On the 22nd of August 1990, Vanilla Ice released his debut album “To the Extreme”. On it, a track that would later on become his most famous hit, turning the singer into an internet laughing stock by the same occasion. The track in question is the infamous “Ice Ice Baby.”
The single climbed to the top of the charts in 10 countries including the UK Singles chart and the US Billboard 100. However, not everybody felt over the moon with the new rap single and its explosion in popularity. A small rock English rock band by the name of Queen saw in the bass line a very obvious rip off of their own song, co written and co performed with The singer David Bowie, Under Pressure.
The similarity is undeniable to anyone listening to both songs and seeing the popularity and money that Ice Ice baby was generating, Queen was not going to let it slide. The band’s lawyers got involved and quickly threatened to sue Vanilla Ice for copyright infringement. The American rapper tried to defend himself, pleading that it was nothing more than sampling, a very common practice in the rap industry. However, the origin of the sample and the artists responsible were not given credits and therefore earned no royalties.
Thankfully for Vanilla Ice, the case did not end up going to court and got settled in private. The amount was not revealed until much later, the sum of 4 million in USD was payed to the band Queen along with writing credits for the 4 members on the song.
What started as a simple sampling issue, stained the reputation of the rapper. Ironically, Ice Ice Baby gave a sudden rise in popularity to the original Under Pressure track as younger generations discovered it through the rapper.
The last straw in this story was the now infamous interview of Vanilla Ice trying to defend his song by claiming the base line was similar but not actually ripped off, due to an extra note added to the last down beat of the line, making it “two entirely different bass lines”.
This is the story of when the rock legends Queen came to co-write and earn royalties on a 90’s rap phenomenon.
Just for fun, here is the video of Vanilla Ice clearly explaining the difference between the two songs, I’ll let you be the judge.