Mind Blowin

Vanilla Ice

SBK Records, 1994


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Every once in a while, I get to prove just how uncool I am. (The frequency of this will go up once my daughter becomes a teenager.) I recently got to prove this as a caller to the "Tom And Joanie" morning show on WIIL-FM, when I was able to correctly identify the robotic renditions of a set of lyrics to be "Ninja Rap" by Vanilla Ice. Tom Kief, the station's webmaster and morning co-host, proclaimed me to be a dork of some caliber, joining an ever-growing crowd of well-wishers I've dealt with over the years. (Memo to Tom: Hey, you programmed the DJ-9000… and thanks for the software!)

So, allow me to say to Tom Kief and the gang at 95 WIIL Rock: Tom, this review is dedicated to you. You see, after happily making an ass of myself on the air, I dug out my previously unopened copy of Mind Blowin from the former Robert Van Winkle. If you want to blame anyone for this review, dear reader - ah, what the hell, blame Tom. Why not? Chances are good he's gonna have fun with this review on the air, and I need to deflect some of the flak!

You probably have never heard of this album - most likely because when it came out in 1994, the anti-Vanilla Ice sentiment was stronger than a North Side Chicagoan's hopes of the Cubs making it to the World Series in any given year. This disc had about as much promotion as a cock fight, and it died almost immediately upon release. (Interestingly enough, copies of Mind Blowin at one time were selling for outrageous prices on eBay.) Put it this way: I think Cool As Ice was in the theaters longer than this album was on the shelves.

In 1994, Ice had taken a critical and commercial beating. The public - mind you, the same group of people who bought 11 million copies of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 To The Extreme - turned on Ice quicker than a dog pissing on a fire hydrant. The failure of his movie Cool As Ice didn't help matters - and Ice's discovery of marijuana at some point might have confused even the strongest fan. Indeed, Mind Blowin was not the same rapper that was on To The Extreme, even with the occasional nod to "Ice Ice Baby". This was a rapper who paid homage to Cypress Hill (even to the point of sampling them) by worshipping the joint, even posing for a picture in the liner notes while holding a lit blunt. This was a rapper who nodded his head to gangsta rap, even though there is no cursing on this release. This was a rapper who nodded his head to 2 Live Crew and talked about gettin' freaky with the ladies - again while withholding the usual trash talk, but leaving very little to the imagination.

Yes, Mind Blowin was an album whose title lived up to expectations. But the shocking thing is that Ice actually had an album that was worth listening to, even if he didn't have a clue which direction he wanted to take his craft into. In truth, this release was pretty good - and if people hadn't been prejudiced by Ice's first releases and critical success-gone-sour, then this release might have been recognized for what it is.

I will pause now so the faithful readers can stop laughing.

Ice makes no bones about his earlier success and the difficulties one can have with going from nothing to the top of the charts ("Fame," "Bullet On The Chart"), but he claims that he's still the same guy he was all along. What Mind Blowin allows Ice to do is to explore facets of his career he couldn't have touched as a pin-up superstar, from the violent side of the music ("The Wrath") to the, aah, "cloudy" ("Roll 'Em Up") to the overtly sexual ("Now & Forever," "Blowin' My Mind"). What's surprising about these tracks is that Ice actually sounds liberated, and is more comfortable in his raps than he might have been otherwise.

This isn't to say that Mind Blowin is a masterpiece. There are still some vestiges of his old self that needed to be buried under a ten-ton boulder. "Iceman Party" sounds like it could have been left over from the To The Extreme sessions, while "I Go Down" could have been a better song overall had it not been for the half-assed chorus. C'mon, Ice, that was the best you could do on that particular song? And while we're at it, making references to Tupac Shakur doesn't necessarily put you on the same level as him.

Memo to Ice, just in case he's reading: Do my ears deceive me, or do I detect a sample of the live version of Mountain's "Long Red" on "Fame" - namely, the cry of "louder"? Let me know.

I recognize that admitting you like a Vanilla Ice record is akin to attending a Secret Service convention and waving a pistol around; sooner rather than later, someone's gonna open up a can of whup-ass on you. But in the case of Mind Blowin, I'll take the heat. Fact is, had people taken Ice a little more seriously when this came out, they would have recognized it as a serious transition for Ice from pop rap superstar to someone who wanted to take his craft a little more seriously. If you ever see a copy, it's worth checking out - so long as you go into the album with an open mind.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of SBK Records, and is used for informational purposes only.