So where do you stand on Ice Spice, then? In little over a year, the New York artist has gone from complete unknown to being anointed the city’s hottest prospect. She’s a viral sensation that, whether by design or accident, is already considered a meme-worthy icon, and has suffered the ire of crude internet hate, usually exclusively reserved for non-male musicians. An (alleged) beef with Drake has only heightened the attention.
The 23-year-old turned heads with a viral dance video in 2021, and by the following summer she was firing off chart-bothering hits. Released amidst the city’s sweltering heatwave, ‘Munch (Feelin U)’ took scarcely 100 seconds for Ice Spice to make her claim for the crown; ‘Bikini Bottom’, released two months later, intensified the hype, building on a drill sound that had clear mainstream pop ambitions. The former’s titular putdown – “You thought I was feelin’ you?” – was perfectly delivered with both spite and pity.
A smooth spoken-word style is where Spice finds her stride. Speaking to Erykah Badu in Interview, she said the ‘rapper’ title is something she pays no mind: “I know a lot of people try to categorise me [as a rapper] but I just like to create things,” she said. Much like the sardonic vocals heard in the latest post-punk revival, Ice Spice says plenty in her delivery, relying on the tonality of her voice – levelled, calm – to do much of the heavy lifting.
It makes ‘Like…?’, her debut project, such a sharp listen. Her voice remains monotone but that only makes the lines hit harder. On ‘In Ha Mood’, she bats off those who are envious of such a rapid rise: “They like, ‘Ice how you always stay hot?’ / Oh they mad cos I keep making bops”, she says, adding that “I’d hate me a lot” if she were in their shoes.
Musically, there are two key formulas on show here. On ‘Bikini Bottom’, ‘In Ha Mood’ and Lil Tjay collaboration ‘Gangsta Boo’, clipped guitar licks are looped ad nauseam until a smattering of hi-hats and booming bass take over. The other is potent, but less unique: distorted vocal samples are less muscular than the aforementioned riffs, though ‘Actin A Smoochie’ still holds its weight. Still, at least there’s uniqueness blossoming here.
The road is still long for Ice Spice, and weathering the post-viral breakout period feels crucial: longevity feels attainable, but casual listeners and even some fans remain fickle. On ‘Like…?’, she appears unbothered about chasing clout or fans – she knows they’ll come around eventually anyway.
Release date: January 20
Record label: 10K Projects