sendup of the old Wild Cherry No. 1 funk/pop hit from 1976.
Ice’s album itself sped to No. 1 in 1991 and became the fastest-selling rap album of its day. It seemed back then that we couldn’t get enough of the first white rapper to make a real dent in hip-hop.
And then the bottom fell out.
After “Play That Funky Music,” Vanilla Ice never returned to the top 40 again with any subsequent single releases, and none of his five subsequent albums, which include telling titles like Mind Blowin’, Hard to Swallow, Bi-Polar and W.T.F. (see? I told you the jokes just write themselves here), ever made the Billboard 200.
If the term “one-era-megastar” could be defined in hip-hop, Vanilla Ice would be its poster child.
In full disclosure, the W.T.F. in Vanilla’s case stands for Wisdom, Tenacity and Focus – the subtitle of his last album in 2011.
And it’s apparently his kind of “wisdom” that led to the decision to have this concert in Austin – the capital city of a state that just this past week reversed decisions to open bars and other venues in the wake of record numbers of new COVID-19 cases there and throughout the nation. In a quest to relive his ‘90s glory, Vanilla would be shunning conventional wisdom – and common sense – if he pulls this off.
But it may be the rapper’s “tenacity” that is owed credit for a legal loophole that allows this concert to happen despite the Texas governor’s shutdown order. According to Entertainment Weekly, the hosting venue – Emerald Point Bar & Grill – qualifies as a restaurant, which allows it to remain open amid bar shutdowns in the state. This “restaurant” just happens to have a large-capacity, general-admission concert space included, paving the way for Vanilla’s return.
Anticipating his appearance, the rapper posted on his Instagram page some footage of his old concert crowds (presumably from the early-90s) and the statement: “I can’t wait to get back to this.”
He went on to say, “the ‘90s were the best. We didn’t have coronavirus, or cell phones, or computers…” (actually, we did have computers then, but Vanilla is allowed some poetic license here).
Ice continued, “We had 5.0’s, blockbuster, Beavis and Butthead, Wayne’s World, Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan…”
(Blockbuster is a reference to the old brick-and-mortar video store chain, which didn’t survive the 2000s and the digital streaming era.)
And that’s where we get to the “focus” part of Vanilla’s “W.T.F.” This is a guy who includes among the ‘90s’ virtues Beavis and Butthead and Wayne’s World. Now we begin to see the rationale behind his decision to hold a large in-person concert in the middle of an ongoing public health emergency.
Promoters of this outdoor holiday event, titled “Independence Day Throwback Beach Party,” are selling 2500 tickets ranging from $25 (general admission ) to $300 for VIP seats (the latter having reportedly sold out).
So, let me get this straight: there are people who paid $300 to sit in a crowded venue during a viral pandemic in a week where the numbers of cases of infections are in record-breaking territory…
…to see Vanilla Ice?
To the promoters’ credit, the event is in an outdoor venue, where the virus’ spread is less likely. The 2500 tickets represent 50 percent of the venue’s capacity, in keeping with the state’s seating restrictions for “restaurants.”
Still, I’m sure Texas governor Greg Abbott didn’t have this in mind when he ordered all bars to re-close on Friday, June 27 due to large upticks in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. This happened as Texas just announced a record-high 8000-plus new cases in one day on July 1.
Maybe Vanilla Ice, who is originally from Dallas and apparently still has a cult following in his home state, knows that – with no real concert alternatives or other entertainment options available – he stands a good chance of actually selling out the 2500 tickets.
Or, at least, he has a chance of drawing a crowd of mostly curious 40-or-50-somethings who missed their opportunity to catch the “Ice Ice Baby” rapper during his heyday 30 years ago.
Or perhaps by the time I finish writing this, cooler heads will prevail and the event will be reconsidered for a future date.
Nah, silly me.
DJRob is an African-American freelance blogger from Chicago who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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