The rise of Ice Spice: Why the female rapper is everywhere now

The new Princess of Rap


By Marissa Chin

The rise of Ice Spice: Why the female rapper is everywhere now

If you’re an avid social media user, you should already be familiar with the name Ice Spice. Even if you’re not, you’ve most likely heard her music. Why? Since breaking out into the scene last year, the American rapper has become inescapable. On Google, she’s more searched than Andrew Tate, Mr. Beast and Kendrick Lamar. Within a year of going viral, she has graced the Met Gala 2023 red carpet, worked with huge artists such as Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift and is dominating TikTok’s For You pages with almost 10 billion views—all the while having barely 10 official songs to her catalogue.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ice Spice (@icespice)

Her collaboration with Pink Pantheress—another artist who grew her following on TikTok—for Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2 peaked at number four on Billboard’s Hot 100 list, making this the first for both artists to chart that high. From fashion, and music to pop culture, everyone can’t get enough of the orange curly-haired rapper. 

But how did Ice Spice become the biggest thing in Hollywood right now? Her meteoric rise to stardom not only makes her the undoubted breakout star of 2023 but it’s also unprecedented, considering she has only been making music for about two years. Before you start labelling her as an industry plant or a one-hit wonder, there might be more to her that makes her an unstoppable force in the industry. Sit tight because ahead, we track Ice Spice’s rapid rise to fame and whether she’s here to stay.


Who is Ice Spice?


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ice Spice (@icespice)

Her legal name is actually Isis Naija Gaston (which we’re guessing is unfortunate when she’s at the airport). She was born on 1 January 2000, making the current It-girl only 23 years of age. Raised in the Bronx in New York City, she is the oldest of five siblings. She revealed that her stage name was actually created when she was trying to make a Finsta account (a more private and personal alternative to Instagram). “Ice” was short for Isis and “spice” was chosen simply because it rhymed, and because she loves spicy food.

Apart from her catchy songs, Spice is also known for her striking looks. Her father (an underground rapper who she doesn’t name) is African-American while her mother is of Dominican descent. She attended Sacred Heart Grade School in Yonkers, New York, a private Catholic school where she was part of the volleyball team. According to her interview with Teen Vogue, Spice then enrolled in the State University of New York (SUNY) on a scholarship and surprisingly, majored in communications instead of music! She later dropped out in her sophomore year to pursue her music career in 2021.


Her early roots

While she was a student at SUNY, Spice started exploring her musicality and making songs. It was a serendipitous occasion as RiotUSA (known as Riot), an emerging producer in the New York hip-hop scene, was also attending the university as a music student.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by RIOTUSA (@riotusa)

It wasn’t long before the two met and started making music together, with Spice writing her raps and Riot executive producing the beats. “We just cook up bops, we make vibes; I try not to think too hard and just really have fun,” Spice shared with Harpers Bazaar USAIt’s important to note that Spice isn’t just a female rapper. Rather, she is born out of the New York Drill rap movement and heavily influenced by its music. This subgenre of hip-hop emphasises trap-heavy beats and ‘gangsta’-themed lyrics, focusing on themes of violence, crime, gang activity and the like. It was recently popularised into mainstream radio waves by the late Pop Smoke.

Although Spice is labelled as a drill rapper, it’s clear her music doesn’t follow its typical formula. She cites 50 Cent, Beyoncé, Lil Wayne and Shakira as some of the artists she’s grown up listening to. Thus, her music reflects this combination of pop and drill. “I feel like I’m bringing a new sound to people that they haven’t really heard before, being one of the few girls to bring drill to a mainstream level,” she revealed to Harpers Bazaar USA. And she did just that for her two debut releases.


Ice Spice’s first viral moment

Rather than taking off on her music, Spice’s first taste of viral fame was actually from a thirst trap video. She filmed herself doing Erica Banks’ Buss It challenge on TikTok in early 2021 and it quickly raked in the numbers. It’s now deleted from her TikTok but you can still find it on her Instagram below.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ice Spice (@icespice)

With the people of the Internet going crazy over her twerking skills, Spice took that as the opportune time to fully start her ‘Gangsta Baddie’ era. She released her debut track Bully Freestyle and No Clarity on 5 March and 5 November 2021 respectively.

Both songs brought in decent streams and attention, putting Spice on the periphery of hip-hop fans and TikTok users. Her use of Zedd’s Clarity, a dreamy and euphoric track sample, on top of her equally laid-back rap style, was something hardly seen in NY drill. Further, rather than spitting about pulling out the Glock or their criminal record, the aspiring rapper chose to talk about heartbreak and self-love. Sonically, Ice Spice was beginning to stand out from her other drill-rapping peers.


The summer of Munch

After her two single releases, the Bronx rapper was building a steady momentum for her career. While there were still many sceptics about her talent, her freestyle on On The Radar in May 2022 earned her much of the street cred she was looking for. Many viewers saw her potential and were drawn to her deep and smooth cadence.

Then came the drop of Munch which changed the entire game for Ice Spice. The young artist was already on a steady streak but this song propelled her to instant Internet stardom. The single quickly went viral after its release in August 2022 and had everyone shouting the line, “You thought I was feeling you?” as a trend. The hashtag #Munch has nearly three billion views on TikTok, and the single garnered 34 million global streams and 43 million views on YouTube.  

All of this caught the attention of the one and only Drake who swiftly slid into her DMs. In it, he mentions how Munch and her On The Radar freestyle were “hard af” and he was going to play it on his radio show. Having arguably the biggest rapper say this was obviously a huge boost to her career. She was seen with Drake not long after at OVO Fest, even sparking dating rumours between the two. With a Drake cosign under her belt, more eyes and ears were on the New York native than ever before.

Soon enough, Spice was receiving love calls left and right to perform her breakout hit. In less than a year, she was on stages such as Rolling Loud New York and Governors Ball Festival next to stars such as Kendrick Lamar, Metro Boomin and Nicki Minaj. In October 2022, Spice signed a $2 million deal with 10K Projects. In early 2023, she released her debut EP Like…? with another song, In Ha Mood, going viral yet again and breaking over 100 million streams on Spotify. 


Ice Spice’s complete TikTok takeover 

And just when things couldn’t get better for her, it did. The 23-year-old rapper collaborated with British singer Pink Pantheress for Boy’s A Liar Pt 2 and it became even bigger than Munch. The catchy song with its Y2K aesthetic was an internet sensation and you could easily find a post using the audio on TikTok and Instagram with every scroll on your feed. Even North West, daughter of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, uploaded a TikTok of her drawing a portrait of Ice Spice using the song.

If Munch turned Ice Spice into a viral sensation, Boy’s A Liar Pt 2 showed that the drill rapper was anything but a one-hit wonder enjoying her five minutes of fame. Rather, it proved that she had the foresight, talent and star power to churn out hit after hit. Even more so, netizens just find her an enigmatic and curious character.

Her monotonous and chill rap delivery paired with her equally laid-back personality makes her the ultimate queen of duality. Outside of being a “young, lit, rap b*tch,” Ice Spice is actually seen to be pretty reserved, introverted and easy-going. Just take a look at the comments under the live stream she did with Kai Cenat to see how audiences were surprised and enraptured by her real-life disposition.


The huge celebrity collaborations keep rolling in 

With 2023 being another amazing year for the Bronx Baddie, it’s no surprise that other big names in the industry have joined in on the hype. The Bikini Bottom rapper collaborated with her long-time inspiration Nicki Minaj and their song Princess Diana peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, making it her second top-10 hit on the chart. 

Then came the Skims ad campaign. Her 2023 Met Gala appearance. Being personally picked by Beyoncé for her latest Ivy Park and Adidas collection. And most recently, her collaboration with the pop queen herself, Taylor Swift, for the Karma remix. The Anti-Hero singer shared on her social media, “I’m a massive fan of this brilliant artist and after getting to know her I can confirm: she is THE ONE to watch.”


What’s next for Ice Spice?

The rapper will feature on the Barbie album together with Minaj again for Barbie World which is scheduled to release on 23 June 2023 with a music video. She is also slated to perform at Blockfest 2023 in August which is the biggest hip-hop festival in the Nordics. All things considered, it’s hard not to see why Ice Spice rose to instant fame. As an artist in this social media age where TikTok success can translate to charts and streams, the rapper shows the power and reach of what going viral can truly look like. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift)

It is worth noting that Ice Spice’s success has sparked a conversation about colourism and pretty privilege within the music industry. After all, there are many other NY female drill rappers who have not enjoyed half of the success Ice Spice has. The Munch artist has also weighed in on the issue. She told Teen Vogue, “I have seen those opinions. I feel like that’s not something personal to me. I feel like that’s been the conversation for generations and forever, since the beginning of time. “I try not to feed into negativity because I also see that when people are trying to make that point, it’s not out of a good place…“[They end up putting] somebody else down.”

How much it applies to Ice Spice and her rise to fame remains up for debate. Like many things that go viral, it’s never clear exactly why it does as the internet is as unpredictable as ever. Whether she has you channelling your inner baddie or you still think she’s ‘mid’ (read: Gen Z slang for mediocre), it’s clear that Ice Spice has cemented herself as more than just a viral moment in pop culture. It’s the Ice Age now!



For more pop culture news, head here.

Explore More