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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

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On Ice Spice

Despite Ice Spice's weaknesses as an artist, her apparent apathy makes her compelling

"Tē ea merda esse putās, serve; tū ne bumbulum quidem es."

To whom ought we attribute this epigram (a precious kernel of ancient wisdom, surely)? To some great Latin rhetorician or a notable Roman orator, no doubt.

Well, that’s actually Ice Spice, and it reads, “You think you the sh*t, b*tch? You not even the fart.” But doesn’t everything look so nice and academic and dignified once you italicize it and translate it into a dead language?

Like so many venerable writers of old, Martial and Chaucer for instance, Ice Spice is preoccupied with the scatological — poop. In 2022, she tweeted, “in the stu shi*ting,” and in “Deli,” she raps, “I’m the sh*t, I’m that b*tch, I’m Miss Poopie.” In her most recent release, the new single “Think U The Sh*t (Fart),” she adds one more excretory idiom to her body of work — but probably not her last.

A lot of Ice Spice’s music is objectively bad. She tends to be lyrically scatterbrained, and “Think U The Sh*t (Fart)” is no exception. Her ideas never last longer than a few lines, and certainly no longer than a verse. The result is a song that feels not like one coherent work, but instead like a list of cheap quips.

“Barbie Dreams” by Nicki Minaj is the counterexample to this style of writing. The song’s a diss-track — a genre which can easily devolve into aimless series of setups and punchlines, setups and punchlines, ad infinitum — but Nicki manages to maintain her momentum, to keep a thread running from the first word to the last. It’s a satisfying listen (if you ignore the chaos surrounding Nicki right now, of course). Maybe Ice Spice will achieve this level of lyricism one day, but I’m not holding my breath.

Her production isn’t always great, either. I know it’s drill, and that to some extent, it’s supposed to sound like it does, but there’s good drill and there’s bad drill — there’s good drill and there are beats in which the percussion sounds like someone whisking a snare drum and the bass imitating the Vine boom sound effect. A lot of the beats by RIOTUSA over which Ice Spice raps fall into the latter category, but the beat on “Think U The Sh*t (Fart)” is an exception. It’s colorful and rich — surprising, coming from a producer who usually gives us dry and gray.

And yet, even despite all her deficiencies, I can’t stop streaming Ice Spice. While some rapstresses have lyrics, and while other girls have beats, Ice Spice has the it-factor — and that’s what leads to success.

If I had to identify Ice Spice’s it-factor, I would select her apathy. She delivers her lines so soft-spoken she almost comes off as nervous or shy. Her presence on stage and her demeanor on video are so straight-faced you can read her as disinterested or distracted. When she twerks, she looks like she’s thinking about something else.

There’s something alluring about Ice Spice, a blank-eyed diva. There’s something very Gen Z about her — something relatable in her apathy, something which makes me want to stream her new single “Think U The Sh*t (Fart),” even though it’s called “Think U The Sh*t (Fart).”