'90s Hip-Hop Icons: Where Are They Now?

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With Slim Shady making his airwave-monopolizing return, as well as our other recent check-ups on ’90s alternative kids and Nickelodeon stars, we thought it might be worth a trip down recent memory lane to trace another group of 1990s icons. That’s right, it’s class-reunion time, hip-hop edition. What’s Doug E. Fresh doing? Has Sir Mix-a-lot expanded his position on butt-bouncing? Can we still not touch this, MC Hammer? The answers to all your burning questions about the hip-hop stars of 20 years ago, after the jump.

Coolio

Coolio — née Artis Leon Ivey, Jr. — was impossible to avoid in the mid-1990s. His 1994 single “Fantastic Voyage” was followed in swift succession by the smash hit “Gangsta’s Paradise,” which was on the Dangerous Minds soundtrack. But his follow-up album tanked, and he was dropped from Tommy Boy Records. He has released four albums since then, all pretty much ignored by American audiences (though he did score a minor hit in the UK with 2006’s “Gangsta Walk.”) Though his music career stalled out, Coolio’s been hitting the reality show circuit hard. In the US, he was on Celebrity Fear Factor, and he appeared on the UK’s Big Brother series twice, once in Celebrity Big Brother in 2009, and this year in Ultimate Big Brother. He also had a show on Oxygen network called Coolio’s Rules, and hosted his own cooking show, which culminated in the release of Coolio’s Cookbook last year.

There has been tragedy, too: In 2009, Coolio did a stage dive during a show, but the crowd parted and then robbed him of his chains and sneakers. Then, in March last year, he was busted for possession of crack at an airport. And another unfortunate decision, though a minor one, was a tattoo he got after touring with Insane Clown Posse this summer that read “Jugalo Cool.” Still, he fared better with the Juggalos than Tila Tequila.

Sir Mix-a-Lot

Anthony Ray, a.k.a. Sir Mix-a-Lot, broke into the charts — and into everyone’s “Booty-Shaking” playlist — with his 1992 classic “Baby Got Back.” After his record company failed to promote the 1996 follow-up Return of the Bumpasaurus, Sir Mix-a-Lot left the recording industry for a while in frustration. During a three year hiatus from the biz, he worked with the alternative rock band The Presidents of the United States of America under the pseudonym “Subset.” He also recorded a song with Mudhoney. Mix had a brief television acting career starring on the 1995 UPN show The Watchers, but it was soon canceled.

In 2003, he signed with an independent label and released the album Daddy’s Home, featuring another anatomical celebration song called “Big Johnson,” which he described to one journalist as the equivalent of “Baby’s Got Back” for dudes. Today he appears frequently as a talking head on VH1 programming, and owns his own record label, Rhyme Cartel Records.

M.C. Hammer

M.C. Hammer began the 1990s as a pop superstar and ended it as a punchline. He had it all: money, fame, his own kind of pants, for crying out loud. But then he was plunged into bankruptcy and his feuds with other rappers — LL Cool J chief among them —soured his reputation. Hammer continued to record albums throughout the aughts, most recently releasing DanceJamtheMusic in 2008. He’s reasserted his Christian roots, also, claiming that the “MC” now stands for “Man of Christ,” and became an ordained minister. In 1998 he had a show called MC Hammer and Friends on the Trinity Broadcasting Network that preached the good word. Hammer was also on VH1’s The Surreal Life, and officiated over the wedding of Corey Feldman and Susie Sprague.

Hammer is the co-founder and administrator of dancejam.com, a website that lets dancers judge other videos of dancers in the community. In July this year, Hammer also founded a mixed martial arts management company, along with an apparel line called Alchemist Management. Most recently he started a Twitter feud with Jay-Z.

Vanilla Ice

Robert Matthew Van Winkle — for, yes, that is Vanilla Ice’s real name — had the first hip-hop single to top the Billboard charts and the fastest-selling hip-hop album of all time. He dated Madonna, he landed a role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze , he threatened a homeless man with a pistol. On top of the world!

But then, alas, the descent. Ice got heavily into cocaine, ecstasy, and tattooing, almost dying of a heroin overdose in 1995. He cleaned up and joined the grunge band Picking Scabs, and released one more major studio album — to lukewarm critical reaction — before leaving for an independent label.

In the aughts, Ice released two more solo albums, and performed, in 2001, at the second annual gathering of the Juggalos. He appeared on The Surreal Life and, in 2008, was arrested for domestic abuse (the case was ultimately dropped). In 2009, Ice announced that a sixth album is in the works. He’s currently starring in the home improvement reality show The Vanilla Ice Project, premiering next month.

Doug E. Fresh

The Human Beatbox, Mr. Doug E. Fresh, began his career ascent in the 1980s when he partnered with Slick Rick and released the bangin’ single “La-Di-Da.” In the 1990s, Fresh joined MC Hammer’s label and then Island Records, where he scored several big album successes — including one that reunited Fresh with Slick Rick.

Since 1995, Fresh has stayed mostly out of the limelight, appearing occasionally on VH1 countdowns and, once, on American Idol. He became a member of the church of Scientology and performed two tracks on the Scientology album The Joy of Creating. He’s recently gained fame for being the subject of the Cali Swag District song “Teach Me how to Dougie,” performing on stage with the group at the BET Awards. Currently, Fresh is working on new music, as well as opening a restaurant in New York called Doug E. and a club called Fresh.

Salt-N-Pepa

Salt (Cheryl Wray), Pepa (Sandra Denton), and Spinderella (Deidra Roper) made it big in the late 1980s and early 1990s with booty-bumpin’ classics like “Push It” and “Let’s Talk About Sex.” Pepa married Treach of Naughty by Nature fame in 1999, but divorced him in 2001. In 2002, due to frustrations with their label, the group disbanded.

Since then, the ladies of the group have become reality TV darlings. In 2007, VH1 debuted The Salt-n-Pepa show, documenting the domestic dramas of Salt and Pepa. Pepa released an autobiography in 2008 entitled Let’s Talk About Pep, gaining her entry into a season of VH1’s The Surreal Life and then her own show, also called Let’s Talk About Pep. Spinderella has a daughter with former NBA player Kenny Anderson, but has mostly stayed out of the reality show blitz. The band reformed for a few shows in the late 2000s and continue to tour with new material.