Pop Music : Vanilla Ice on Track and Off Base at Mayan

What’s the young white rapper with the nation’s best-selling album doing playing a 25-minute track date at a half-filled disco? But that’s what Vanilla Ice did on Friday at the Mayan in downtown L.A.

Track dates--where the artist sings live to a background of taped instrumentals--are generally for unestablished newcomers, not red-hot rookies like Ice. Apparently, this show was a break-in date, part of the preparation for his upcoming headlining tour, which includes a Dec. 29 performance at Anaheim’s Celebrity Theatre.

In person, Ice is an authoritative rapper who delivers his lines with a punchy, smoothly rhythmic style. He’s no Big Daddy Kane, but at the Mayan he showed that the tame, wimpy raps on his album don’t reflect his real talent. Ice proved surprisingly charismatic during the short set. He also proved tasteless and insensitive, attacking a heckler with a barrage of vicious profanity that included frequent use of a derogatory term for gays, inspiring boos from the crowd in return.

Surrounded by black male dancers, Ice came on like someone who grew up in the black culture--which he did. Ice actually dances better than he raps, having mastered intricate, street-style moves.


By tapping a white pop audience that wasn’t really into rap, Ice is giving the genre the kind of mainstream acceptance it’s never enjoyed. But sophisticated rap fans still consider Ice’s raps just pop pap.