But the originality of “Munch” turned out to be a blessing — a hit reliant upon an older hit can feel contingent, saying less about the new artist than about the durability of the older one. “I’m happy the first song that ever really blew up for me like that was an original song, with an original word,” Ice Spice said. “I’m just so proud of that.”
The response, fueled by social media, was instant. “I remember the week ‘Munch’ came out, I had went to the mall, right?” Ice Spice said, characteristically unperturbed. “And a bunch of kids started running up to me like, ‘Yo, are you the “Munch” girl?’ And like, taking pictures of me and recording me.”
Before stopping at New Capitol diner for an M&M cookie, she popped by St. James Park, where the “Munch” video was filmed, hoping to use the bathroom — it was locked — and quipped, “They should name it Munch Park.”
In the wake of the success of “Munch,” Ice Spice signed to 10K Projects/Capitol Records, and had her first taste of financial success — “I got 2 milli for using a mic,” she posted online at one point. But riding down the blocks where she grew up, making the trip back for the first time since handing out Thanksgiving turkeys alongside fellow Bronx rapper Lil Tjay, she expressed a little exhaustion. “People won’t ask you directly, like, ‘Hey, can you buy me a house?’ I mean, they will actually,” she said. But she was even more frustrated about the things she couldn’t yet do: “It’s just weird now being at a certain place and not being able to just help everybody that you want to help.”
Born Isis Gaston to a Black father and a Dominican mother who divorced when she was still a toddler, Ice Spice has five younger half siblings. She’d written poetry and raps since childhood, and her father routinely encouraged her to freestyle with him. (“We would be walking to school and he would be trying to get me to rap about my day,” she recalled.) She didn’t begin writing full songs until 2019, inspired by the breakout wave of Brooklyn drill rappers that included Sheff G and Pop Smoke, and didn’t record any of them until 2021, after a video of her doing the #BussItChallenge gained traction and she had a brief flirtation with extreme virality.
“Once that happened I was like, Oh, if I could do it one time, I’m pretty sure I could do it again,” she said. “That’s when I knew I could be an artist.” Sensing an opportunity, she rushed to complete her first song: the squelchy, tough-talking, Brooklyn drill-esque “Bully Freestyle.” She began recording more tracks, and documenting the process, eventually releasing promo trailers for each to gin up attention and enthusiasm.