Killer Klassix: Vanilla Ice- “Hard To Swallow”

Taking influence from Nu-metal and pairing it with free-verse rap, Vanilla Ice’s “Hard to Swallow” is exactly that, faltering in every aspect of his departure; death-gripping his ego on the failure which re-launched his career.


Antonio Llanos, Staff Writer

Upon taking recommendations from individuals on campus, my adviser threw one of the most interesting pieces of music my way, as a joke, but nonetheless still insistent I expand my musical horizons. I try to have an expansive musical repertoire, spanning from rap to hip hop to indie, but I am mostly drawn to the alternative scene, such as punk, emo and metalcore. That being said, nothing could have prepared me for this…Jim Fuller’s recommendation – Vanilla Ice, “Hard To Swallow.

“Hard To Swallow” is the third album by 90s rap star Vanilla Ice. The album was a musical departure from Vanilla Ice’s conventional proud hip-hop and confidentially driven sound. It replaced  classic hip-hop instrumental grooves with metal and hardcore transitions between verses. Marketed as a passionate project, not enough effort on this album could have saved it from being a failure. Using Vanilla Ice’s dysfunctional upbringing on the album is the only accessible component.ven then, Vanilla Ice refuses to compromise his death grip dedication to rap and craft a new image. Instead, he doubles down on his stale artisanry and misses an opportunity for what could have been a nuanced musical collaborative.        

“Living” initiates the skate rock experience Ice was hoping to bring to fans. Rather than high energy and aggressive passion, the track is lackluster. He simply carries over his egotistical rap lyrics and pairs them to instrumentals that frame his passionless attempt to make skate rock. Vanilla Ice’s lyrics read “Here it is, a dope hit/Iceman comin’ with a dope hit/Cause a few suckers need their throats slit/Jealous cause I went multi-platinum/Now I’m gonna blast ’em in the head.”  While lyrically his track reads aggressive, Vanilla Ice sounds like he’s trying to prove a point to the individuals who doubted his endeavors, which ultimately reads as unconfident and immature.       

“Fuck Me” was actually a track in which Vanilla Ice’s efforts were well heard, with assistance from Casey Chaos, former Disorderly Conduct and Amen member.  What makes the track work is Chaos and Ice acting as a collaborative to bridge the gap between both genres. Vanilla Ice and Chaos both align their verses to coincide with their rhythmic flow, driving aggressively to the chorus to deliver a message, foundationally supported by the instrumental track.  The track is veiled in Vanilla Ice’s personal story of a “backstabbing friend.” It highlights how such experiences burn a mark in our minds. The title acts as a metaphor not an act, as though the betrayal ultimately left Ice vulnerable and truly exposed. Ice’s verse reads “Acting phony, acting like that you was my homie/Like Ginuwine, you tried to ride me like a pony/I’m the only one that’s gonna shine, so forget it/You critics, who wasn’t with it/Mad cause I flipped it back on ya.”  Whether Ice was speaking to musical critics, fans, rap “gate keepers” or whoever, the message is clear that even though he doesn’t care, he cares enough to write a track about not caring .  As confusing as the track is, I still nodded my head in enjoyment.     

“A.D.D.” is a song about Vanilla Ice’s exploration of his learning disability, once again aided by Chaos. Overall the track works once again, but it is too heavily reliant on Chaos’ involvement. As someone who also has a learning disability, this track was better suited to a different instrumental and handled with a little more care, highlighting another problem with the album as a whole. Chaos’s lyrics read  “Damn I’m like an idiot when I go insane/Too impulsive, too impatient/Anxiety’s got me screamin this hatred/Still I strive to stay alive/Gotta get mine…”  While I feel like Chaos said way more in a single verse than Ice does in a single song, the essence of the track really comes true and honestly highlights the difficulties of a learning disability.

“Stompin’ Through the Bayou” is the final track on the album, which is a well-composed song about Ice’s old stomping grounds in Florida, but he does nothing but express his discontent for his hometown. Ice shouts verses as though he is condemning a 10 year old for getting mud on his carpet, but he is actually talking about his home in Florida. Ice’s verse states, “No more of the bullshit, I don’t give a fuck/People steal all I take and that really sucks/I can see your schemes, you false prophets/Fuck the American dream, that shit is toxic/I split bones in half, keep you in boxes/Stomping through the bayou..” No one can stop this!While the actual instrumental for the track is well composed and sounds like a protective, slam metal track, the pairing of lyrics is disconnected and removed. 

Vanilla ice’s emotional and background investment should have been at the forefront, spearheading the success of the album.  However, the album plays like a missed opportunity because it actually was.  Vanilla Ice used his own past and vulnerabilities to compose most of the lyrics for this album, therefore, the album should have been handled with more care and composed with more of a musical effort than the failure it is seen as today. Ultimately, I wish Ice had used his resources and collaborated with talents like Shannon Larkin of Godsmack and longtime industrial Metal Guitarist Sonny Mayo recruited for this project; it would have been the perfect preface to a band like Sum 41. Taking influence from Nu-metal and pairing it with free-verse rap, Vanilla Ice’s “Hard to Swallow” is exactly that, faltering in every aspect of his departure; death-gripping his ego on the failure that re-launched his career.