Vanilla Ice recently said he once palled around with Pablo Escobar, but didn't know he was a major drug kingpin -- and his explanation boils down to ... greenbacks put ya in a bubble.
The rapper made the revelation in a VladTV interview, saying he used to party with the notorious Colombian gangster during his heyday in the '90s ... but insists he didn't even realize how big a deal Escobar was back then -- especially in the eyes of the feds.
Ice, aka Rob Van Winkle, says he hosted Pablo several times at his Florida home at the time -- and on Tuesday, he joined us on "TMZ Live" to elaborate on what exactly they had in common as buddies.
Watch, he says their shared love of speed boats actually drew them together at first, and he even gives credit to the drug trafficker for fueling innovations in boat racing ... on account of how much money he poured into it at the time, making it kinda mainstream.
Of course, Pablo was tracked down in Colombia in '93 ... where he was killed on a rooftop while being pursued by the authorities. He'd built a massive illicit empire, but on the backs of a lot of bodies and bloodshed ... while spreading illegal narcotics all over the world.
Sounds like Ice wasn't aware of any of it -- probably for the best, TBH. See no evil, right?