For this year’s update of our ongoing Greatest Pop Star by Year project, Billboard is counting down our staff picks for the top 10 pop stars of 2023 all this week. At No. 4, we remember the year in Ice Spice — who, while still in the earliest stages of her career, became a vital and inescapable part of 2023 pop culture.
From a young age, Ice Spice had manifested becoming successful, and her time in the spotlight finally came toward the end of 2022. “Watch me get lit by the end of the summer,” the then-22-year-old MC rapped on her single “Euphoric,” which she independently released three months before her breakout hit “Munch (Feelin’ U).” The New York drill anthem flashed Ice’s brash and brisk delivery and popularized her colloquialism that she defines as “a hater or somebody that’s really obsessed with you that’s just fiending to eat it.”
Billboard’s Greatest Pop Stars of 2023:
Introduction & Honorable Mentions | Rookie of the Year: Peso Pluma | Comeback of the Year: Miley Cyrus | No. 10: Drake | No. 9: Doja Cat | No. 8: Bad Bunny | No. 7: Olivia Rodrigo | No. 6: Karol G | No. 5: Morgan Wallen
Even though it never broke onto the Billboard Hot 100, “Munch” earned her a label deal with 10K Projects and Capitol Records one month after its release, and introduced Ice Spice as rap’s buzziest newcomer. Her cinnamon curly afro made her instantly recognizable, while her sharp-tongued bars exposed listeners to her own vernacular that quickly became part of the pop culture lexicon, like “baddie friend” from the cutesy-yet-cutthroat single “In Ha Mood,” where she patted herself on the back for accomplishing what she had originally set out to do before the warm-weather months were over.
Going into 2023, Ice shut down any remaining one-hit wonder claims, and proved she could dominate the charts and rule as “the People’s Princess,” as dubbed by her fans (who collectively call themselves the Spice Cabinet, while they’re individually known as Munchkins). She kicked off the new year with her debut EP Like..?, a six-song project named after her signature interjection that fused her pop sensibilities with her right-hand producer RIOTUSA’s expansive drill sound. Like..? debuted in the top 40 of the Billboard 200, while the Diddy-sampling, Lil Tjay-assisted “Gangsta Boo” debuted at No. 82 on the Hot 100, marking Ice’s debut entry on the chart.
After receiving a DM from PinkPantheress to hop on the remix of her melancholy bubblegum pop single “Boy’s a Liar,” the two joined forces on “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2” in February. One fan’s TikTok of the two artists filming the music video from an NYC fire escape instantly fueled social media buzz for the song prior to its release — and the song and video quickly justified the hype, their sounds and personalities perfectly complementing one another. The genius linkup between the “Gen Z ‘It’ girls of the internet era,” as PinkPantheress called the duo when speaking to Billboard, wasn’t just written in the stars, but solidified both artists’ statuses as such: “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2” reached No. 3 on the Hot 100, earning Ice and Pink each their first top 10 hits.
Ice continued expanding her reach outside of the rap world by rubbing elbows with the right people. Zedd invited Ice to perform “No Clarity” – Ice’s 2021 single featuring an uncleared sample of Zedd and Foxes’ 2012 dance smash “Clarity” – during his set at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival in March. But later that month, she connected with one of the biggest pop stars in the world. Ice and PinkPantheress presented Taylor Swift with the song of the year award at the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Awards, but widely circulated photos of Ice’s heartwarming embrace with the megastar suggested this wouldn’t be the last time we’d see these two together.
But before she could collaborate with Swift, Ice checked off the No. 1 artist from her collab bucket list when Nicki Minaj hopped on the “Princess Diana” remix in April. Much like her destined team-up with PinkPantheress, the undeniable power between rap’s new princess and its long-reigning queen made the remix an instant hit. “Princess Diana” debuted at No. 4 on the Hot 100 – earning Ice her second top 10 hit – and took the throne on Hot Rap Songs, making it the first No. 1 by two co-billed women in the chart’s 34-year history.
And since Ice knows no bounds, she wasn’t going to just stop at music. Having already served as the face of two major celebrity brands – Beyoncé’s Ivy Park and Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS – Ice made her proper foray into the fashion world when she attended her first-ever Met Gala on May 1. And by the end of the month, she went from the Met to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., where she made a surprise appearance during Swift’s Eras Tour stop to live-debut the “Karma” remix she was featured on. “I’m a massive fan of this brilliant artist and after getting to know her I can confirm: she is THE ONE to watch,” Swift wrote while announcing the remix the day before its release. With the ultimate cosign, Ice had enough auxiliary star power to launch her into the pop stratosphere and the upper echelon of the charts. “Karma” leaped to No. 2 on the Hot 100, earning Ice her third top 10 and her highest-charting hit to date.
By the year’s halfway point, Ice showed no signs of slowing down, and found new ways to keep herself in the conversation. In June, Ice became part of the pop cultural event of the summer – the Barbie movie – by reuniting with Minaj on the bass-bumping “Barbie World” anthem, which sampled Aqua’s 1997 Eurodance smash “Barbie Girl.” The song debuted at No. 7 on the Hot 100, earning Ice her fourth top 10 hit in just four months.
And while Ice continued to scorch through the mainstream, she and her team strategized career moves that made sure she didn’t burn out. She opted to drop the deluxe version of Like..? with four new songs in July instead of rushing a debut studio album. Her delectable “Deli” cut became the next single and reached No. 41 on the Hot 100, making it her highest-charting solo single to date and showing that Ice didn’t need to rely on A-list assistance for hits.
All eyes were on Ice, and in August, Billboard awarded her with a new title: R&B/Hip-Hop Rookie of the Year. Despite the honor arriving two days before the one-year anniversary of her breakout single “Munch,” the 24-year-old MC’s career trajectory felt far more established for someone who was just getting started. And by the end of the third quarter, she had cemented herself as a household name.
She and Swift reconnected at another awards show, this time at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards, and the cameras couldn’t stop capturing their chemistry, as well as Ice’s teary-eyed acceptance speech when she won best new artist. To sweeten the pot, Dunkin’ announced the new Ice Spice Munchkins Drink during the commercial break, with a hilarious spot that she filmed alongside acclaimed actor and Dunkin’s No. 1 fan Ben Affleck.
Ice was officially inescapable. And while she was connecting with audiences at home, she was also connecting with them around the world through multiple festival performances. She performed at Rolling Loud California and Miami; Hot 97 Summer Jam, where she was surprised with a gold plaque for “Munch”; and four European festivals in the span of a single week. Ice utilized every performance opportunity to get better and better, gearing up for her role as the supporting act for Doja Cat’s Scarlet Tour in November.
But a month before she hit the road, Ice made a pit stop at Saturday Night Live for her musical guest debut during the season 49 premiere, and the first live taping since the writer’s strike ended. The pressure to deliver a memorable performance was on, but Ice handled it with finesse – and with the help of a couple famous friends. Swift made a surprise cameo to introduce Ice before her live debut performance of “Pretty Girl” with Afrobeats star Rema, which dropped the day prior. Ice proved she could balance her relationships with A-listers and fellow up-and-comers, while dipping her toes into yet another genre, which honored her Nigerian roots.
Ice ended 2023 by effortlessly collecting major accolades like Infinity Stones and prevailing as one of the most commercially successful and culturally relevant new artists in pop and hip-hop. Ice topped Billboard’s year-end Top New R&B/Hip-Hop Artists chart and landed on Forbes 30 Under 30 music list. And she earned four Grammy nominations ahead of next year’s awards, including for best new artist.
While closing out her massive breakout year, Ice is already plotting an even bigger 2024. She posted a photo of her new tramp stamp on Instagram while potentially teasing a Y2K project for next year. It could align with her 24th birthday, since the star was born on January 1, 2000. Ice’s arrival at the turbulent turn of the millennium foreshadowed how much the rapper would shake things up in such a short time. The world just wasn’t ready for her, and it still isn’t.