meet the internet’s hottest new rapper

It didn’t take long for Ice Spice to become an icon. In August, the 23-year-old released her song of the summer with “Munch.” By October, Lil Nas was X Dressing up as him for Halloween.

Born Isis Gaston, the Bronx-raised rapper has mastered the science of virality as a Halloween impersonator. “Munch” popularized a new word in hip-hop parlance – “munch” is a derogatory term for someone who cares about you – and each new track he released brought new memes and catchphrases that revolved around his music. “I was a typical college girl,” Ice Spice said before her first viral moment on TikTok with her “Buss It” challenge video. “I’ve never gone viral before.” He certainly picked up the trade quickly.

Ice Spice’s debut project “Like?..” takes us deeper into his vision of New York drill with fast beats and “it girl” rhymes. Each track clocks in and out in two minutes or less, and that urgency makes for a quiet yet crisp delivery. In addition to familiar hits, it dives into darker, more sinister beats with Jersey club elements (“In Ha Mood”, “Acting a Smoochie”) and features two icons in Princess Diana and the late, great Gangsta Boo: “I call my phone but they know I don’t answer / I’m like Princess Diana in the hood”. It’s clear the hits won’t stop and neither will the buzz it’s creating.

However, the rapper became the subject of online slut-shaming for doing what Cardi B, Foxy Brown, Lil Kim and Gangsta Boo did before her: using hip-hop as a vehicle to convey confidence and sexiness. However, during our interview, it becomes clear that this negative attention is water off a duck’s back for Ice Spice. For now, he’s only taking the positives from that success — when NME when asked how, Ice Spice says stress-free, “I do so that good” – and he’s well aware of the legacy he’s continuing as he prepares a new one for his New York dig.

In our conversation, we talk about drill’s impact on the wider music landscape, what his community in the Bronx means to him, and where he sees his music being played in the future.

When did you first come into contact with drill music?

“In 2019, one of my friends showed me Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow. I had heard Chicago drill and UK drill before, but this was my first time hearing drill music, at least in New York. I’ve said it before, but I also love Central Cee from the UK.”

You met your producer RIOTUSA at SUNY Purchase Arts. Why do you both click?

“All my friends at SUNY Purchase were artists, sculptors, dancers, so everyone had their own art. I’ve always been around a lot of creative people. I had other producer friends in the buyout, but they didn’t take me seriously or see the potential as RIOT. I would try to ask for the tattoos and they would never send them. It’s funny because now they’re trying to ship them. Very late!”

Credit: Press

You’ve caused a lot of confusion on the internet, both positive and negative. Did your Bronx upbringing give you a thick skin?

“All the toughest people I know are from the Bronx. Growing up in the Bronx, it takes a lot to bring us down, and I really feel like there’s nothing people can do to get me to that point, crying on IG live. I pray I never do [laughs].”

What does the community in the Bronx mean to you?

“I miss the Bronx, I love walking down Fordham. Even though it’s so exciting and crazy, there are so many street vendors and people giving away free stuff, it’s a lot of fun. Music is always playing outside the shops. There are so many different people, so many different races and cultures. It’s a melting pot.”

Have you thought about how you can give back to your community?

“I love small fundraisers. I did a Thanksgiving turkey drive with Lil Tjay, gave some turkeys to families. I want to do something like this again every season. Especially around the holidays, I want to give back. Now I’m trying to decide what I want to do for the toy donations. It’s good karma.”

“I think drilling is going to get bigger – it’s the beginning of a big era”

What’s your best thing to do to have fun and take your mind off the whirlwind of attention you’re currently in?

“When it’s time to have fun, my favorite thing to do is stay at home. I am a homebody. I have a stripper pole so I do pole dancing. I will play music and pole dance for hours. It’s a lot of fun, but now there’s a bunch of bruises everywhere [laughs].”

Your father was an underground rapper. What rappers did he turn you on to when you were young?

“She was the one who put me on Nicki Minaj. Also French Montana, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Eminem…all the really hot rappers that were around in the 2000s. I feel like all underground artists are trying to be mainstream, so that’s what they consume the most.

You’ve picked two EDM songs so far, “Clarity” by Zedd and “In the Name of Love” by Martin Garrix. Did you grow up on the EDM boom of the 2010s?

“When I was in high school in the early 2010s, when it became more popular, I started hearing it more. I was listening to Zedd and Skrillex a lot. Remember when Skrillex was super big? It was a whole cycle. That’s how people went from emo to Skrillex [snaps fingers].”

What do you like about a special sound enough to repeat it twice?

“The patterns were so different, you know? It sounded too fresh and required digging elsewhere. It was about love and feelings.”

icy spice
Credit: Press

Your love for Spongebob has long been known thanks to the track “Bikini Bottom”. What is your favorite episode?

“I feel like everyone born in the 2000s references SpongeBob a lot. He is an icon. It’s my favorite episode ‘Rock Bottom’.”

Drill is one of the biggest sounds in the world right now. How does it feel coming from your ends?

“I feel like it’s going to get bigger and bigger and it’s the beginning of a big era. You know when trap was really big and it became a movement? People thought it would fade over time, but it only got stronger. I feel like drill will become mainstream music at some point and it won’t be so categorized. It’s already changing hip-hop, but we won’t realize it until we look back.”

Where would you like to hear your music played in the future?

“I want it to be everywhere. I really want to be one of those artists you hear playing when you walk into stores. [I want to be] global, you know?”

Ice Spice’s debut project ‘Like…?’ it’s out now

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