Munches Beware, It’s The Year Of Ice Spice

It’s hard to forget an Ice Spice verse, and she’s got the confidence to lift up even the most pessimistic of music fans. Writer Taneshia Atkinson has cast her eye over Ice Spice’s rapid rise, and she thinks there are a few reasons why the Bronx MC has captivated music fans across the world. Words by Taneshia Atkinson

By Taneshia Atkinson, 13/6/2023

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“You thought I was feeling you?” is arguably the most ubiquitous lyric across the world right now.

It comes from New York MC Ice Spice’s ‘Munch’, a viral track that has amassed over 43 million views on YouTube and counting in just nine months. Just under two years ago, Ice Spice was playing volleyball at the State University of New York at Purchase. Now, her music has caught the attention of Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Beyoncé, just to name a few.

Considering the Bronx native has only been on the music scene since mid-2021, her ascendance is supersonic. She exploded overnight in a way that makes it feel like her trajectory was written in the stars, and she’s cemented herself in the rap scene with tracks alongside Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and PinkPantheress, as well as interest from Drake and Cardi B. However, her success hasn’t come without criticism. Her rapid rise left many people on the internet speculating whether Ice Spice is a one-hit-wonder and accusing her marketing team of doing all the heavy lifting. But all you have to do is look at her streams, her fans, her relationships, and her influence to know that we are well and truly in the Ice Age.

How Ice Spice Rose To Stardom

Ice Spice exploded off the launchpad of TikTok, after she posted a video doing the ‘Buss It’ challenge on the platform in 2021. During this time, Ice was studying communications and playing volleyball, quietly working away on her first song while trying to find a producer. She eventually took advantage of the millions of views and associated hype, and linked up with producer RIOTUSA, a music student and fellow New Yorker, to drop her debut song ‘Bully Freestyle’, followed by ‘No Clarity’. If you’ve heard the latter song, you’ll know what I’m talking about, so keep reading. If not, have a listen and come back. I want to introduce a point here. On this track, Ice Spice initiates this deep sense of melancholy, heartache and nostalgia over a drill beat — all while twerking. It’s iconic, and it’s also not what’s typically seen in the drill scene. More on that later.

Fast forward to 2022 and we come to the birth of ‘Munch’. I’m not just talking about the song. Upon releasing the single, the word ‘Munch’ quickly entered the chat. A Munch is, as Ice defines it, “somebody that’s really obsessed with you that’s just fiending to eat it”.

Following the success of ‘Munch’, which, as her manager put it, “went from zero to 100 – real quick”, Ice Spice signed a deal with LA based label 10K Projects and then Capitol Records in 2022. Earlier this year, she released her debut six song EP Like..?, which debuted in the top 10 of Billboard’s Top Rap Albums chart. If that’s not successful enough for you, her recent feature on Taylor Swift’s track ‘Karma’ is sitting at Number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Proving she was destined for this life, Ice Spice has revealed that her dad was a well-known underground MC. She won’t reveal his identity, but she recalls being in the recording studio with him and hearing him freestyle around the house, moments which planted the seeds for her career. And her mum? “A baddie”, Ice says. She raised Ice Spice and her sisters on her own and was a powerful female influence, which clearly contributed to Ice’s confidence and success in thriving in a male dominated industry.

Ice Spice’s Role In The Introduction Of Pop Drill

It seems natural to compare the music of Ice and the late Pop Smoke. They’re both drill artists, and they’re both New Yorkers, after all. They are sonically similar, but Ice Spice’s persona is much more laid back. Drill music is haunting and unsettling. It’s dark, it’s powerful, and often chronicles violence as lived experience. But Ice Spice does not exhibit those things. While she flaunts the audacity, delivery, breathiness and ad-libs Pop Smoke is known for, she lacks the raspiness and confronting lyrical content typically found in drill. Her style is effortless. It’s whispery. It feels ambient. It’s more poppy. And maybe she owes part of her rapid success to the sub-genre of more widely palatable drill (read: Pop-Drill) she has created. Ice Spice is delivering drill to those who otherwise may not have previously engaged with it, and the charts are devouring it. As The Cut so eloquently put it, Ice’s music is ASMR for a club-rat. She makes drill music you can simultaneously cry over and twerk to. Iconic.

Every So Often, A Star Is Born

Even in the digital age, when artist trajectories are often condensed, Ice Spice’s rise is unlike any other we have seen in the last decade. Social media has changed the way we consume, produce, and distribute art, and yet few artists have reached such levels of virality so quickly. It is important to give credit where it is due, though. The rise of Pop Smoke was significant, as were the come ups of Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish and more recently Olivia Rodrigo. For the majority in the industry, however, becoming an overnight sensation still almost never happens, as many artists spend years perfecting their art, sharing their story, nurturing their fans and trying to break through.

It’s easy to credit TikTok for the rise of Ice Spice. It undeniably played a role in her catapult to superstardom, but writing her off as a social media hotshot doesn’t do her artistry justice. She is infiltrating the drill scene as a powerful young Black woman. She is omnipresent for good reason. She is elevating herself to the pinnacle of rap, but it’s clear that she hasn’t reached the peak of her powers yet. Developing a strong sonic identity, diversifying her style and harnessing her aptitude for storytelling will be keys to a prolonged career. We are yet to see how that all plays out. But in the words of rap’s newly crowned princess, I have a feeling the rest of Ice’s trajectory is “going to be goated.”

Taneshia Atkinson is a Yorta Yorta and Bangerang writer and emerging poet based on Bundjalung Country. You can follow her work on Instagram at @tan3shia.

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