Ice Spice Is Rethinking Rap Stardom
When Ice Spice dropped “Munch (Feelin’ U)” last August, the fuck-boy diss track went so viral it made even the biggest haters take notice. With an effortless flow and an irresistibly calm demeanor, the 22-year-old Bronx rapper has become an overnight sensation, riding New York’s drill wave all the way to mainstream stardom. In fact, no one has been more successful at dragging thirsty men while forcing them to sing along since the original B-girl Erykah Badu dropped her ’90s ode to bummy broke boys “Tyrone.” So when Badu’s daughter Puma Curry put her mom on to Ice Spice, it made sense that the neo-soul legend recognized a kindred spirit. The three of them recently got together to break down the state of female rap, repping for the natural hair girlies, and being besties with god. —RASHIDA RENÉE
ERYKAH BADU: What’s up, Ice?
ICE SPICE: Hi! How are you?
BADU: You look lovely.
SPICE: I look crazy. I’m at rehearsal right now. [Laughs]
BADU: It’s all good. It’s the life.
SPICE: Yeah. I love it.
BADU: Hold on one second, we trying to blur our background.
SPICE: Wow, twinning now. Puma, you’re so pretty. You too, Erykah. I love you guys.
BADU: We love you, too. We are listening to “Munch,” like, for lunch.
PUMA CURRY: Everybody’s listening to “Munch.” If you haven’t been listening to it, you’re asleep.
BADU: Puma has a few questions to start with. She’s who turned me on to the song. It went viral so we did this little TikTok show.
SPICE: That was fire. I’m so honored that you agreed to do this interview. I know you’re busy as fuck.
BADU: Yes, ma’am. You want to jump right in, Pu?
CURRY: Alright. Just a quick question, for the people in the back who still don’t know. What is a munch?
SPICE: A munch is basically like an eater—someone that’s obsessed with you. It could be a hater, too.
BADU: Like a ho. A ho-ass ho.
BADU: In Dallas we say—what’s the word we use for munch here?
BADU: No, not a trick.
SPICE: A herb.
BADU: Yeah. This nigga a herb.
SPICE: I be saying that too.
CURRY: So, who or what do you look to for inspiration?
SPICE: I look to my whole environment. The people I love that’s around me, posting me. And then, of course, the legends and icons too, like your mother right here. You definitely inspired me—my parents would play Baduizm top to bottom, like, all day. And Lil’ Kim, Nicki, Foxy, Remy, they’re all huge inspos for me.
CURRY: A lot of female empowerment going on.
SPICE: I live for the girls.
CURRY: So, in the past year, you have gained a lot of traction, but with success comes haters. How do you deal with that?
SPICE: I don’t pay too much attention to the noise. I try to focus on the positive. I stay away from the comments section as much as possible, and I just pray a lot. That’s it.
CURRY: Wow. I didn’t expect that.
SPICE: I pray all day. Me and god are besties.
CURRY: Period. Who would be your dream collab?
SPICE: I have to say Nicki because that’s just like, duh.
BADU: I’m surprised Nicki hasn’t jumped on “Munch” yet.
SPICE: She would eat that shit up, too. But another dream collab is Doja Cat.
CURRY: Girl, I’m waiting on that track. We’re going to turn the gears a little bit. When a guy takes you out on a date, what would be your dream night out?
SPICE: I’m a homebody. I don’t really like to be out in public doing things like that, especially now. My dream date is chilling at home by ourselves. We’re just smoking, eating, watching movies. You get to know somebody better that way.
CURRY: Yeah. Being at home with somebody really offers that intimacy, and you can really see—
SPICE: How they act. If they pick their nose a lot, or they scratching they butt, stuff like that. [Laughs]
CURRY: Ugh, I never want to know guys like that.
SPICE: [Laughs] It must be a Bronx thing.
CURRY: What were you like in high school?
SPICE: I was very popular and I went to a Catholic school, so I was wearing the same shit every day.
CURRY: Ugh, I can relate.
BADU: We both went to Catholic school. We couldn’t wait to get out to express ourselves.
SPICE: Yes. I think that’s why we’re so expressive now, because we couldn’t be growing up.
BADU: Yeah. I want to go back to the question about dating. Do you find it difficult for men to see women as just friends?
SPICE: I try to have platonic relationships, and it works for the most part, but they’re always going to flirt with you. They’re always going to ask you out on dates. Even if you’re making it clear, like no, we’re just friends, they’re like, “Okay, cool, but when you’re ready for me, let me know.”
CURRY: I hate that.
SPICE: I know you get that a lot, because you’re pretty as fuck.
CURRY: Thank you. You’re so pretty, too. I was just stalking your Instagram, and I want to say from the bottom of my heart, you have one of the most beautiful faces and one of the most beautiful booties I’ve ever seen.
SPICE: Thank you!
BADU: That thang be thangin’.
SPICE: Yes ma’am.
BADU: Now that we got into body and beauty, in 2007 I made a prediction of what a starter pack would look like for a female artist in the 2020s. Puma will read it to you. [Laughs]
CURRY: Let me say before I read this, she got it right. And I quote, “First of all, you got to get some breast implants. What’s hot is the butt implant. If you really want to rock somebody’s world and make it in the business, you better get an ass implant. Get you some calf implants too, because you’re going to be wearing those stilettos. You need to get your hair long if you can, if you can get your scalp cut off and get you a whole ’nother scalp. And you gotta wear stilettos, I don’t care how old you are.” She basically hit all the points of mainstream rap beauty. How do you feel that relates to you?
SPICE: You’re 100 percent right, there’s definitely a starter pack and I see a lot of girls doing it. I feel like it doesn’t apply to me all the way. My hair is short as fuck, it’s not swinging down my back. My whole body’s natural, even though some people try to accuse me of surgery. Only thing fake is my teeth, which I got to get redone. And my nails. I be having some fake-ass nails.
BADU: Let’s talk about your beautiful ginger curly locks. What inspired you to go that direction as opposed to the look that we all are trying to achieve right now?
SPICE: When I started putting music out, I was wearing wigs a lot. I didn’t show my natural hair until I put out “No Clarity” in November 2021. I noticed it was doing so much better than all my previous work. I don’t think my fan base was ready for me to be in heels and a lace front. I think they like that I’m being myself.
BADU: That’s really cool. It’s a political statement when a Black woman wears her natural hair that grows out of her skull, which we think should be covered because when we got hair as indentured servants and slaves and workers, we were ordered to cover it. And from then on we’ve struggled with being true to ourselves. We are living in a cognitive dissonance. That’s when you believe one thing but you do another. We believe that we’re beautiful and natural and all that, but we are still afraid to unveil the coils and the curls.
SPICE: That’s true. I was, too.
BADU: What made you feel brave about it?
SPICE: I think my father helped me get past it, because he would always say, “It’s beautiful, you’re beautiful, wear your natural hair.” I loved to straighten my hair and I loved to pretend it wasn’t curly. I would literally pray to god before I went to sleep, like, “Please let me wake up with straight hair.” Because at the school I went to, there were so many white girls and I was the only one with curly hair for a long time. But once I finally started doing it, it was like ripping off a Band-Aid. I’ll never forget the first time I went to school with my natural hair. I spent so much time in the bathroom just looking at myself before going back to class. I was so nervous for something that didn’t even fucking matter. But when you’re 15, the whole class’s opinion matters to you.
BADU: Speaking of school, can you tell me a little bit about your up bringing? What was your home life like?
SPICE: My parents would be at work a lot so I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. I have so many cousins, and after school, we’d all link up at my grandparents’ house. We’d chill, eat, laugh, watch TV. I went to after-school a lot, too. Actually, I shot the “Munch” video at the park that I went to after school. Then when I finally went to Catholic school, things started changing. I didn’t go to church a lot at home growing up, I was never even baptized. But I’m still religious in the sense where I strictly pray every day, all the time.
SPICE: My parents were separated when I was two, and I have five siblings. I’m the oldest. It’s all separated. My parents had me and then they split up and had their own kids.
CURRY: I can relate to that. I have five siblings and I’m the only baby my mom and dad had together. What does that feel like?
SPICE: Growing up I would get jealous that my other siblings had siblings that came from the same mom and dad, but now that I’m older I just feel special. Don’t you feel special?
BADU: She’s pretty amazing. Gen Z is just very mature. I’ll segue into hip-hop. You’re from New York, the birthplace of hip-hop. Do you consider yourself a rapper?
SPICE: I consider myself an artist. I know a lot of people try to categorize me but I just like to create things.
BADU: What you’re doing, the spoken word, is in the category of rap, which originated from hip-hop. Are you familiar with or do you have any ties to New York hip-hop? Do you know the history of it?
SPICE: I think it’s important to remember where everything started, but I don’t have a direct connection to the first people to do certain things. I do know about Roxanne [Shanté] and other legendary people. I just met the person that invented the scratch at the 50th hip-hop anniversary Nike shoot that I did.
BADU: Grandmaster Flash?
SPICE: [Laughs] Thank you for that. He was cool. And I just met Crazy Legs.
BADU: Even in hip-hop we, as B-boys and B-girls, consider ourselves artists. The teacher from the Boogie Down Bronx, KRS-One, he’s kind of like the prime minister of hip-hop. He keeps the culture informed and the guidelines in place. He once said, “Rap is something you do and hip-hop is something you live.” Hip-hop was break dancing, graffiti art, backpacking, DJing, MCing. And it came up out of a necessity. We didn’t have the entertainment industry to back that art. It was just something that we loved and did. What motivates you to keep expanding as a creative and an artist?
SPICE: It’s the urge that I have to impact the culture. I want to leave a cultural footprint like you did. I want a girl to want me to interview her years from now and just be like, “You’re the GOAT.” The crown you’re wearing, I want a crown, too.
BADU: What kind of imprint do you want to make?
SPICE: I want to make girls feel confident. Like the Marilyn Monroe impact or the Rihanna impact, the Erykah impact. You have a way of hypnotizing people, you cast a spell on them. I want to do the same thing.
BADU: I can feel that. What was your relationship like with your mother?
SPICE: She had me at 17 so we kind of grew up together. She gives me sister vibes and she’s a little crazy, but I’m thankful because that’s why I am who I am. It’s chaotic but we love each other down.
BADU: I get it. What about your dad?
SPICE: My father, he’s more leveled, which is also why I feel like I am the way that I am. So I’m grateful for both, they’re a perfect combination.
BADU: You remind me a lot of Puma and her disposition, it’s all optimistic. The possibilities are enormous and beautiful. How can you guys have this disposition in this cloudy, funky, media-driven society?
SPICE: It’s just wanting things to be better, so you just pretend it’s better. [Laughs]
CURRY: At this point you kind of have to look away from the bad because it’s going to be there no matter what.
BADU: This is not a new phenomenon—substance abuse has always been a big issue, period—but I was asking Puma, what are the drugs of choice today?
CURRY: I just hear dudes be poppin’ perkys. I grew up pretty sheltered. Maybe weed.
SPICE: Weed’s the main thing. That’s my favorite. I just love to smoke.
BADU: Y’all think that’s a drug? I thought that was necessary.
SPICE: [Laughs] Exactly. You get it.
BADU: Yeah. Are you around a lot of parties now that you have chosen the industry as your career?
SPICE: I don’t like to party at all. So I only party when I’m getting paid to. It’s just not fun for me. I’m not a drinker like that. I like to sip wine, but I don’t like to drink hard liquor.
BADU: Is Ice Spice single?
SPICE: Yes, she is.
BADU: Are you dating?
SPICE: I’m not going out on dates because I don’t like to be out in public with people like that. I’m just having fun and being young, period.
BADU: That’s a great answer. Drill music, what is it?
SPICE: Drill is defined by the beats and the high-hat pattern and the 808 slides and stuff like that. But drill is expanding like crazy. It started in Chicago and it was Chief Keef and that whole movement. And then it went to the U.K. for a while and now that it’s back in New York, it’s in its final form. I just love the beats. For me that’s the most important aspect.
BADU: In traditional hip-hop as a B-girl, it’s a sin if somebody else writes your raps. It’s like, “What are you doing? Why are you here in the building?” But today it doesn’t matter that much. It’s about getting the message across. Do you write your raps?
SPICE: For sure. I wrote “Munch” myself and “Bikini Bottom,” the song that’s about to come out. I write all my music. My producer helps me when we’re in the studio together and we’re bouncing ideas back and forth. But I don’t like to accept references. If I’m going to work with a writer, I like for us to build it from scratch.
BADU: Who’s your producer?
SPICE: RIOTUSA. Shout out to him. Best producer in the city.
BADU: I’m going to have to check Riot out, he might have to send me some tracks.
BADU: I hate this question when people ask me, but who are your top five female MCs right now?
SPICE: Doja Cat, Nicki Minaj, Ruby Rose, Cardi B, GloRilla. Boom.
BADU: Okay. Top five male MCs right now?
SPICE: A Boogie [wit da Hoodie]. He from the Bronx. Lil Durk. I love me some Yeat. No one understands him. Who else? Lil Tjay. I like the girls more than the guys, I’m not going to lie. So it’d be hard for me to think, who do I listen to. I’m going to say Drake.
BADU: Right now, females are dominating the industry across the board. Why do you think that is?
SPICE: Because we’re beautiful as fuck. Girls are just easier to look at. If there’s ten guys in the room, but one girl, we’re all going to look at the girl. We just have this goddess energy about us and the guys don’t have that extra sense. They’re cool, though.
BADU: And as equal as it looks, we have a long way to go with it. Even right now in the industry, when I look at the videos and things, we’re all wearing the same kind of thing, garnering the same kind of attention. We don’t all do it for the same reasons, it’s just what is popular right now.
CURRY: What can we expect from Ice Spice in 2023?
SPICE: There’s going to be a new body of work and it’s going to include drill tracks, it’s going to have some trap. It might have a surprise in there.
SPICE: And hopefully a feature, but if not, it’s still going to eat regardless. And fire visuals attached with that, too.
CURRY: That’s going to be dope. I’m excited to see your vision.
SPICE: Thank you. I’m excited that you’re excited.
BADU: I’m so happy that we had a chance to talk to you and to get to know you a little bit more. And I’m happy Puma introduced me to your music.
SPICE: Thank you. Puma, you’re the GOAT.
BADU: Congratulations. You the “It” girl. Keep your heart and love yourself.
Hair: Rachel Polycarpe using Ouidad
Makeup: Ayaka Nihei using Mac Cosmetics
Photography Assistant: Fletcher Kern