Ice Spice: Graduating from Yonkers to Hip-Hop Stardom

Hip-Hop superstar, Ice Spice, began her musical journey inspired by New York rappers to eventually blaze her own trail and speak in her own voice. From the Bronx to Yonkers, she is now on the world’s stage representing these musical roots.

A musical education

Isis Naija Gaston was born on January 1, 2000, in the vibrant borough of the Bronx in New York City. Raised in the Fordham Road neighborhood, she is the eldest of five siblings. Ice Spice’s heritage is a blend of African-American and Dominican roots. Her parents relationship struggled, leading to their divorce when Isis was just two years old. Henceforth, she spent a significant portion of her formative years in the care of her grandparents and cousins.

Her first exposure to hip-hop came at the age of seven after discovering the sounds of Lil’ Kim and Nicki Minaj. Then, her father’s background as an underground rapper introduced her to the likes of Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and Wu-Tang Clan.

Though born in the Bronx and starting school there, she later transferred to Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers. It was during this time that Ice Spice’s passion for hip-hop deepened. Inspired by the performances of Nicki Minaj, she decided to pursue a career in music. It was also during her high school years that she chose the stage name “Ice Spice.”

Beyond hip-hop, Ice Spice drew influence from diverse genres. In a 2022 feature for Rolling Stone, she mentioned Coldplay’s “Yellow” and the 1975’s “Sex” as pivotal tracks during her adolescence. Her eclectic taste extends to artists like Erykah Badu, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and Lauryn Hill, whom she admires for their “graceful angelic vibe of timeless beauty.”

In 2018, Ice Spice graduated from Sacred Heart and enrolled at the State University of New York at Purchase. There, she balanced academics with her role on the school’s volleyball team. Despite a commendable stint in sports, Ice Spice made the decision to drop out around her sophomore year. She shouldered the responsibility of being the eldest sister; working various jobs including at Wendy’s and The Gap, to support herself.

Breaking through

Ice Spice’s entry into the music scene was catalyzed by a meeting with record producer RiotUSA while still attending university. This encounter led to the production of her debut song, “Bully Freestyle,” released in March 2021. The song gained attention after a video of Ice Spice participating in the “Buss It” challenge went viral on Twitter.

Ice Spice’s musical style is rooted in Bronx drill, characterized by its energetic beats and raw lyricism. Despite her preference for “super simple” and “digestible” lyrics, Ice Spice has carved out a unique space for herself in the hip-hop landscape.

Her early tracks, including “Name of Love,” found success on platforms like SoundCloud, contributing to her growing popularity on Instagram. The momentum continued, setting the stage for her breakthrough in 2022.


August 10, 2022, marked a pivotal moment in Ice Spice’s career with the release of “Munch (Feelin’ U).” Supported by Drake, who featured the song on his Sirius XM radio station, the track gained significant traction. While initially taking off on Twitter and TikTok, it eventually hit the Billboard’s charts. This laid the foundation for her debut EP, “Like..?,” released on January 20, 2023, featuring hit singles like “Bikini Bottom” and “In Ha Mood.”

Her collaboration with Lil Tjay on “Gangsta Boo” earned her a spot on the prestigious Billboard Hot 100 chart. The streak continued with notable collaborations, including “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2” with PinkPantheress, “Princess Diana” with Nicki Minaj, and “Karma” with Taylor Swift. Remarkably, Ice Spice became the first artist to secure four Hot 100 top-10 singles in 2023. She also garnered accolades such as the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist and the BMI R&B/Hip-Hop Impact Award. TIME magazine identified her as a breakout star in 2023, solidifying her status as a rising force in the music industry.

As she continues to redefine the rap scene, Ice Spice has come a long way from her roots in the Bronx, through school in Yonkers and Purchase, to ruling over her own land as the princess of hip-hop.

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