Robert Matthew Van Winkle (born October 31, 1967), best known by his stage name Vanilla Ice, is an American rapper and home improvement television personality.
Born in Dallas, Texas, and raised in Texas and South Florida, Van Winkle released his debut album, “Hooked,” in 1989 through Ichiban Records, before signing a contract with SBK Records, which released a reformatted version of the album under the title “To the Extreme.” Van Winkle's single "Ice Ice Baby" was the first hip hop single to top the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. On the success of the single, the album went to #1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, and was later certified 7x platinum.
While on tour in 1991, Van Winkle found out that SBK had instigated the publication of a book, “Ice by Ice: The Vanilla Ice Story in His Own Words,” written by Quon and attributed to Van Winkle, which detailed false biographical information, including claims that he had attended school with Luther Campbell, and that Van Winkle had grown up in the ghettos of Miami.
He followed in 1994 with “Mind Blowin” which failed to reach the Billboard 200 and was the rapper's final release on SBK Records. After falling into heavy drug abuse, and a failed suicide attempt, Van Winkle was inspired to change his musical style and lifestyle. He moved back to Florida and took a break from music, focusing on motorcrossing.
In 1995, Van Winkle set up a recording studio in Miami and joined a grunge band, Picking Scabs. Van Winkle expressed an interest in performing hip hop-influenced rock music, but found that the band was unable to produce the sound he was looking for. In 1996, he appeared in the song "Boom" by Bloodhound Gang on their album “One Fierce Beer Coaster.”
Van Winkle's third studio album, 1998’s “Hard to Swallow,” took a turn toward rap-metal and featured a darker sound and lyrics than Van Winkle's previous work.
Having attracted a following outside of his former mainstream audience, Van Winkle began recording independently. MTV News reported that Insane Clown Posse would make an appearance on Van Winkle's next album, tentatively titled “Bomb Tha System.” In October 2000, Van Winkle announced that his next album would be titled “Skabz,” and that Chuck D was confirmed to appear on the album. It was initially planned as a double album featuring a disc containing rock-oriented material and a disc of hip hop songs. In October 2001, “Skabz” and “Bomb Tha System” were released as a single album, “Bi-Polar.”
In 2003, Van Winkle contributed vocals to "Off the Chain" by 7x70, a side project of Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain and Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz. In 2003, Ultrax re-released “Bomb Tha System” under the title “Hot Sex,” which was a single from the original album. From January to February 2004, Van Winkle appeared on the reality television series The Surreal Life.
In August 2005, Van Winkle released his fifth studio album, “Platinum Underground.” Van Winkle stated that the title of the album reflected the fact that he could maintain a fanbase without mainstream airplay.
In September 2008, Van Winkle signed a contract with Cleopatra Records, recording the cover album “Vanilla Ice Is Back!” at the label's request. The album was released in November 2008, and contained covers of songs by Public Enemy, House of Pain, Bob Marley and Cypress Hill.
In 2009, Van Winkle started filming a reality television series called The Vanilla Ice Project which premiered on DIY Network in October 2010. The season is focused on renovating a house in Palm Beach, Florida with each episode dedicated to a different room in the house. In 2011, Van Winkle appeared on the sixth season of the UK show Dancing on Ice.