How Ice Spice became music's new It Girl seemingly overnight

The Bronx rapper has taken the industry by storm from viral songs with Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj and Pinkpanthress

By Nardos Haile

Staff Writer

Published October 5, 2023 4:59PM (EDT)

Ice Spice performs onstage during Broccoli City Festival Day 1 on July 15, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Prince Williams/WireImage/Getty Images)
Ice Spice performs onstage during Broccoli City Festival Day 1 on July 15, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Prince Williams/WireImage/Getty Images)

Ice Spice is on everybody's mind even if you don't know who she is. The 23-year-old Bronx native is a drill rapper who has captivated the chronically online Gen-Z audience with a presence that even we Zoomers and offline people can't escape.

So how did a girl from The Bronx – who was attending SUNY Purchase and working as a cashier at Wendy's and The Gap, relatively unknown to most at the beginning of the year – win four VMAs, secure a Billboard No. 3 hit with another TikTok pop singer PinkPanthress, co-rap with Nicki Minaj on this summer's hottest Barbie anthem "Barbie World," feature on "Karma" with Taylor Swift, star in her own Dunkin commercial with uber Dunkin stan Ben Affleck and snag herself a "Saturday Night Live" opening season gig alongside everybody's rumored boyfriend Pete Davidson?

Ice Spice was in Healy's line of fire.

Ice Spice's meteoric rise really began when she went viral in the latter half of 2022. Her song "Munch (Feelin' U)" opened the gates for an entryway onto the zeitgeist's radar. She followed up her viral success with other songs like the "Spongebob Squarepants" inspired song "Bikini Bottom" and the girl-empowered "In Ha Mood." Eventually, she followed up with the EP in early 2023, aptly named "Like . .?" after her catchphrase. 

But the rapper really broke through the bubbling under success with her iconic verse on the mega-viral "Boy's a Liar Pt. 2" by PinkPanthress. The infectious hyper-pop song tells the tale of a girl fed up with her love interest who has no room in his heart for singer PinkPanthress. When we get to Ice Spice's verse she tears into the boy.

The rapper spits:

He say that I'm good enough, grabbin' my duh-duh-duh
Thinkin' 'bout s**t that I shouldn't've (Huh)
So I tell him there's one of me, he makin' fun of me (Ha-ha)
His girl is a bum to me (Grrah)
Like that boy is a cap

Following the success of "Boy's a Liar Pt. 2," Ice Spice had hit the mainstream — no longer just a TikTok mini viral musician. She had finally broken through, and it happened fast. So fast that she became the topic of discussion for just about anyone even the likes of edgelord Matty Healy the frontman of the British indie-pop band "The 1975." The British singer is notorious in online circles for saying offensive and creepy incel comments about women. And Ice Spice was in Healy's line of fire. The scandal becomes seemingly more interesting when we add in that Healy was Taylor Swift's new beau of the moment after her fresh breakup with long-term six-year boyfriend actor, Joe Alwyn. The internet blew up with discourse circling and questioning Swift's commitment to allyship when she was dating someone who mocked Ice Spice by calling her "Inuit Spice Girl" and "Chubby Chinese Lady" (even though she's Nigerian and Dominican). 

Healy apologized in a classic non-apology with "Sorry if I've offended you." In a New Yorker profile, he said that his offense "doesn't matter." Swift never publically commented on the relationship or Healy's disgusting comments on Ice Spice, instead, she decided she would feature the rapper on the song off of "Midnights" called "Karma." Many called the move damage control, accusing the singer of exploiting her allyship, using the controversy as a way to cash in on the moment and avoid taking accountability for dating someone who publicly said he watched porn that brutalized Black women. People criticized Swift for seemingly claiming to be a supporter of Black women and the feminist cause . . . but only if or when it served her.

Her ability to home in on cultural moments with her catchy, female-centered rap shows us that Ice Spice is here to stay

The controversy bolstered Ice Spice to new levels of fame. Any sort of connection to Swift in this cultural moment can shoot a person up the mainstream celebrity accession ladder to an instant A-lister. I mean look at the tight end for the Chiefs Travis Kelce in the last two weeks after he was rumored to be Swift's new beau. Needless to say, "Karma" featuring Ice Spice hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts, becoming the rapper's second top ten entry following the success of "Boy's a Liar Pt. 2." At this point, if you didn't know who Ice Spice was, you weren't plugged into the culture. 

But following her two hits, she collaborated with her longtime idol and female rap legend, Nicki Minaj on two songs "Princess Diana" and this summer's hit "Barbie World." All these back-to-back hits – which have all reached the Top 10 of the Billboard charts – have made Ice Spice, the artist with the most Hot 100 Top 5 singles in 2023. She won best new artist at the VMAs where she was photographed being giggly with "big sis" Swift. The rapper continues to stun people with her appeal outside of music too. She has an impeccably timed new drink at Dunkin called the Ice Spice Munchkin drink – named after her fandom, the Munchkins – which is a combination of a frozen latte with Pumpkin Munchkin donuts with whipped cream and caramel drizzle.

Overall, the internet age's new Princess Diana – that's literally what people online call her – appeal lies in the fact that she's just a normal, talented girl from the Bronx who knows who her audience is. She knows that she is making music for young women in their 20s looking to just let loose and enjoy their youth — just like she has done since she shot into her very rapid fame. Critics deemed the rapper a one-hit wonder but her ability to home in on cultural moments with her catchy, female-centered rap shows us that Ice Spice is here to stay.


By Nardos Haile

Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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