Monday, July 28, 2008

Vanilla Ice = Shuffle ?

Did Vanilla Ice influence the Shuffle? Not a chance, thank god :)

Many years back, a Melbourne DJ joked that the Melbourne Shuffle was a cross between MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice.

To locals in the underground at the time it was an obvious joke, and a sarcastic laugh at the mainstream club music industry who were trying to imitate the underground Shuffle movement.

It was an insiders joke meaning the mainstream commercial clubs of Melbourne such as the Chevron - a long establish mainstream club in 1990, who played tracks such as MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice, didn't have a clue about contemporary dance music, especially underground music such as techno and acid, which were the staples of parties at the time.

It was like saying today Britney Spears is an underground Hardstyle artist. Everyone knew it was meant to be joke, they were so completely different.

The joke would be repeated as fact by mainstream people trying to be cool. They of course just became 'the' joke, with the underground rolling on the floor laughing.

Unfortunately this joke made it's way into Wikipedia some time ago as fact (it's gone now) and it was picked up by people unfamiliar with Shuffle culture and Melbourne's sense of humour.

There are still a few sites around and some new forums, who have unfortunately copied and pasted this old joke along with other stuff about the origins of the shuffle, unaware they're being made fun of.


The Melbourne underground was completely separate by choice from the mainstream in the early 1990's. They were worlds apart. The Melbourne underground had been established for decades, with it's own venues, newspapers, radio shows, bands, fashion, theatre productions, book/magazine publications, even it's own suburbs.

It was common for underground people to be so completely immersed in the underground lifestyle that they didn't have a clue what was being played in the commercial music scene, and didn't want to know. It was like you were in a different country, with it's own language.

At the time rap and hip-hop was generally considered a spent force. It had been done to death for 10 years during the 1980's, won Grammy's etc and was now descending into 'Rich white boys playing ghetto's' or homophobic drug dealers treating their girlfriends like dogs.

The underground Shuffle scene would have nothing to do with that, and it became an embarrassment to be associated with rap and has-been hiphop.

Part of the popularity of Shuffle culture was that it was so different in attitude to rap/ hiphop culture. Women were treated as equals and with respect, the gay community was welcomed, and everyone was there to have fun, not to be some bloated bad boy wanker. 

Wanna be rap singer Vanilla Ice did a song called Ice Ice Baby with some very average dancing in 1990. It was an instant mainstream hit and instantly drew a couple of court cases for theft.

Vanilla Ice claimed to be the creator of two songs which were both blatant sampled rip-offs of some very big singles.

One was a 1981 song by Queen and David Bowie called Under Pressure, the other 'Play That Funky Music' by Wild Cherry 1976.

Both were monster international hits, which Vanilla Ice could only dream of getting close to in talent. He settled out of court with Ice Ice Baby, and had to pay $500,000 to the creators of 'Play that Funky music'

He became the laughing stock of the music industry.

Sampling well known tracks was becoming more common, and to do that without permission, acknowledging credit, or paying royalties to the creators, was considered both a cheap rip off and acknowledgement you had no talent so you stole from others.

Plus no one could believe you could be so damned stupid to think you could get away with such an obvious con job. It was just the dumbest thing anyone had heard of.

Nobody wanted to be associated with such a dork, especially the Shuffle underground.

Hear the tracks and the originals below.


The Rip Off

Vanilla Ice - Ice Ice Baby 1990


The Original

Queen - Under Pressure Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie. 1981. Vid 1986.


The Rip Off

Play That Funky Music Vanilla Ice 1990


The Original

Play That Funky Music Wild Cherry 1976


All the dance moves you see in Vanilla Ice's vids you can see in this 1950's Al Minns & Leon James Charleston routine and the clips from West Side Story. These moves are all the standard repertoire of any jazz or tap styled dancing.

They had been around for decades by the time the Shuffle was created. They were taught in every dance school across the world. They were even more common than break or shuffling, and anybody who had had any dance lessons recognised them immediately as jazz/tap dance steps.

No mystery at all to the hundreds of female shufflers in the oldskool era who had been dancing since they were 6 years old, and taught the same moves to the guys who hadn't had a dance lesson in their lives.

Just as the 'T Step' which Big Milan shows in his how to shuffle vid, is position 1, in classical ballet, and has been for a few hundred years.

Al Minns & Leon James

The street/ghetto gang and battle stuff is also not confined to hiphop or Vanilla Ice, you can spot the original version of this stuff and Vanilla's hair style in the classic 1957 West Side Story Broadway production. Here's the 1961 film version.

See jumps, kicks, spins and full on body contact brawling in a ghetto scene between the Sharks and The Jets, two rival race based crews dancing for supremacy, even a bit of graffiti. - all 20 years before hiphop and 30 years before Vanilla Ice.

Even see the inspiration for Michael Jacksons BEAT IT - a phrase used in this West Side Story clip, and Jackson even includes the opening finger clicking to pay respect to the source. Jackson's famous 'Red Jacket' is also based on the gang leaders red shirt. Even the ankle high cuff of the long pants that Jackson wore, showing his socks, (where they are usually below the ankle in modern styling) are based on this 1950's fashion. He was totally into it.

Beat It >>>

West Side Story - Prologue 1961


Check out the car park dancing, just like shufflers do, as well. And the title song 'Cool' (after a gang member has died) sung by a guy called, ICE. How about that eh?

West Side Story - Cool 1961


So did Vanilla Ice influence the Shuffle ?

hehe, you have got to be kidding, because we are.  So, do yourself a favour and have a laugh with us ;)


  1. your right hes a total fake :D never liked him anyway, now i can tell my friends that love him about this :D lol

  2. "All the dance moves you see in Vanilla Ice's vids you can see in this 1950's Al Minns & Leon James Charleston routine and the clips from West Side Story"?

    Sorry, but this is not true, if so tell me in wich minute of these vids, because i don't get it. Some moves might be there. But not even close to 50% of Vanilla ice dance moves. VI has moves picked from a lot of influences(not only from this videos)and maybe even transformed some, he had even moves that i never saw anybody doing but him till today.

    I'm a many style dancer, and dance teacher myself, and i think i know what i'm talking about.

    Respect to the dancers in these vids, both the Al Minns & Leon James Charleston and the West Side Story dancers. These are/were professional dancers/actors so u shouldn't compare them and VI. Cause VI performed for all the media.

    Thanks for the 50's vid. I didn't know this one, and keep the great work.


  3. Thanks Ricardo, No I won't do your work for you don't be so lazy, work out the steps yourself. That's the whole point of the post, it's an exercise for dancers to expand their knowledge of dance. 'Exercise' as in YOU do it, not me.

    And before you get all righteous about it, just what moves by VI are you talking about ?, and where is your proof that VI was the first and only person ever on the whole of the planet in all history to do those steps hmmmm?

    Not one reference...

    as you say;
    "he (VI) had even moves that i never saw anybody doing but him till today"

    So now you know more about dance, I'm glad I could help.