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We Know We’re Feeling Her: The Business of Ice Spice

Last Updated: June 30, 2023
The Bronx-bred rapper’s rise to stardom has become a spectacle in itself.

When I saw that girl with a ginger afro, green tube top, and jean shorts freely twerking and calling somebody a munch, I knew I was hooked. Ice Spice reminded me of the pretty, chill homegirl in your neighborhood who just wanted have fun.

At first, she seemed like the next viral sensation. Then, she kept coming back stronger, not only with her music but her presence in the digital age. She became what Nicki Minaj has officially co-signed as “the people’s princess,” instantaneously, from her raw, chill New York essence and her ever-evolving star power.

I knew she was serious about becoming a household name in the music industry when she released her debut EP Like…?. From her smooth delivery in the Lil Tjay-assisted “Gangsta Boo” to the choice of beats across “Princess Diana,” Spice was clearly aware that all eyes were on her.

She knows she has something to prove as she rises to the top of the music food chain as a rookie.

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In a single year, Ice Spice has created a path for herself that the industry hasn’t seen in a long time. When we heard the intro line, “You thought I was feeling you?,” it immediately clicked that she’s a contender to be the next raptress on the rise. So far, we’re right. 

Her spot at No. 72 on Spotify, according to Trapital, puts her ahead of rap mogul Jay-Z and the legendary Michael Jackson. Ice Spice has now amassed over 38 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone. As her Capitol Records and 10K Projects team continues to push her forward, there’s no telling the future of Ice Spice’s cabinet of tricks.

With “Munch (Feelin’ U)” becoming her first gold plaque — officially announced at this year’s HOT 97 Summer Jam while amassing over 44 million views and counting on Youtube — Ice Spice is reaching new heights just a year after her mainstream debut.

“I just really wanted to make a fun drill song. I feel like drill could sometimes be a little dark, but I wanted to make it more bubbly or just really feeling myself,” she told ESSENCE Girls United. “I wanted girls to just feel like a bad bitch listening to it.”

Ice Spice performs onstage during “Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour” (Photo by Kevin Mazur/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

If “Munch”‘s success wasn’t enough, Ice Spice has hit a career milestone not even a year after the infectious single’s drop. As of June 2023, she has accumulated more Top 5 Billboard Hot 100 hits than any other artist this year.

According to ChartData, Ice Spice’s success is attributed to her musical features and collaborations, including the newly dropped “Karma” featuring Taylor Swift (No. 2), TikTok fave “Boy’s A Liar” with PinkPantheress (No. 3), and “Princess Diana” featuring Nicki Minaj (No. 4).

Moreover, Ice Spice broke the record with the Swift-helmed hit for the biggest streaming debut for a woman who raps in global Spotify history, knocking Nicki Minaj’s “Super Freaky Girl” out of its spot. With the teaming up of Spice’s Munchkins and Taylor’s Swifties, the collaboration garnered more than 5 million streams on its first day.

From what is now her signature ginger curls to her around-the-way girl aesthetic, she’s quickly turned into a modern-day it girl of the rap game. Born Isis Naija Gaston in the Bronx, she embodies the braggadocios, yet casual vibe many New Yorkers carry. 

“I’m just naturally super chill and nonchalant about a lot of things,” she told The New York Times in a previous interview. “I’ve always been that way since I was a baby.”

Her whole swag and exuberant femininity creates a persona for Gen Z’ers to emulate because Spice has the effervesces of the girl you knew growing up who rapped and had the most fly clothes in the neighborhood. So, it’s no shock that her personal brand has become bigger and better than ever from a collaboration of her music, fashion deals, and overall relatable personality. 

“Spice’s signature orange natural curls and catchy songs alone make her a hit on and off social media,” Atlanta-based multimedia journalist Elizabeth Smith told Boardroom. “She and her team also showcase different elements of the rapper. From lifestyle content to music and fashion, she isn’t afraid to be her authentic self; fans gravitate towards that.”

According to Spotify’s Loud and Clear report, there are 130 artists whose catalogs generate $5M-plus annually on Spotify alone (which makes up roughly 25% of recorded music revenue). If Ice Spice stays in this neighborhood or higher by this time in 2024, we can assume she and her team have done quite well.

Earlier this year, the “Actin A Smoochie” rapper was also dubbed MTV’s Global Push Artist for May following the drop of her debut EP, joining the likes of industry newcomers Latto, Shenseea, Muni Long, Saucy Santana, and Armani White.

With her only being in the industry for a year and having a 23-minute-long discography, we’ll continue to study her rise to stardom for years to come. 

In Ha Social Media Mood

For many Gen Z artists, social media has become a key for any successful song. If your song and aesthetic are trending on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram, you may have a hit. Ice Spice did just that, and fans have a digital timeline of how long she’s been trying to kick the door down and enter the rap game. 

“Ice Spice’s journey to the limelight has been a mind-altering thing,” said VIBE reporter Amber Corrine. “She really broke through negative thoughts from critics, whether about her look, her sound, or famous co-signs, and really shut everyone up with her music and the numbers she put up on the board.

“I think it was fascinating to learn that she owned all of her masters, which made me respect her even more as a new young artist. I think Ice Spice makes music for a specific audience and whether you’re a fan or not, she’s proven why she’s in her spot.”

Per Corrine’s point, going from a social media hit to owning your own masters is no small feat, especially as we’ve seen artists such as Frank Ocean, Ciara, Chance The Rapper, Rihanna, and Beyoncé on their own journeys to own their masters. Unfortunately, artists such as JoJo and Swift have openly struggled to gain control of their music, forcing them to re-record original masters.

And so Spice is getting her sh*t together early to avoid a future label and ownership debacle by not signing a 360 deal and having all creative control over her music and publishing rights.

“Owning masters allows artists to build equity and grow assets under their business out the gate,” Spice’s manager James Rosemond, Jr. exclusively told Boardroom. “Not only does she get to maximize her opportunities to make much more money now and later, but she also gets a seat at the table when it comes to controlling her art.”

While labels fought to sign Ice Spice the minute she blew up, Rosemond knew the importance of reading the fine print and strategizing how to approach conversations with labels. Rather than signing the first production or 360 deals that came their way, Rosemond — who is also the founder of Mastermind Artists — came to an agreement that no one from the label side would touch the music and there would be no traditional A&R in place. Instead, the power is all in Ice Spice’s hands — from the beat picking to production scheduling.

“Years later, Ice will have a full catalog and will be able to sell it or license it again for a big multiple,” he said. “That’s how you build wealth.” 

The 23-year-old Ice Spice has curated over 8.1 million followers on Instagram, 1.6 million on Twitter and 8.6 million on TikTok, showcasing how her engagement and social media likeness are more than a phase.

“I like to hear catchy stuff and I always be thinking like, Damn, what should I caption this? So I just started coming up with mad captions,” the rapper told The New York Times.

Through it all, she’s been able to keep that humble and relatable image that allows people to gravitate toward her not just for her music, but her personality, which will take a female rapper a long way. We’ve seen as much with Cardi B’s hilarious viral moments, Saweetie’s TikTok presence that held us through the pandemic, and Latto’s cooking videos alongside her sister, Brooke.

“Ice Spice’s cabinet is full of faithful supporters who catapulted her to an overnight star,” said entertainment reporter and former MTV host Danteé Ramos, attributing the rapper’s star quality to her relatability, which includes “the soft touches of makeup, confidence in her natural body, style, and overall, HER spice.”

In addition to having confidence in herself as an artist, having a die-hard fanbase boosts your likability and music sales, as we’ve seen from Nicki Minaj‘s Barbz to Megan Thee Stallion‘s Hotties. Ice Spice has done just that with her Munchkins across social media.

Fashion Princess (Diana)

From donning custom Balmain at the Met Gala to partnering with Kim Kardashian’s Skims, and even wearing custom Theophilio, Ice Spice has become one of the go-to fashion girls in hip-hop.

Ice Spice seen at Coach Fall 2023 Ready To Wear Fashion Show (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images )

She recently served as the face of the last installments of Ivy Park prior to its disbandment. Kardashian even celebrated Ice Spice in an official statement, alongside Nessa Barrett, Ray, and “Boys a Liar, Pt. II” collaborator Pinkpantheress, as an “incredible music artist” and “super talented” woman who was reflective of the Skims community and audience.

“The intersection of women in rap and fashion is nothing new; we’ve been seeing it for decades,” said The Cut’s beauty and fashion writer Asia Milia Ware

From Missy Elliott’s culture-shifting music video wardrobe to red carpet debuts of new fashion and style trends, Ware noted that rap music and Black culture’s intersectionality has always been at the forefront of fashion and style, making Ice Spice the next contender to lead the pack of the couture conversations.

“Hip-hop has always been at the helm of fashion and trends, and I think we’ve seen slight nods at it, but the icons never fully receive their credit,” Ware continued. “Ice is a new generation of what it looks like when the two intersect. Fashion knows who to lean into and who is of the moment; it’s a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties.”

Ice Spice has entered an era where she has the fashion world in the palm of her hand to amplify her personal brand and aesthetic. It’s no secret that she’s enduring the new formula of what female rappers go through — taking that pop star route — and one way to bring the worlds together is through fashion, culture, and style.

Through watching social media and Getty Image snippets from red carpets, fans have had firsthand access to the “Princess Diana” rapper as she slowly steps into her fashion bag and tests out new looks while keeping that signature New York flavor.

“When I first met her, I just immediately got IT girl energy. She’s so unbothered and so sweet but knows what she wants,” Ice Spice’s stylist Marissa Pelly told Complex. “She’s so effortlessly cool. She has an aura about her where I’m just like, okay, she doesn’t have to do too much to make an impression.”

Through her distinct style and effortless swagger, Ice Spice has revived and reintroduced the beauty of simplicity, swag, natural sex appeal, and confidence exuding from within oneself. It all comes together for the perfect recipe for the 21st century brand ambassador.

“Brands are really receptive,” Pelly added. “I feel like everyone knows that she is the moment. But I wouldn’t say that she’s a moment. There’s longevity here for sure. And I think brands are seeing that and people are really eager to work with her. My DMs are definitely flooded with people asking to send me clothes for her. This is the first time I’ve worked with someone who’s this hot.”

As Ice Spice continues to grow in the fashion space, her authentic style has caused brands to gravitate toward her.

“She’s been able to enter the fashion industry so early in her career because she stayed true to her personal style through her rise,” Ware added. “It’s fun, girly and unique to her, she didn’t gain fame and start wearing designers or clothes that felt like they didn’t fit her identity.”

She continued to note her style as “personable,” which has been a recurring theme in the analysis of the rapper’s rise.

“She’s authentic to her style and you can feel it from wearing Juicy Couture tracksuits to Moose Knuckles x Telfar in editorials, she still feels like the Bronx girl from next door. When new talent comes onto the scene with a fresh personal style like Ice, the fashion industry swarms to them and I think that’s what we’re seeing happen here.”

The People’s Princess of Personal Branding

“It’s smart to have a name like Ice Spice. It rhymes, easy to say, rolls off the tongue well,” reporter Neil Shah said on the Trapital podcast.

He continued to explain that while the rap game has seen “other Ices” before, such as Ice Cube, Ice-T, and Vanilla Ice, the young raptress has carved out a lane of her own in a way the industry has never seen.

“Let’s imagine an alternate world where she went by “Lil’ Isis” instead. It could be easy for some to dismiss her and believe that they’ve seen this before.”

For women in hip-hop to attain significant success, they have to be more than their music and become an entire entity for fans to gravitate toward. It’s a double standard that women face in the industry, requiring all the more devotion to their careers in and out of the booth.

“As she emerged in 2021 while matriculating as a college student, the rap phenom used the power of social media to really create a solid impact along with being incredibly intentional about her image,” said entertainment industry veteran publicist Syreta J. Oglesby.

The “Euphoric” rapper’s brand has included her fiery red tresses, which was seen on her animated debut EP, her Bratz-inspired blinged out necklace, and unapologetic sex appeal.

“As branding and marketing work together along with visibility, her star continues to rise as it resonates across demographics,” Oglesby added.

Chiming in on Spice’s star power and why her personal brand has been magnetic for partnerships and co-signs, Rosemond said furthermore, “Ice is just being herself and not trying to impress anybody. She marches to the beat of her own drum. By being true to what she likes and doesn’t like, she resonates easily with fans, the audience, and brands.”

In order for women in rap to truly stand out, they must be strategic. For Ice Spice, it was an easy connection with fans across the board, as she brought the flavor of the Boogie Down Bronx and the surge-worthy drill rap beat wrapped into a red-headed package.

“She’s young, fun, personable and she has a very distinctive signature style,” Ware added. “[Ice Spice] came onto the scene and was immediately known for her red curls and no matter what designer she’s in, she’s consistently in something that feels like her — mini skirts, body-hugging garments, lace. She’s cultivated a community that celebrates any and everything she does down to her style and brands see opportunity in that community.”

After a steady and fast-paced rise to the top of her game — which isn’t projected to peak anytime soon — everybody knows when they see Ice Spice.

We’ve even seen North West dress up as Ice Spice to demonstration the power of impression and Ice Spice’s influence on the rising generation from her one-of-a-kind-isms, to the eye roll, tongue movements, and caption-worthy lyrics.

One may say that she has come a long way from Fordham Road with her debut “Bully Freestyle” in 2021. Throughout it all, the young starlet is proving that her success isn’t a fluke, and there’s a method to the madness that is the business of being Ice Spice.

“The whole lifestyle change is super drastic, especially coming from where I come from, not coming from sh*t and not having a lot growing up, to now — it’s the complete opposite,” Ice Spice told Teen Vogue in her latest cover story.

“Even though it’s a positive change, it’s still a change.”

She continues to follow in the footsteps of millennial femcees like Cardi, Megan Thee Stallion, and Nicki — with whom she is slated to release a second “Barbie World” song on June 23 — alongside the new female rap coalition of today such as Latto, Doechii, Lola Brooke, and Flo Milli, who leverage their social media presence to create a stable fanbase who engage with her socially and through her music.

“I’m mentally preparing as I go — like, okay, soon things are going to get crazier. I’m excited,” she told Teen Vogue.

So am I.

Additional reporting by D’Shonda Brown.

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