Vanilla Ice & Afroman

Back to “Old-School” with Vanilla Ice, Afroman, and Many other Hip-Hop Acts at Bayfront

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

Several National and local hip-hop artists threw it down at Bayfront Park on Sunday and kicked off the brand new school year.

Even though the number of people attending the show was about half of the original 1000 expected, the crowd got a show to remember. Local rap group Kritical Kontact, who performed at the event, agreed.

“We had a great time,” Kritical Kontact said. “We also ended up giving out over 50 of our CDs for free, figuring that this would guarantee us a lot of new listeners. We got a lot of compliments from people talking to us, so we’re confident that we made some new fans. The only thing I may have done different was to lower the ticket cost. I think everyone was expecting a lot more people, and I bet the expensive tickets were the reason that so many others couldn’t make it. All and all, the show was really cool.”

Kritical Kontact was one of a handful of opening acts that has a local connection. The other earlier performers were: ONE BE LO, EFF’D UP, WHITE OR WHEAT, DIE[ODE], UNKNOWN PROPHETS, HEATBOX, and PHYDELIQ.

Putting on a festival is a lot of work, getting National acts to come to Duluth can be even harder, but getting a local crowd to shell out a few bucks can often prove almost impossible.

Even with well-known names like Vanilla Ice and Afroman, it is still hard to get Duluthians to dole out $25 for an advance ticket or $30 at the door. Show promoter and UMD alum Billy Smith learned a lot from the event. Billy indicated that he will do it again with a few tweaks.

“I am going to try to do it again, definitely,” Smith said. “The first year is always the toughest for an event like this, but I think that the reason for the smaller number of attendees could have been because students just got back and wanted to get settled in. Maybe if the show was a week later it would have sold better.”

A common complaint from many promoters and local bands is that it is difficult to get people to pay for shows. This has caused cancellations and countless acts to skip the Twin Ports entirely. I asked Smith if he thought that a lower ticket price would have made a larger turnout.

“That is a tough judgment,” Smith said. “It seems that a lot of people in Duluth don’t realize that they have to spend a little to have fun, and that is why nothing good comes to town. We even had tickets priced at $25 in advance to accommodate that. It’s funny because people will spend extra to drive to the cities to see a show, but when one comes here the extra five bucks kills them. I’m not dogging on this town, because I love it and the people are amazing, which is why I’m still here. It’s just going to take time for folks to realize the good entertainment that’s right in front of them. In the end, we had a decent crowd, not up to the numbers we hoped for, but everyone seemed like they had a good time, which is what I care about most!”

There is so much that goes into a show like this, and in a smaller venue town likeDuluth it can be even more difficult. This was epitomized when a bouncer asked Afroman if he would ever play Alaska. Afroman responded, “I might as well, I’m already in Duluth.”

Afroman’s attitude is pretty standard among National acts, so getting a cheap ticket for an artist who needs to travel waaaayyyy up here is few and far between.

“For an all day event featuring that many artists, you will rarely see a show priced under $40,” Smith said. “There is no way a promoter could charge less, especially inDuluth with all the regulations. To have these National artists come up here you need to pay more for travel expenses, so you do feel forced to charge a certain price.”

There was one person in the audience who yelled out to Afroman that she had driven six hours to see the show. With Afroman’s showmanship there is little reason to wonder why.

“I’m not used to looking out at an audience and seeing people sitting in lawn chairs,” Afroman said. “I’m used to them being more wasted.”

With a live show that begins with the slamming of a 40-ounce beer, Afroman quickly got the locals out of their lawn chairs. When you see him live you will never be disappointed. Afroman plays a white Gibson SG guitar, while rapping over DJ Sugarbear’s synthesized beats.

One thing that separates Afroman from other artists is that at each show the Grammy Award nominated rapper sits and talks to fans for hours after his performance. The Hip-Hop Festival was no exception as he stood on the side of the stage for what seemed like forever signing autographs, taking pictures, and chewing the fat with the many fans that lined up. He also sold hundreds of CD’s in the process. Smith booked Afroman knowing this first-hand.

“I appreciate Afroman as an artist and an individual,” Smith said. “I have personally known him for about 4 years and have always known from the start that he is a great guy. That is why I had him back up here. I knew people would enjoy it.”

Kritical Kontact agreed with Billy Smith that Afroman stole the show. They didn’t see eye-to-eye with Vanilla Ice’s new more Limp Biscuit/Ice-T harder edged style.

“Afroman was really hilarious and did a good set,” Kritical Kontact said. “Especially for how drunk he must have been. We didn’t care for Vanilla Ice's new music very much though.”

When I stopped at a store before the show and was having a conversation with the college-aged clerk behind the counter he had a similar feeling to Kritical Kontact’s and scoffed when I said I was headed to see Vanilla Ice. To many young people Ice is seen as a joke or like wearing your pants backwards and shaving lines in your eyebrows, a fad that has gone way out of style.

I must admit that I had my own reservations about seeing the VH1’s Surreal Life star make a comeback on stage. After the Bayfront show I left with a new respect for Vanilla Ice though. (I also should admit that I have seen Ice’s movie ‘Cool As Ice’ more than once, I used to know the words to most of his songs, and I even shaved lines in my head when I was 13.) The Vanilla Ice of today is rough, and the ladies seemed to like it as they filled the stage to dance with him.

“It was intense,” Smith said. “Ice knows how to get the ladies, bottom line...ever since the early 90s. He likes to make them happy. People went home that night in a state of awe. Whether good or bad, they will not forget it...”

Dressed in all black, covered in tattoos, and with a Halloween styled stage; Vanilla Ice’s show had a dark opening. His appearance was followed by a hard and angry voice, very different from the smooth rapping flow of his younger days. Vanilla also doused the audience with water bottle after water bottle, usually slamming his foot down on them to get them to spray the audience.

Ice infected the show with energy and encouraged the crowd to yell out, “Ice Ice Baby.” At one point he told the audience to put their middle finger up for Osama Bin Laden and said, “F$%K Osama and his mama… Give it up for the soldiers who fight for our freedom.”

As the show continued it was difficult to see Vanilla Ice when the stage filled with young girls from the audience. When some of the girls on stage began to copy his earlier Gallagher-styled gimmick of dousing the audience with water it was not received quite the same way. Many audience members were upset that these “groupies” on stage were throwing water at them.

Hopefully next year a few more people from the college aged crowd will show up in support of a broader spectrum of music being brought to the area. To check out Kritical Kontact go to