By: Zachary C. Young, Editor-in-Chief
There has been much controversy among current students about Vanilla Ice performing during homecoming week. Students feel as if UNCP is out of touch with the current student body. Claiming that Vanilla Ice is outdated.
Vanilla Ice will be performing at Givens Performing Arts Center (GPAC) on Oct. 22 at 8 p.m.
In August of 1990 Vanilla Ice’s hit single “Ice Ice Baby” was released and in November of that year, it became the first rap song to top the Billboard Hot 100. The song also topped the charts in several other countries in late 1990.
However, Dr. James Bass, Executive Director of GPAC, assures students that they were not the target audience for this music choice.
Bass is a graduate from UNCP, earning his degree in 1994. Prior to being the Executive Director of GPAC, he was Alumni Director at UNCP.
“As a former Alumni Director, I know the importance. Homecoming is really about alumni. It’s not not for students, but a lot of students tend to think Homecoming is for them. It’s not, that’s why they call it homecoming. You are coming back home,” Bass said.
When searching for possible acts, Bass recalled his time as Alumni Director and how the school got musical acts that appeased the 1960’s and 1970’s alum. He felt like it was time for the school to start bringing acts for the 1980’s and 1990’s alumni.
Bass mentioned that it was a long selection process. Contacting several agents and business managers to see if other popular music acts from the 80’s and 90’s were available. He noted that it was difficult to find an act to perform on one specific date, especially if they are not touring in the area.
Some of the other musical acts that Bass attempted to book were Aaron Neville, Cyndi Lauper and Rick Springfield.
Being an alumni from the 1990’s, he was confident in the choice of Vanilla ice.
“When we announced it on Facebook we got hammered. Funny thing about it, that one post was a free post. That post got so much traffic, had we actually sponsored that as an ad, it would have cost us about $2,000,” Bass said.
Bass says the show will be popular. Many alums plan to attend and some have already purchased tickets to the show, with a good number coming from out of state.
Due to COVID-19, GPAC didn’t have public performances for over a year. They did produce some video content of local artists and used those videos as virtual content. With these virtual performances, GPAC missed out on their normal revenue streams such as ticket sales and concession sales.
UNCP was able to secure Vanilla Ice through different means. Most of the money came from a federal grant named The Shuttered Venues Grant.
“It’s a combination of shuttered venue grant money, ticket sales from the past, private donations, grant funding through the Robeson County Arts Council. We do use student fees for some programming,” Bass said.
For students on the fence about Vanilla Ice performing on campus, Bass says the college experience is about exploring and discovering.
Kerry Hodges attended Pembroke State University from 1989 until 1992. She transferred and graduated from University of South Florida. Despite not receiving her diploma from UNCP she says “that’s my school.”
During her time at UNCP Hodges was active on campus as a member of the Spirit Squad
Currently Hodges resides in Florida, but plans to be in attendance for the concert.
“When we heard that Vanilla Ice was coming a few months ago, we made sure to clear the schedule. As soon as tickets opened up, I purchased my tickets,” Hodges said.
Hodges hopes that current students understand the importance of homecoming.
“When you are at the university level, homecoming is about bringing back the former alumni. And you bring them back by presenting performers from their time in school.”
Hodges added that alum are extremely important to the university because they are the ones who make donations to fund athletics, construction of buildings on campus and even fund scholarships that current students take advantage of.
“While the students may not necessarily like the music that is presented, there is a benefit to having a genre of music that appeals to the older alumni,” Hodges said.
Hodges attempts to come back to campus every year and purchase some form of UNCP memorabilia from the bookstore.
Hodges is fond of her time at UNCP, calling her classmates her family. When she comes to see Vanilla Ice perform, she will even be staying at her former roommates home in Hope Mills, N.C.
“Every Thursday night we would be dancing in the student center. That’s how everyone bonded and that was the height of Vanilla Ice. So for those of us from the early 90’s, that was part of our life. You got a lot of people who are really looking forward to that,” Hodges said.
Shawn Briggs attended UNCP from 1990-1995, obtaining a degree in Mass Communication. During his time on campus he was a member of the wrestling team.
Briggs calls Vanilla Ice the biggest song of his freshman year.
“I remember the first weekend I was in school, there was a radio station out of Fayetteville. The radio station was so sick of people calling and requesting “Ice Ice Baby” that they decided to play that song on repeat for 48 hours straight, and we stayed tuned into that station for two days,” Briggs said.
Briggs shared the sentiments of Bass and Hodges, saying homecoming is the one week a year that is about alum. Homecoming gives them the chance to relive memories that they made during their college experience.
Briggs currently lives in North Myrtle Beach, but says he could not see himself missing this show.
“I am so excited, I got front row seats. As an alumni, that song totally ties into my college years. I’m excited to come back to the place where that song meant the most to me,” Briggs said.
His excitement doesn’t just lie with Vanilla Ice. Briggs says he can’t wait to see his Pembroke family, and that there is a circle of about 100 of his classmates that are still close friends.
“Back then it was such a small school, if you were a freshman you knew a lot of the seniors. So you knew 8 years worth of people being there, from the seniors that graduated when you were a freshman until you were a senior,” Briggs said
In the 25 years since his graduation, Briggs says he may have missed five homecomings.
As a co-owner of House of Heroes Comics and Collectibles in North Myrtle Beach, Briggs says his shop doesn’t own any Vanilla Ice vinyl records, but he does have a Vanilla Ice comic book he hopes to get signed.
For students who may be dismissive of Vanilla Ice performing on campus, Briggs says one day the roles will be reversed.
“In 20 years when they bring in whoever is popular now, they [current students] can come back and enjoy it. It goes both ways,” Briggs said.