By Paul Cantor
These days most people know former rapper Vanilla Ice from reality TV shows like “The Vanilla Ice Project” and MTV’s “The Surreal Life.” But back in 1990, his hit single “Ice Ice Baby” brought the Dallas-native enormous levels of fame and helped To The Extreme, his debut album, sell upwards of 11 million copies.
Unfortunately for Ice, though, in the midst of the song shooting up the charts, he gave up a portion of the song’s copyright to Suge Knight and lost out on millions in royalties. In an interview with Interview magazine, Ice says Knight used the money he earned from “Ice Ice Baby” to form Death Row Records.
“From the money that Suge got from To the Extreme from me, he started Dr. Dre,” he says. “The Chronic record came from the funding from my record; Tupac came from the funding of my record; Snoop Dogg came from the funding from my record.”
Music industry lore has it that Knight hung him upside down from a hotel balcony in order to get him to agree to make the deal.
“That’s a lie,” says Ice. “I read the story, and I heard it, and I had to defend it nine million times, but he never took me to the balcony, threatened to hang me over, or anything.”
Ice says there is some truth to the story, but indicates that Knight was largely a gentleman about things, and infers that he didn’t need to be hung from a balcony to understand it was a shakedown.
“Rap music is gangster, it’s been gangster from the beginning,” he says. “Yes, Suge Knight took some money from me, and he did take me to the balcony, explained it to me. He was actually nice to me … … [people think] I’m so bitter about it—I never went to the police, I never did anything like that. I knew better … [But] it’s funny how this story has evolved and been polished up and changed around to make him a monster and everything— hell, I’m still friends with Suge Knight … I look at it like I’ve invested in some of the greatest hip-hop music in the world.”