Who is Ice Spice?

Earlier this week, Ice Spice took home the Video Music Award for Best New Artist, beating out acts like Mexican reggaeton star Peso Pluma and burgeoning pop singer Reneé Rapp. With all due respect to these artists, though, Spice was the obvious choice to be given the award, considering how quickly and effectively she’s been able to take over the zeitgeist of mainstream pop and hip-hop in the last year.

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Her Beginnings

Born Isis Naija Gaston in the Bronx, New York on the first day of the new millennium (January 1, 2000), the rapper’s African-American father and a Dominican mother would end up getting divorced when she was the age of 2. Her father, a man named Joseph Gaston, also happened to be a rapper, which meant Isis was able to grow up seeing him take frequent trips to recording studios. Though she never necessarily planned to be a rapper, her father constantly playing music from hip-hop artists like Wu-Tang Clan and Jay-Z certainly rubbed off on her.

Once she graduated high school, Gaston would attend State University of New York at Purchase, better known as SUNY, where she joined the volleyball team. During her sophomore year, though, she would drop out of SUNY and take on retail jobs to help support her younger siblings. However, as the inkling to start rapping began to set in, one person she met at SUNY would end up becoming one of the most important people in her life.

Solo Career

Gaston’s first taste of virality came in early 2021, when a video of her dancing to fellow burgeoning rapper Erica Banks’ 2020 song “Buss It” blew up. During that time, she was already sort of planning to put out music with the help of a producer named RiotUSA, who she met at college. This moment, though, was all the convincing she needed.

“It was so funny — I was already working on my first song ever that I was recording,” she told Billboard during a May cover story. “I had already wrote little raps and shit before that, [but] it took me a lot to get to recording. I was halfway done with it when I did the ‘Buss It’ challenge. When I saw it going so viral, I was like, ‘Damn, imagine that was my song I was twerking to.’ The next month, I put out my first song and took it from there.”

This song was “Bully Freestyle,” which she followed up with subsequent singles like “No Clarity” in November 2021, “Be a Lady” in March 2022, “Name of Love” in April 2022, and “Euphoric” in May 2022. But, it wasn’t until she released “Munch (Feelin’ U)” in August of last year that everything really took off.

Thanks to her infectious You thought I was feelin’ you? hook, Gaston hastily became one of New York drill rap’s most prominent faces. At the moment, the music video for “Munch (Feelin’ U)” has garnered 50 million views, and the song has eclipsed 105 million Spotify streams.

Soon after, Gaston would capitalize on this success with more releases like “Bikini Bottom” and “In Ha Mood,” both of which continued to build her soundscape that involved light-hearted, yet promiscuous raps over amusing drill production from Riot.

After “In Ha Mood” became Gaston’s first song to land on the Billboard Hot 100 (at No. 58), she would include it, “Bikini Bottom,” and “Munch (Feelin’ U)” on her January debut EP Like..?, also containing bubbly tracks like “Princess Diana” and “Gangsta Boo” with fellow New Yorker Lil Tjay.

Features and Co-Signs

Two weeks after the release of Like..?, Gaston would go from a trendy, surging act to a household name in commercial spheres. This transformation began thanks to her collaboration with also burgeoning internet star PinkPantheress, who welcomed Gaston onto the remix of her 2022 hit “Boy’s a Liar.”

On “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2,” Gaston would help mold the soft-spoken, British hyper-pop track into a mega hit, peaking at No. 3 on the Hot 100. Connecting with Gaston in NY for the cheery music video, PinkPantheress’ “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2” visuals would skyrocket in views, currently possessing over 150 million on YouTube.

Throughout this time, Gaston’s list of co-signs would keep growing, as she garnered attention from the likes of superstars like Drake, who she says he coaches her up on how to deal with fame.

“We talk all the time and we’re always just laughing about some things that go on,” she said in a July interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “And I’ll ask him, ‘What should I do with this? Or how’d you go about this? Or did you ever experience that?’ And he’ll, I’m not going to give real examples, but he’ll tell me, ‘I did this and you should do that, too, because you can.’ And I’ll be like, ‘You’re right. Period. I’m going to do that.’ It’s like coach vibes.”

[RELATED: Doja Cat Announces Fall Tour with Ice Spice and Doechii]

As spring rolled around, likely inspired by the success of “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2,” Gaston would devote energy to doing more remixes. The first of these came in April when she connected with her idol Nicki Minaj for the “Princess Diana” remix, which would go on to peak at No. 4 on the Hot 100, her second top 5 hit.

“I feel like I am absorbing advice from her and learning from her and stuff,” Gaston said of her friendship with Minaj. “And she’ll tell me, ‘Learn from my mistake, do this or don’t do that,’ or whatever. And I just really pay attention to what she’s saying. Because if there’s anyone I’m going to listen to it’s the queen.”

The next month, though, Gaston would reach unfathomable heights. Hopping on the remix of Taylor Swift’s October 2022 chart-topper “Karma,” she would find herself at No. 2 on the Hot 100. More importantly, though, she would establish a relationship with the world’s most recognizable pop star, one that is seemingly built to last.

“She’s so sweet – I was so obsessed with how humble she was and willing to work,” she told The Guardian in July. “She gives me so much advice – we talk all the time and she’s so funny… But I can’t say what she be telling me.”

Gaston would end spending the entire night at MTV’s VMAs with Swift, as they sat next to each other alongside Riot.

What’s Next?

Since “Karma,” Gaston has not only been able to link with Minaj again to make a song for the Barbie film soundtrack, which peaked at No. 7, but she also dropped a deluxe edition of Like..? in July, which included a new hit titled “Deli.” Reaching No. 41 on the Hot 100, “Deli” has done enough to keep momentum up for Gaston, as she looks to continue her surge to hip-hop dominance.

It’s currently unclear if Gaston plans on putting out any new music in the near future, but if her recent releases are any indicator, the next Ice Spice song could be yet another culture-changing phenomenon.

“I always felt like I could do anything I tried to do, but especially now it feels like anything is possible,” she told The Guardian. “Being at award shows, being on magazine covers, getting huge features – all those moments made me feel like: ‘Wow, we’re really doing it big.’”

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for MTV

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