Much as even Beethoven was consigned to dwell in the shadow of Mozart, any artist who dares compose a Ninja Turtles rap must always feel the hot breath of Vanilla Ice at their back, laughing at their hubris. “Ninja Rap” may not have been the most lyrically thorough Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles song, but few can deny it was the most spiritually evocative—evidenced in the passion it continues to stir in the song’s biggest fan, Vanilla Ice. The occasional rapper has often spoken of what his Ninja Turtles moment meant to him. This is why he feels he must be brutally honest about his disappointment with the new Ninja Turtles rap, “Shell Shocked,” a song he believes fails to capture the emotional truth of “Ninja Rap.”
“With respect to all of the artists, the song doesn’t really do it for me,” Mr. Ice recently told GQ. “It feels a little artificial—what I mean by that is that it sounds like a bunch of executives in the corporate world put it together. It really does not fit the theme of the Ninja Turtles legend. I think you have to understand, and be a true Ninja, to possess the Magic to really pull off the secret sound.” Indeed, it’s not enough simply to say, “Go ninja, go ninja, go.” You have to know where ninja, where ninja came from.
Yesterday, he expanded on those thoughts for Mashable, saying that it didn’t feel as though Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, and Ty Dolla $ign were “real Ninja Turtles fans,” but rather just some currently popular rappers who were awkwardly grafted onto the children’s property via studio executive decision. Whereas when Vanilla Ice was that rapper, at least he created his song out of a deep personal connection with the Turtles, and his desire to see them—just for one night—forget their troubles and dance. And they did. And it was magic.
You’ve got to understand the history and have a magical connection—a connection that’s tied in to the beginning of the turtles and all the way through their evolution. I would connect with it, and it wouldn’t be corporate. When I did the “Ninja Rap” I did that in my hotel room by myself with an SP-1200 drum machine. I did the whole thing there because I could see the turtles dancing there. It was all about dancing back in those times. Before, the turtles were not expected to dance. I actually got the turtles to dance in the movie.
“Have you ever seen a turtle get down?” Vanilla Ice asked in the opening stanza of “Ninja Rap,” and while it was all about dancing back in the Roaring ’90s, the answer was no. But Vanilla Ice had seen the turtles dancing. And soon everyone else saw as well.
Anyway, despite his disappointment, Vanilla Ice offered his full respect to the “legendary artists” behind “Shell Shocked,” and he doesn’t seem to fault them for sampling a part of his greatest musical success, then turning it into a cheap facsimile, for obvious reasons. Still, he stands by his convictions that one should only make music because you’re a true Ninja, not just because you’re working at the behest of corporations.
Vanilla Ice then returned to using “Ninja Rap” to sell macaroni and cheese and rap battling Cap’n Crunch.