Why Rapper Ice Spice Is Suddenly Everywhere

4 minute read

Since emerging onto the scene last summer, American rapper Ice Spice has become inescapable. From TikTok’s For You Page to the front row of New York Fashion Week shows, Spice’s signature orange curls and catchy songs (think New York drill music meets pop) are ubiquitous, making her one of the biggest breakout stars of the year so far.

Her latest appearance is on the Billboard Hot100 list, for her hit song “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2” with PinkPantheress, another artist who grew her audience on TikTok.

Who Is Ice Spice?

The 23-year-old rapper’s legal name is Isis Gaston. She was born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., and is of Nigerian and Dominican descent. She came up with a name for her persona when she was 14, when making a finsta account (a secondary, more personal Instagram account) simply because “ice” rhymes with “spice,” and she loves spicy food.

She went to high school in Yonkers, 10 miles north of the Bronx, where she played volleyball.

The sport would eventually take her to SUNY Purchase, a university in upstate New York, where she ultimately left in 2020.

Although her father was an underground rapper, Spice got her start in music after meeting with fellow Bronx native and SUNY Purchase student RIOTUSA, a record producer and son of Hot 97’s DJ Enuff. They collaborated on her first songs, including the two singles “Bully Freestyle” and “No Clarity,” which were released in March 2021 and November 2021, respectively.

Ice Spice’s TikTok Takeover

Last summer, Spice’s single “Munch (Feelin’ U)” catapulted her to Internet stardom. Clips of the song exploded on TikTok, a frequent launchpad to mainstream success for up-and-coming music stars. Buzz grew when Canadian rapper Drake shared the song on his SiriusXM channel, Sound 42 Radio. The hashtag #munch now has over 2 billion views on the platform, with videos reiterating the song’s lyrics “You thought I was feeling you?” as a trend. The hashtag #IceSpice has over 4 billion views.

The rapper then quickly got the attention of industry professionals, signing with Los Angeles-based label 10K projects and then Capitol Records.

But Spice isn’t just a one-hit wonder. Her EP “Like..?”, released on Jan. 20, included singles “Bikini Bottom,” which samples music from cartoon series SpongeBob SquarePants, and “In Ma Hood,” which were also widely listened to, with over 30 million collective Spotify streams.

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Celebrities cosigning Ice Spice

Ice Spice’s meteoric rise has been accompanied by shoutouts from some high-profile fans.

Last Halloween, Grammy-award winning artist Lil Nas X dressed up as Spice for Halloween, wearing a curly wig, pastel tube top and denim shorts to emulate her look in the “Munch” music video.

North West, the child of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, recently uploaded a TikTok of her drawing a portrait of Spice to the account she shares with her mother, alongside her “Boy’s a Liar” song. The video quickly became an online sensation, with nearly 4 million likes. Spice responded to the viral post, calling West “really talented” in an interview with E! News.

Beyoncé personally chose Spice to be included in the campaign for her latest Ivy Park x Adidas “DISCOVER YOUR PARK” collection, which features bright orange pieces.

Spice’s fanbase (often referred to as Munchkins) is hopeful that other celebrities will collaborate on music with her. One tweet gaining traction features a photoshopped picture of Spice and fellow New York-native rapper Nicki Minaj filming a music video together.

Still no word on future collaborations, but Spice’s roll shows no signs of slowing down.

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Write to Mariah Espada at mariah.espada@time.com