How Ice Spice's Successful Trajectory Beats The Twitter Discourse

Fresh off having two of her songs deemed best of the year so far, here’s a look at the steps she took to being crowned.

Complex Original

Ice Spice has been the talk of the town over the last few months for everything from hit solo singles to, most recently, her onstage performance of the newly released “Karma” remix with Taylor Swift, and her first Governors Ball this past weekend. 

Since releasing “Munch (Feelin’ U)” last August, the 23-year-old has mastered her use of the internet to gain international traction and become one of the biggest emerging stars in hip-hop. But her continual level-up has spurred those on social media to pose some questions about the mechanisms of her newfound superstardom. By the time she performed at Rolling Loud California this past March, it felt like everyone was a fan of the rapper. Since then, she’s starred in Kim Kardashian’s Skims campaign, been announced as part of the Barbie soundtrack, and more, as she’s continued her trek to superstardom. Alongside her rise has been the questioning of how or why she got there. 

Notably in May, Spice popped out at the Met Gala by way of a personal invitation from Vogue as their special guest. A slew of other women rappers, including Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj have also attended the gala in the past, but seeing Spice there so soon after her debut eight months prior spurred much discussion. The closest to that success was Cardi B, who attended the Met Gala 11 months after the release of “Bodak Yellow.” Specifically, some questioned whether colorism had played a role. Many took to Twitter to share their thoughts. “Ngl its crazy seeing colorism in real time cause some darker skinned rap girlies who are eating up the game have yet to get invites to the met gala yet ice spice was there. no hate to her but yeah,” wrote one Twitter user. But just as many people have stepped forward to dismiss it. “Everybody saying it’s colorism how ice spice was at the met gala so fast but if that’s true then where was latto 👀,” wrote one rap fan. Another fan echoed similar sentiments: “I feel like ice spice being at the met gala = colorism doesnt really hold bc i havent seen saweetie or glorilla there and this is caresha’s first one soooo.”

Meanwhile, others believe Ice Spice is an industry plant. Cardi B, who had to deal with industry plant accusations of her own early on, served up a clear-cut, practical line of reasoning for why a label would go out of their way to support some artists as opposed to others. And although she doesn’t mention Ice Spice by name, it’s hard to see how her words wouldn’t apply here. 

“When it comes to other female rappers’ success that’s happening now, some females are going to come up faster than others. A lot of people will think, ‘That’s because their labels are putting money behind them,'” Cardi said during a May Instagram Live session. “The labels are putting money behind the girls who people are listening to. So if you feel like somebody is coming really fast, that’s because y’all [are] listening to them. The labels only go with who’s getting the most listens.”

“You can’t blame no machine for that,” she added. “You can’t blame nothing for that. Labels are going to put money on artists that people are listening to. And you can’t hate on that. You can’t hate on nobody else’s come-up.”

Regardless of where you stand on the matter, attributing all of her success to one particular thing feels reductive, especially in the face of more tangible elements. In other words, there are plenty of obvious reasons for Ice Spice’s success, with much of it being tied to the quality and marketing of her music. The latter part is just as important. After all, she decided to record and release her debut single “Bully Freestyle” only after her entry into the Erica Banks-inspired “Buss It” challenge two years ago. The formula has only become more refined as she’s repeatedly demonstrated a supreme understanding of how the internet works and what young listeners are attuned to react to, share on social media, and run up on streaming platforms. 

One thing isn’t up for debate: Ice Spice has thoroughly beaten any one-hit-wonder allegations. In the months since she released “Munch (Feelin’ U),” she’s dropped multiple hit songs and a critically acclaimed EP on her way to becoming rap royalty—the self-anointed Princess Diana. Now, fresh off having two of her songs deemed best of the year so far, here’s a look at the steps she took to being crowned.

September: Signs to 10K Projects and Capitol Records

September 23: Faces Backlash After Surprise Performance at Fivio Foreign Rolling Loud Set

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Rap stardom will always come with growing pains. For Ice Spice, those looked like her surprise performance during Fivio Foreign’s set at Rolling Loud New York. By this point, she’d been rapping for less than two years, and it was clear that her showmanship hadn’t caught up to her success. Fans promptly let her know her shortcomings, and Ice Spice responded with a mix of humor (she posted a tweet criticizing her, making a joke of it) and dismissal (she told The New York Times that she was, “was just happy they were talking about me, really.”) Ultimately, this all set the stage for an eventual improvement when she took the stage at Rolling Loud California about six months later. 

September 23: Cardi B Says “Munch” on a Song

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It didn’t take long for the term “munch” to get a big co-sign. Popping out for GloRilla’s “Tomorrow 2,” Cardi B paid subtle homage to Ice Spice with a couplet on the song: “She say she don't fuck with me, who said that you can, ho?/That nigga a munch and he gon' eat me like a mango.” The next month, Bardi previewed her own “Munch” remix, but she never dropped it. 

October 28: Drops “Bikini Bottom”

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Ice Spice didn’t strike while the iron was hot as much as she doused it in gasoline and tossed a lit match on its surface. With a quirky instrumental and a title that references Spongebob Squarepants’ hometown, “Bikini Bottom” was built for virality. But Ice Spice had to deliver, too—and she did. Featuring her customary blend of playful sexuality and unaffected charisma, the track reaffirmed her status as a rising star, forcing a lot of folks to nod their heads as she proved she was more than just a one-hit wonder. This one’s got 47 million Spotify streams, and it only further propelled her breakout single, setting the stage for an even grander level-up. 

January 6: Drops “In Ha Mood”

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As is the case with virtually all of her songs, Ice Spice’s “In Ha Mood” felt designed to be quoted, evoking the spirit of shots with your girlfriends and a night of dance floor thrills. This one’s got an infectious hook and a bar that will be Instagram-captioned for at least the next year: “She a baddie, she know she a 10/She a baddie with her baddie friend.” Produced by her friend and collaborator RIOTUSA, the track also includes the sort of propulsive EDM samples that give her tracks an added layer of momentum and a sort of melody designed for the TikTok generation. Fused with the contrast of Ice Spice’s muted delivery and lyrics that are too infectious to be ignored, and you’ve got a hit. The video for the song’s got 27 million YouTube views to date, surpassing “Bikini Bottom.” 

January 20: Unleashes Her Debut EP, Like..?

February 3: Appears on PinkPantheress’ “Boys a Liar Pt. 2”

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Ice Spice’s biggest song to date technically isn’t hers. It belongs to PinkPantheress, who grabbed Ice for “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2” a few months ago. Dipping her toes into the realm of dance-pop, Ice Spice began her attempts at a crossover at an earlier point than most rappers on the come-up, but it was a seamless integration; her producer, RIOTUSA, had already infused her initial songs with EDM samples, so this wasn’t totally out of nowhere. The collaboration itself makes sense in a way that feels greater than the sum of its parts. Lighthearted but vulnerable, the track is as sweet as it is fun, with Ice Spice matching Pantheress’ ethereal vocals with bars that manage to be earnest, aggressive, and playful. The video is just as colorful, and the pair’s camaraderie shines through, which only makes sense; the collaboration is the result of a few DMs and mutual fandom. Pantheress says she invited Ice Spice to a hangout session in the U.K. if she ever pulled up, and after Ice Spice posted the original “Boy’s a Liar” to her own Instagram story, Pantheress DM’ed her about appearing on the track. The video for this one has gotten over 114 million YouTube views, and the track itself sent Ice Spice’s Spotify streaming numbers through the roof. All these factors helped propel the song to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

February 13: Hits Up New York Fashion Week

Ice Spice brought her performance to a halt after an unruly crowd swarmed the stage at Bowery Showroom in NYC.

— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) February 12, 2023
Twitter: @PopCrave
Ice Spice hype had reached a proverbial fever pitch by the time she pulled up to New York Fashion Week, and she definitely turned heads while she was there. At the event, she popped out for the Tommy Hilfiger dinner and performances for LaQuan Smith and Tia Adeola afterparties. The hype got so crazy that her performance at the Bowery Showroom had to end prematurely because the crowd tried to rush her. In an event full of stars, it seemed that Ice Spice still shined the brightest.

March 5: Performs at Rolling Loud California

April 14: Drops “Princess Diana” Remix With Nicki Minaj, Nicki Announces Ice Spice Partnership

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“Princess Diana” is one of the best songs on Ice Spice’s debut project, so it was only right that she unloaded a remix for the track. Even more appropriately, she teamed up with her idol Nicki Minaj for the remix. Nicki had given her a co-sign the previous month, but this only made it more official. To date, the raunchy video for the track has collected over 39 million YouTube views, proving that Ice and Nicki make a solid team. That’s a good thing, because during this same moment, it was revealed that the two had formed a partnership, with Ice Spice releasing the remix partially under Nicki’s new Heavy On It record label. It’s not a magic pill, but Nicki remains one of the most iconic rappers of the era, and a cosign from her is further validation—and more permission for the Barbz to lend their support. 

April 21: “Munch (Feelin’ U) Gets Certified Gold

April 24: Stars in Skims Ad

May 1: Pops Out for MET Gala

May 25: Announced as Part of Barbie Soundtrack

May 26: Appears on Taylor Swift’s “Karma (Remix)”

June 4: Performs at Summer Jam

June 9: Hits the Stage for Governors Ball

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