How Ice Spice Blew Up

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Ice Spice (via Shutterstock)

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a few stats

Ice Spice currently has 38 million monthly listeners on Spotify. That puts her at #72 on the streaming platform, ahead of Michael Jackson, Jay Z, and Tyler The Creator.

According to Spotify’s Loud and Clear report, there are 130 artists whose catalogs generate $5M+ annually on Spotify alone (which makes up roughly 25% of recorded music revenue). If Ice Spice stays in this area or higher by this time in 2024, we can assume she and her team have done quite well from music alone.

To quote a great tweet, “To have this much success with around 23 minutes of music in her entire catalog is remarkable.” She’s done a bit more than that, but still proves the point!

the unique package

“Munch” is catchy. No doubt about it. But plenty of artists have had catchy hits. She’s a New York rapper doing drill music, but she’s not alone on that front either. Becoming a star is also about the subtle things. The things that purists like to ignore, but realists understand the value.

It’s the smarts to have a name like Ice Spice. It rhymes, easy to say, rolls off the tongue well. We’ve seen other Ice’s in hip-hop before, but they’ve mostly been men, and we haven’t seen it like this. Let’s imagine an alternate world where she went by “Lil’ Isis” instead (since her real name is Isis Gaston). It could be easy for some to dismiss her and believe that they’ve seen this before.

It’s also the look and the vibe. Her orange curls stand out. In an endless scroll of social media timelines, they make you stop and say “wait… who’s this?”

She also comes off relatable. Her raps feel like she’s having a conversation with you. It’s like catching up with an old friend from high school. She’s not trying to rap as fast as possible. Plenty of rappers do that. She’s not trying to hit you with word play that you have to listen to five times. Plenty of rappers do that. Ice Spice’s approach still takes talent, but she’s keeping it real, which attracts people.

Here’s a section from Neil Shah’s Wall Street Journal piece that speaks to this:

“Ice Spice’s lack of pretension recalls the authenticity of Cardi B, whose unfiltered personality paved the way for a certain style of down-to-earth rap stardom. (Much as Ice Spice is often portrayed as a folk hero, Cardi B has been called the “people’s diva.”)”

You can listen to the podcast here or read below for more highlights.

what to expect in the future

When artists talk about having “the machine” behind them, they’re talking about Ice Spice. Her team at Capitol Records and 10K Records believe that they have the next big superstar on their roster. She has the Taylor Swift co-sign. This is music’s equivalent of every VC competing to get in on the hottest deal.

But how long will this last? She has some good signals. She’s continued to rise. Each project released feels like its own mini-moment. She’s recovered from the mixed reviews from her Rolling Loud performance. As Denisha mentioned on the podcast, Ice Spice started working out consistently to improve her breath control on stage.

If she can continue to get co-signs and perform with big names across genres, like Post Malone did when he was on the rise, it could turn out well.

Unfortunately, it’s tougher for women than it is for Post Malone. We’ve seen a pattern of women in music (especially hip-hop) who gain millions of followers and can easily become trending topics. They have a popular song or two, but then when it’s time to release an album or hit the road, the numbers aren’t as strong. A lot of their followers are less interested in their music, but more interested in their looks or their personalities. It’s a great trait to have when selling brand endorsement deals, but it’s not as correlated with selling albums and selling concert hard tickets.

It’s another reminder of the distinctions between followers and fans. We’ve recently seen Saweetie, Coi Leray, and Chloe Bailey face unfair criticism on that front. I hope the same isn’t true for Ice Spice wen it’s time for her debut album and to go on tour.

These are just a few highlights! Here are a few more topics we discussed:

–  what’s the realistic expectation for Ice Spice’s career?

–  how to maintain momentum in a saturated music landscape

–  building the “Munchkins” fanbase

Listen to the podcast here:

0:27 The People’s Princess 

1:47 Ice Spice’s success by the numbers 

4:24 “Always shipping” has kept Ice Spice’s momentum 

7:10 Performing on Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour

9:36 What makes Ice Spice unique? 

15:57 Artists’ relatability factor

21:27 Cultivating the Munchkins fanbase

24:40 What is a music global superstar in 2023?

31:47 Sexist dialogue around female rappers

38:07 How female rappers stand out

42:47 Ice Spice’s intentions


[00:00:00] Denisha Kuhlor: What is interesting about, Ice Spice is they feel like everyone’s learning in real time, and they feel like they get to be a part of it. So in some ways, I do think that her fan base is interesting because it’s like they’re co-creating a bit, in a way that hasn’t that other artists, maybe they’ve wanted to, but like the true actual product and creation to a product process hasn’t been as interactive as, hasn’t been as interactive as before.

There’s no, wall the way with other artists. There’s Really no wall. It feels like the conversations or the quote tweets that she’s having on Twitter really feel like conversations amongst friends from how they crack jokes to the colloquialisms that are there. 

[00:00:45] Dan Runcie Audio Intro: Hey, welcome to the Trapital Podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more who are taking hip hop culture to the next level.

[00:01:13] Dan Runcie Guest Intro: Two years ago. Ice Spice was a college student at SUNY Purchase doing her thing, like most college students do today. She’s had one of the most Meteoric rises, especially in the past year. Everything that’s happened in ice spices career since she dropped Munch last summer.

It has been very fascinating to watch how a star blows up in 2023. In 2023 in this era that we’re in now. And today’s episode is a breakdown on that. What does it all mean? How did she get here? What did Ice Spice do differently that other artists right now haven’t been able to do to reach the levels that she has?

And how do we make sense of it all with what to expect with her career moving forward? If you ask the people on her team, whether that’s the record labels, the management, the folks that she’s working with, they think they have the next global superstar on their hands, but what does that term even mean, and what does that term mean today in an era where it’s harder than ever for today’s bright young stars to reach the same levels that the past global superstars have reached, especially for an artist from the us.

To break it all down, we’re joined by friend of the show, Danisha Koor, who’s the founder of Stan. She does great work in analyzing artist strategies and looking at Ice Spice and the Munchkins was a great opportunity for us to dive in. So here’s our deep dive on Ice Spice. Hope you enjoy it.

[00:02:35] Dan Runcie: All right, today we are back and we’re gonna talk about the Princess Diana of hip hop, herself Ice Spice. It’s only right and we’re gonna talk about it and break it all down with someone who has written about her and does studies on fan bases as well. So you were the perfect person to have on Denisha Kuhlor, welcome back. Hi. Thanks for having me back. Ice Spice is so fascinating in a lot of ways because. go back to just two years ago. We weren’t necessarily having conversations about her. She had released a few singles back then. Some were in collaboration with her dad, who is also a rapper.

But things really blew up last summer. She puts out Munch, it becomes a drill anthem, a New York anthem. And then we just see this meteoric rise and you look at where she is now. Here are a few stats just to level set this conversation. She has 36 million monthly Spotify listeners that puts her above people like Jay-Z, Tyler the creator, Jack Harlow, the Beatles.

So she’s in pretty high company there and she’s continued to stay in that area. And just for some context here, Spotify says that this is from their most recent loud and clear report. Spotify says that 130 artist catalogs on their platform are generating at least 5 million annually. So the artist catalogs themselves.

Obviously the splits can be different, so if you use those numbers, and you said that I is currently 81st. In terms of all artists there, she’s clearly in that lane. Obviously, you have to be able to maintain that for a year, but if you also assume that Spotify itself is roughly a quarter of the. Recorded music revenue that comes through, that’s over 20 million dollars that we’re seeing there.

So we are clearly seeing that she has things from a stream perspective and she just came out for three nights of Taylor Swift’s show in the Meadowlands at MetLife Stadium. So how do you make sense of this all? Where do you think about Ice spice and the rise and where she is right now in her career?

[00:04:39] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, I think our space has been so fun to watch. It feels like every few years there’s a people’s champ, and they always seem to tend to originate from New York. and so seeing her do what she’s done with in some ways what feels like, her back against the wall, when Munch came out, it was a lot of critical, critical takes, and the reception wasn’t necessarily all positive. So to see how she’s kind of, flipped this moment and the light shining on her into a real, you know, bonafide career based off the statue just mentioned is really exciting.

[00:05:12] Dan Runcie: I think it highlights. What’s possible now, today we’ve seen artists blow up and become household names in a short amount of time that isn’t relatively new. If anything, you can honestly say it’s harder to do now, just given the fact that it does take even more work and more time to develop a true superstar.

And I do think that’s a word that gets thrown around quite a bit. The thing with ice spice though, is that. He’s also someone we’ve seen continue to maintain momentum. Yeah. In an era where someone could be hot for a few months and then you just don’t necessarily have that moment again. Yeah. As back early, back as eight years ago, Fetty Wap had that one summer in 2015 where he just had hit after hit.

Yeah. And they went consistently with it. That story and the challenges there have been told endless times, but that wasn’t a long-lived experience either. And Ice Spice is clearly been able to even expand that from that perspective. I do think that I’ve heard a few people talk about how fame and talent are things that have had a very symbiotic relationship for years in music, just given how it was very hard to separate the two, especially if you were an artist that rose to the top. Yeah. you had to have a full package at least to be able to be in the conversation. I spice though, as someone who’s continued to rise in, I think she has had songs that people liked, songs that people didn’t like, people criticizing her flow, people criticizing this, and even some of her performances and things like that.

But she’s continued to build and grow in public, and it hasn’t necessarily knocked her in any type of way. 

[00:06:51] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, I think she wins because she takes like a startup approach in the sense that she’s always shipping, while, you know, Munch had its audience and its fan base. Her follow-ups definitely one introduced her to new audiences, but allowed her to keep shipping and testing and iterating on what works. She definitely takes an approach or it feels like just when you think like, okay, like this moment is done, or, you know, the time has lapsed. she’s coming out with something new and something that’s not expected, and frankly, something that just continues to place her even bigger on the world stage, right?

She went from remixes that felt like a true collaboration amongst peers with Pink Panthers and boys a liar to. Getting to work with greats like Nikki or, Taylor Swift, where it feels like now they’re saying, Hey, we like this girl. We’re embracing her. and we wanna take her to the next step in the industry.

So with each time she ships, it feels like it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

[00:07:54] Dan Runcie: Let’s talk a bit about Taylor Swift, because you mentioned that there. This performance got a lot of buzz because Taylor Swift really hasn’t brought many people out on the tour that she has. This tour may go down as one of the highest grossing tours that we’ve seen, and she’s coming out and saying that I spice is the future, and we’re seeing everyone from, whether it’s her record labels and folks that she worked with more.

Granted, we expect them to, that’s their job to promote the folks that they have there, but from a live performance perspective, it wasn’t always like this because she did get some critical comments from more recent performances that she did up to this point, and we’ve seen those types of things derail artists.

Yeah. And be challenging to them. Can you talk a bit about that? 

[00:08:39] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, so I think, you know, Taylor Swift, bringing out and embracing, ice Spice was really interesting. ice Spice definitely has this dynamic of, you know, the people’s champ and as she continues to, as she continues to grow people, people rooting for her.

And so just from like, What that moment meant, I think for people to see someone who hadn’t had any music, who barely had a Spotify profile probably two years ago or three years ago. to be an on a stage in a filled out arena nonetheless, was awesome. But I also think it’s very much a testament to her ability and kind of the consumer’s ability to, be forgetful.

And when I say that, she obviously looked a lot more comfortable on stage, but the rolling loud performance, I think brought a lot of critique, right? it was just the novice fan on platforms like Shade Room or Instagram, talking about her performance. to folks in the industry talking more about the need for, you know, artist development and, a and r I feel like a lot of people could have come out of that moment very differently.

or in some ways been so effect, offended that. It hurt their career but in even, you know, reading Ice Space’s, last interview with Billboard, she talks a lot about her desire to exercise has solely been fueled by her wanting to improve her breath work on stage. and so you see a real commitment.

I even noticed it seeing the clips from her wireless performance, just looking more comfortable on stage thinking through her set list. I think you see a real commitment. Two on, on her part. two, want to improve her craft and become a better performer. 

[00:10:17] Dan Runcie: So you mentioned a few things that definitely contributed to her rise. She definitely has the investment. The team behind her at Capital and others wanna see this happen. The thing is though, record labels are always making investments in everyone. They always try to put money behind new talent, and it made me think what is unique about her.

Some people feel like there is a visual aspect to this. Not even in just the aspect of her being attractive, but having the distinct look, right? That like cinnamon afro, you know, it this like very striking from a visual perspective or just like, well who is that? Because that doesn’t look like someone that we’ve seen before. Not necessarily in this overt stunt way. Yeah. But just someone that’s being themselves and doing their thing. In a similar dynamic to the way that when Billy Eilish had first came out, she wasn’t dressing the same way that Pop Stars did. And she was, had this whole vibe, and it was around this time that people were trying to understand Gen Z as this broad consumer, and then he or she comes very antithetical to what people have.

And I think that look at that vibe attributed it to that way. So I think that’s one factor that works in her favor. So you have that. You have the fact that New York has always had this pulse on whoever the next person up is and what they tell you about, whether it’s what we saw with Cardi B. Now when she blew up, what you know, six, seven years ago, whether you saw it with pop smoke a couple years after.

So New York has always had its finger on the pulse from that perspective. So I think that’s part of it too. I also think though, that there’s this aspect of. Dominating conversation in social media and with that type of discourse, but without just becoming someone who lives in social media, if that makes sense.

The analogy I often think about is, Ben Affleck. 

This is a, bit of unique comparison, but I have to think about how Ben Affleck would talk about back when him and J Lo were going through their breakup when they were together in the two thousands, he was saying, you know, I could sell all of the US weekly magazines in the world.

Yeah. But, I can’t sell a movie ticket. Yeah. That is the thing that’s tough for me to be able to sell. And I think that sometimes artists can struggle with that too, where their names can always be trending and they can always be the trending topic on Twitter, or they could always be the topic of discussion on Shade Room or whatever the aggregator site is, but they don’t necessarily drive that into streams. They don’t drive that into hard ticket sales. And that’s the stuff that true fan base development comes. And a lot of that stuff does take years that it’s a natural funnel, right? Your social media and your followers should always be larger and then leading there, but it has to lead somewhere.

But Ice Spice, at least from where she is, from a monthly stream perspective and how that stayed consistent. People clearly are listening and tuning into the music and then additionally, the biggest artist in the world is bringing her out on stage to do that. And those are some of the things we saw with Post Malone early in his career and how he would go out on stage with different people, even people that were of different genres and trying to see what that playbook looked like.

So yeah, that’s the piece of it that I think is different from her relative to even. Other artists we’ve seen come out, other female artists we’ve seen come out. Other black female artists in hiphop that we’ve seen come out, that I think is a bit unique about why I think she’s been distinct in this way.

[00:13:52] Denisha Kuhlor: I agree. I agree. I think she’s. Immerse herself in culture in a way that’s so authentic to her. and as a result, she’s able to show up as the digitally native person that, that she is, Ice Spice and how she interacts even on social media when you look, is a lot less like an influencer.

Which is what I would say, Cardi B kind of had when she was coming up, and maybe some other stars that really got fame. And while they definitely have mastered authenticity and they do it well, Ice Spice in some ways is just her, like, I feel like she’s almost, And she’s almost like, like that girl in school that’s relatable, but you feel like, oh, I can’t pull that off.

So when it comes to the things that she’s doing, it feels relatable enough. but it doesn’t also encourage you to get out there and do it herself. And I think it’s a, difference maybe nuance to the authenticity that we’ve, that we’ve seen in the past. which people can really appreciate.

I would probably even argue now that people are better, consumers are more savvy when it comes to what feels like manufactured authenticity, right? Whether it’s a Get Ready with Me video, but you’re selling all these makeup products as a result or a day in my life, but you’re really promoting the new product to target. Like consumers have become a lot more savvy. And as a result, they praise her for doing what they want, which is just that genuine authenticity when it comes to Princess Diana. And she mentioned this in the Billboard, article or the interview that she did, her cover story.

She thought it was so weird that people were calling her that name and she didn’t get it. but she felt like all she could do was embrace it, right? and embrace that title. and I think that’s just another great example of how. You watch her into real time, like develop the ebbs and flows of coming this fame while still recognizing there’s so much that she doesn’t know.

And I feel like people really appreciate that. Whereas unfortunately, and maybe this is just a. A privilege that comes to the new artist. Drake talks about this in his rap radar interview where he says There’s a period as an artist much to what you were, referring to with the Post Malone, you know, example in terms of being prod out, like there’s a period as a new artist for. Around maybe, probably six to 18 months where everyone is just discovering you and the, process of discovering you, right? A person getting their first iPhone or this process of discovery and experiencing this new thing for the first time feels really great.

and I think she’s found a way to really revel in it and capitalize in it, capitalize on it in a way that seems to have longevity, versus other artists. 

[00:16:39] Dan Runcie: I wanna talk about that first piece you mentioned about the relatability. You said something along the lines of she makes it so you may not wanna necessarily replicate what she’s doing, but there’s something in it that seems attainable and relatable.

In a way. Do you think that that’s rare when it comes to artists? Like is there anyone that comes to mind that, let’s say is a popular artist that you don’t think that necessarily applies to? 

[00:17:05] Denisha Kuhlor: Hmm. You know, I guess I can give the best examples as watching these artists sometimes what feels like making leaps and bounds to continue to remain relatable.

obviously you look at like a Drake, and I think he does that really well, right? He goes to these places because you know, as much as it’s helping, the artists. It’s also giving him that currency of relatability. I mean, we have the piece on, Cho with Cardi B. she’s about to do a song with Lato, and everyone’s talking about now the conversation is how much Cardi B like mints a track and the co-sign she gives to a track, but it also keeps her relatable, and pushes her brand in a very specific, in a very specific way.

and so I almost feel like, relatability is becoming a bit played, if that makes sense. people and labels are forcing it, 

[00:18:00] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Like, would you say that Nicki Minaj is relatable in this way? 

[00:18:03] Denisha Kuhlor: Oh, interesting. No, no, I wouldn’t. I think that once an artist hits a certain amount of success that they inherently become unrelatable.

As much as they tried 

[00:18:12] Dan Runcie: Was like, was beat me up, Scotty Era, Nicki Minaj, relatable?. 

[00:18:17] Denisha Kuhlor: Very much so. I think because and it sounds a little crazy, but I think the only part in that distinction at that time of the artist is fans are just supporting them, but it still somewhat feels like a peer-to-peer relationship, or there’s less of a wall up, right? Their support, their appreciation feels more like a, bilateral conversation. Whereas once an artist hits a certain point you’re getting none of that. and that’s where I think it comes from.

[00:18:45] Dan Runcie: It’s interesting I asked about Nicki Minaj because I think that part of the relatability thing with Ice Spice is it reminds me of, it reminds me of Steph Curry in a way where someone like him can seem. He has other worldly talent, in my opinion but I do think that because of his size, because of his stature, he isn’t this six foot nine LeBron figure that does things where it’s like, I could never do that.

Yeah. Right. But there’s this thought of like, okay, well if I do my 10,000 shots just like Steph did or spent my 10,000 hours in the gym, yeah. I could get there. Yeah. And I feel like Ice Spice, at least from a flow in a Italian, in an image perspective. Yeah, there’s a bit of that. Oh, she’s your friend from high school or she was someone that was like part of that crew from that perspective.

And you know, she has a unique flow and there’s a aspect of it. But I asked the Nikki question because I was wondering, you have Nikki doing a verse like Monster, which was one of her big breakouts there. This was 2010 on Kanye’s song. Does a verse like that almost make her unrelatable in a way where it’s this talent is then shown to be like, oh wow, like can I do that? And it almost puts you into this Revere era, which is still a valuable place for an artist to be. But I wonder if that’s a very different way with how someone like Ice Spice is looked at. 

[00:20:03] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah. I think in the point you made about like, Voice and flow, right? One of the most, memorable things about, Ice Spice’s the cadence in which she raps.

It literally feels like you’re kind of around your friend who’s like rapping to a beat and, knows they can rap. But is not overdoing it. whereas with an artist like a Nicki Minaj, there’s definitely a level of animation, that can approach the music, right. And I think that’s a great thing, right?

It’s helped build a fan base, it adds a different level of maybe production to her and how she performs and kind of everything associated with her artistry. But it makes it very different from a relatability standpoint because anyone can feel like they can kind of maybe like kick a verse like Ice Spice. I don’t know how many people are attempting to, go up against what she did. On what? Nick Minaj on Monster. 

[00:20:56] Dan Runcie: Right. And I think that’s part of the distinction there and I think this spans across a few heel, but that’s one thing that can work in her, can work in her favor, especially as coming up now is very different than Nikki coming up in the blog era.

It’s just, yeah, a different dynamic of how artists come up and how you get, how you break through. And one of the things that I think is a bit more unique now is the importance of cultivating fan bases early and having that dynamic where, you know, Nikki could talk about, you know, charging 50K for a versatile album out in her days of, I think in a lot of ways that reflected where things were just from, especially that era coming up.

Like with the mixtapes, I spice granted she could probably command more just given, you know, inflation and all the other things related to music. I do think that her cultivating a fan base is something that likely came earlier though, because I think it probably took a couple of years for the Barbs to really materialize and become how they were, you know, well after Nikki’s first album.

But the Munchkins or the Spice cabinet, as some people call them, I Spice Spice fan base is already here and is reflective of how artists are thinking about cultivating and growing things now, because you need to do this stuff earlier. We have the tools available in a way that weren’t necessarily available to someone like Nicki or someone like Drake or J. Cole in the late two thousands when all of them were coming up in that wave.

Is there anything you’ve noticed from her from that perspective that stands out that is unique? Yeah, that is something that 

[00:22:31] Denisha Kuhlor: You know what’s interesting or what feels interesting? I feel like the fan base, or the audience still feels like it’s very much defined or it’s being defined. And the reason I say that is because there does also seem to be a trend of drop off when it comes to artists who have fan bases around, or largely off being the people’s champ. Only because the bigger they get, it feels like there’s less of a need to root for them because they’re gonna be okay, right? They’ve hit a certain inflection point in which they will be.

Okay. I think What is interesting about, Ice Spice is they feel like everyone’s learning in real time, and they feel like they get to be a part of it. So in some ways, I do think that her fan base is interesting because it’s like they’re co-creating a bit, in a way that hasn’t that other artists, maybe they’ve wanted to, but like the true actual product and creation to a product process hasn’t been as interactive as, hasn’t been as interactive as before.

There’s no, wall the way with other artists. It’s like, oh, okay, I can, you know, the artist is doing this and that. There’s really no wall, it feels like the conversations or the quote tweets that she’s having on Twitter really feel like conversations amongst friends from how they crack jokes to the colloquialisms that are there.

And I think the way she chooses to use her extra resources are done in a way that only continues to build a fan base. And like when you think about, her record with, Pink Panthers, they could have shot that video anywhere. They chose to do it on top of a building in the Bronx. And so, I look at it and I can only see more and more how those fans that maybe came because they were rooting for her as the people’s champ, feel like they can stay because the relatability hasn’t disappeared.

[00:24:27] Dan Runcie: It’s making me think of a few things I think. I think the co-creating thing, especially with how she interacts with fans on social media, there is a aspect of that is her feedback loop. That’s how she’s getting a vibe for what works and what doesn’t, and in many ways they can be so, protective isn’t the right word, but they can be so clear about their emotions and they don’t hold anything back and they’re gonna say things that even people in Ice Spice’s circle probably wouldn’t feel comfortable to say, but you can see all of that.

Exactly. Some of that is, but once you’re able to weed out the extremes, both from the haters and the people that are, you know, so unapologetic, they’re blind to any type of, you know, constructive criticism that could support her career. There’s good value that I think comes from that. The piece I want to talk about is the team that she has around her, because I read that same billboard article you wrote, and there are multiple entities that she’s working with that have called her.

A global superstar and thinks that she is the next one that is on that way, whether it’s capital records or 10 K projects or, her manager or even some of the others. What is the word? What does global superstar mean to you? 

[00:25:37] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s definitely an interesting, interesting term. as someone who thinks about just how global the music industry has become, I think of global superstars as, The examples I would give are probably like a Bad Bunny or a Burna Boy.

in some ways, they’re really able to command or pull tickets in, in any market. I mean, I got the opportunity to see Burna Boy in Paris recently, and I was like shocked, but not surprised in the sense that. Like he can do hard tickets anywhere. Bad Bunny seems to have that same effect.

Now, I do think that, and something I’ve just learned over time is it’s a tricky designation because. The world knows a lot about the United States. the world knows a lot about New York when you think about how many shows or, you know, how many things are covered about New York, the world knows. So it’s easy to feel like you have an understanding or an affinity to music about something that you know a lot about now, does it necessarily resonate the same way? I think of like the little baby in his documentary saying once he started traveling, he realized there were hoods all around the world. but I think that. there’s obviously, definitely the potential to be, but I don’t know if I could necessarily, say that just yet, because right now, to me, global Superstar feels defined a lot by touring.

[00:27:07] Dan Runcie: I do think that is a threshold there, that’s something I look at and I know it’s something that’s fluid and I think I have a higher bar than a lot of people, at least from a peer numbers perspective. Granted, these things can fluctuate, but I wanna see someone that can at least headline an arena tour, at least.

Either on a nationwide perspective, at least in the US or can span beyond that. I wanna see someone that can at least sell 250K units. Yeah. At least in the US in their first week if they are a US, if they are, you know, side to a US-based record label. I think it can change elsewhere, but I wanna be able to see that. I also wanna be able to see some type of,

I also wanna be able to see some type of reach that spans beyond just those metrics as well. If you are able to ask someone that is outside of the circles of paying attention to this stuff, can they name you a few unique things or something identifiable like, oh, that’s so-and-so with this. It doesn’t need to be extreme as, does your mom know who so-and-so is?

But I wanna be able to at least yeah. See that and at least things from. Being able to create moments. Yeah. Of there’s something that you do that does create moments there. The challenge that I think that definition and those terms can have, I know it could be a bit rigid, and even if I’m using those thresholds as well, there’s maybe less than.

Maybe around 20 or so people in all of pop music, in popular music, not just like Pop is in genre, but like all of popular contemporary music right now, they’re probably fitting in. Yeah, that category of what I just said in less than 10 in hip hop. If we’re saying overall, because I do think these six Fletcher, you can come and go there, but I do think that.

That sometimes gets a bit missings because we do throw these terms around liberally. The thing is though, if you’re a record label, you’re in the business of trying to admit these people. Yeah. And for many of the reports that we’ve seen, it’s becoming harder and harder. Yeah. To do that especially for a western-based English speaking artist.

Exactly. The market saturated, the names you just mentioned, it’s no surprise that two of the more recent superstars that we’ve had at that level, Burna Boy and bad Bunny, are not primarily English speaking artists from the music that they put out and they emerge from different parts of the world that are not the United States or you know, the UK and Western Europe, right?

Yeah. Like those things are not coincidences. All those things fall in line. So it’s one of these things where it makes sense if you’re going to put the machine behind someone. Yeah, it does make sense to put it behind someone like Ice Spice because that’s what you have. You wanna be able to put things out there.

And this is an industry driven by media and PR, so. Anything, even like that Ice Spice article that we saw on Billboard, very intentional just given the relationship that the major publications in music have with their major record labels themselves. So once you think about those things a bit deeply, It’s great that someone like Ice Spice is getting that push to have everything behind her as well.

You just wanna make sure that we’re not necessarily putting a carpet for the horse, or even putting expectations that may seem a bit too strong on someone that. We’ve even seen in the past couple months continuing to develop their career in a natural way. Someone that’s 23 years old, she did one festival performance, got some mixed reviews from that, and then now she’s on stage with the biggest arts in the world, and that’s gonna continue to develop.

Like these things take time, but I just don’t know if this era has the patience to be able to. Wait that out and see how these exist. 

[00:30:46] Denisha Kuhlor: I completely agree. And I also think, you know, like you said, the market is saturated and consumers have more access to music that maybe matches their local appetite, right? We’ve seen the rise of, drill music, obviously, you know, starting from Chicago to doing what it’s done in New York to UK drill right. To Parisian or even, you know, French drill, right? So I think it, it makes it difficult because, as she continues to excel, right? There are people or artists that can also, hit the market and use certain elements of the framework, to reach maybe a small but core audience in a market, that she’s not fully built, dominance yet. I mean, it’s been a trend in, tech, whether it’s replicating Airbnb for other markets or other companies. And so I think that it’s definitely a hard feat right now because, People are very unapologetic before, and rap, right? Felt like there could only be one at a time, or this concept of first ladies, in rap groups.

Yeah. Especially for women. Exactly. And now you don’t even, I mean, female rappers really, frankly, an outdated term. and, very much so. So you just think, oh, there’s, you know, go’s doing her thing. Lato, Cardi e everyone, the industry is thriving, but as a result, maybe the dominance of one has definitely decreased,

[00:32:06] Dan Runcie: And I think that fragmentation, the fact that there can be more than one, the fact that we see multiple people being able to succeed is good. It also makes me think of some of the critiques and some of the responses that we’ve seen from some of the releases, and I feel like we’ve seen this pattern. I’ve noticed it, I think we’ve talked about this as well, this pattern that frankly is rooted in sexism, where every couple of months there is a woman, there’s a woman in hip hop that releases an album or a mixtape, or they announce a tour, something that has some, they do something that is further down their funnel in terms of either hard tickets or trying to get some hard album sales to put things out.

And the numbers may not necessarily be as high as people would think. Yeah. And this is a artist that would have at this point, Tens of millions of followers on all the social channels combined. They’re often in the discussion. They have plenty of co-signs. They’re assigned to some of the strongest record labels in the game, but then there’s always someone that says, oh, well, how did so-and-so not even be able to sell 20,000 units in a week?

How does so-and-so not even be able to sell out this tour? Or they can’t do this? It’s frustrating in a lot of ways. But it’s always women that we see this discourse happen with. It makes me think of a few things. I think there’s a bit of a disconnect in terms of understanding what numbers mean. Yeah. And what they don’t.

But there’s also people just conflating followers with fans and not necessarily understanding that dynamic and how that dynamic is often different for women because of how the industry wants to portray certain people, what they’re selling and what platforms sell and What you put on a platform can be very different for an artist just because that artist is a man and those things, I think it’s frustrating to see, and I don’t want that to happen too, Ice Spice, but we’ve seen it happen to so many of the names that you mentioned as well earlier.

Yeah. Is that just the way, is that just the dynamic? How do we Yeah. Break out? I, I think, and not that you have the answers too, but this is something I want. 

[00:34:13] Denisha Kuhlor: Very true. Very true. I think, you know, it’s interesting, even in those names that I’ve mentioned, I think the only one, and she’s embraced this dynamic really well, that’s kind of been like, you know, I don’t really know how I got here.

I don’t feel like I’m supposed to be here. It’s been like a gorilla and she’s been, you know, very vocal about kind of maybe talking about some of the dynamics or pressures in the industry. I think it’s, obviously a multifaceted approach, but what I will say is that, media and music sometimes can feel so combined.

And when you look at what the media wants to push out and how they, portray certain stories and what they choose to cover, right? When it comes to everything from interviews to, even cover stories of, of these artists, I think unfortunately, it puts some of these women or some of these artists in a tough position based off what they wanna focus on or how they’re portrayed.

This sounds a little crazy, but I think, you know, the person who could probably, if they ever wanted a side project to maybe change some of that narrative is actually a Kris Jenner. I mean, we’ve seen what she’s done with her daughters, but I think she’s been very brilliant. I mean, I think to my knowledge, two of her daughters, you know, have done the Forbes cover, but I think she’s been very thoughtful around shifting a specific type of narrative.

Whereas the attention could have been garnered from, you know, beauty and, societal expectations around beauty. Very much shifting that into the conversion of things that lead to real dollars, whether it’s Kylie with her Lip Kits or Kim now with Skims who used Ice Spice, um, in an effort for relatability.

So, I unfortunately think that so early when an artist starts to blow, it’s the team around you is calling a lot of the shots and getting things done. And it’s hard to realize maybe until you see it for years, until years later, maybe how some of the small nuances in how you were portrayed or some of the opportunities you took, impacted your ability to, be taken seriously as a, decades long artist.

[00:36:23] Dan Runcie: Yeah. I think part of the dynamic too, and this especially applies with women in hip hop, is that the teams around them and them themselves, some of their social posts or some of the things that they put out that they’re selling sex. Yeah. They’re doing the glam shots. Yeah. They’re being out there.

which is good. They should feel empowered. They have a platform and so many people then feel empowered just seeing them be bold that themselves. The thing is though, because based on these platforms, the way they work and the algorithms, people are gonna follow you some or a portion of people are gonna follow you just because of that.

They are attracted, they’re entertained. Yeah. And they wanna see that. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Yeah. But that’s going to attract a certain number of followers in a way that Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole, who barely tweeted and have never been positioned as male sex symbols in that way, yeah. Aren’t going to attract that.

So when you look at the, if there’s a way to segment. Looking at Instagram, okay. Who follows you and why do they follow you? It’s very different. Yeah. And that’s why it’s no surprise that the most followed art, the most followed hip hop artist on Instagram is Nicki Minaj, and it isn’t even close. Yeah. And a lot of it is because of that and.

This is also someone in Nicki Minaj. If you then took that same look and you look at, okay, who are the artists that are selling the most, whether it’s streams or it’s albums, it’s different. So I think sometimes people forget that, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m glad you brought up the Kris Jenner piece of this, because one of the things that she obviously has done well is finding, okay, based on the audience that we’ve cultivated, Where is that product market fit based on who they’re reaching on Instagram, based on who they’re reaching from this?

Exactly. And I think sometimes that’s part of the challenge with a woman artist and specifically a woman artist in hip hop. If some of the posts may lean a bit more towards that, but it’s one of those things where it shouldn’t be that way because you should be able to post, you know, a sexy image and it isn’t doing that.

But the concept that you put out, lines up with word people see, so there’s always a bit of that challenge. There’s always a bit of that dynamic there. And I see Ice Spice as well, someone that is attractive, someone that does have a lot of followers cuz people are bought into her look and. I don’t want that to be the same necessarily.

[00:38:35] Denisha Kuhlor: You look at an artist like No name, who I love. I’m a huge no name fan. And she, you know, wraps with a soft spoken voice as well. and you know, I would argue no name fans wanna talk to her about books cuz she has a book club and, they, you know, so I think maybe the. The way you can also combat that is having like true pillars maybe of your personality or that you include as part of the narrative that aren’t just visual.

Because if you teach people to be visual creatures or approach you visually, that is what they will see. That is what they will, that is what they will default to. And from an artist awareness perspective, you’re getting the, visual part of artist awareness. But when it comes to the deeper part of, you know, the artist’s story and what you represent, you’re not capturing that as well.

And that’s the difference between maybe a casual fan, a listener’s turn casual fan cuz they follow you and they like you. They like your vibe to a truly engaged and deep-rooted fan. 

[00:39:34] Dan Runcie: This is something that I think a Cardi B also is able to do well, just I think back to during the 2020 presidential election and she’s sitting down with Bernie Sanders.

Yeah. There was nothing related to music or related to, you know, selling sex or anything like that. She’s been talking about her interest in that, or whether it’s her interest in FDR or other things. There was something else there that I think had people brought in. I think which I think has always helped with her in that perspective.

Yeah. Another person I think I feel a bit bad for in this regard was Megan Stallion because I look at the rise and the narrative and the things that she was talking about pre-the Tory Lanez shooting. And so much of it, you heard so much more then about, you know, her own goals, graduating college Yeah.

And actually wanted to start the healthcare facilities. Yeah. And the hotties and, you know, driving the boat. all of the stuff that she was able to pull off there. And I think since then, not only was she much more selective about the media things that she did, yeah. Almost every media appearance that she’s had, to some extent is addressing Yes.

Something related to the Tory Lanez’ shooting. Yeah. And of course it’s a very traumatic thing, but you just think about how impactful that was. Yeah. When everything was going in the direction that it was Yeah, yeah. For her career. So I look at that in just another case where granted, she’s still doing quite well for herself from a career perspective, but things definitely changed after that. 

[00:41:01] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, Cardi B is a great one. and even, even me, I would say somewhere probably between casual fan or in that range, I can very much remember all the things Cardi B does, whether it’s her love of civics and politics to, there was a tweet and she was talking about the rise of grocery prices and someone was like, why are you talking about this?

And she was like, I very much care about, you know, the day-to-day life of the average American because. I’ve done well, but I support families, I support my family, all of that. And then I thought it was brilliance. She either did, I don’t wanna get it wrong. but did either eve near essence of black publication, and the family shoot, right? With Offset having a blended family, the challenges and, that they’ve went through there. And I think that, yeah, she’s so brilliantly done that By just being herself. It does feel like the industry has like a one track or fixed mind, sometimes in that once this is what you are known for.

It feels hard to break away from that. And what’s interesting is I do think in, Meg’s case that the way she’s navigating it now, whether it’s just taking some time off, saying that she’ll be back when she’s ready, Gives her the space to maybe come back out with a bit of a reinvention.

and so I’m excited to see what that would look like. And in the way Beyonce came back out as Sasha Fierce, like what does it look like to, for hope for her to hopefully have that opportunity to reinvent herself back into whatever artist she wants to be. 

[00:42:31] Dan Runcie: And I think that’s the key thing. There is so much that they still have going. All these artists are still young. I mean most of them are still under 30. Yeah. I actually forget how old Cardi B is, but I think she still is. There’s still plenty of runway. There’s still plenty of this. Cardi B still hasn’t released another album since the debut album that she had. Meg, her others still haven’t gone on tour, even Nikki hasn’t gone on tour in a while. Yeah, and we haven’t seen a true album come out from her since Queen, which was almost five years ago at this point. And we’re still waiting for Ice Spices debut album. So excited to see where it comes. I think there’s a lot of opportunity.

I think we talked about some of the challenges that are there and some of the headwinds, but before we close things out, any other thoughts on Ice Spice? 

[00:43:14] Denisha Kuhlor: Lastly, and to the point you’ve made. I think maybe some of it comes down to, intentions or even our desires. I think COVID, it really continued to be a hard look at the daily lives we live and what work-life balance looks like.

And as so many of us go through that as individuals and human beings, artists are going through that, artists are going through that as well. And Ice Spice this case, I think with some of the business and partner decisions she’s made, signing a capital, having the distribution network that comes with, World Star and World Star’s Media Network, it gives her the privilege to release a song and know that distribution is already built in and not maybe have to do those 50 radio stops.

 It gives her that sort of privilege and I think we’re going to see a world with artists. And Cardi is interesting to that point too, where they might never tour. They can sustain a lifestyle that they want to live doing just enough. 

[00:44:14] Dan Runcie: Cardi is on that private tour gig. She’s on that Lionel Richie ship. 

[00:44:17] Denisha Kuhlor: Exactly, doing just enough. And I think that’s really attractive. And so, you know, when you think about the attitudes that Gen Z brings towards the workplace. It’s really interesting to see how, she will, you know, releasing a six song, six songs, right? For an initial body of an initial body of work before we used to 10 to 12.

[00:44:39] Dan Runcie: A multimillionaire giggle. 

[00:44:41] Denisha Kuhlor: Exactly. Yeah. So it’ll be interesting to see kind of what maybe what does the new era of a global superstar look like? Maybe it looks like a lot less tour dates and a lot less music, and a lot more brand partnerships and other streams of income. And, as a result, we’ll get the artists, but in a way that makes it feel worth their while for a long time. 

[00:45:06] Dan Runcie: Agreed. And I think that’s a good point to end on. So Ice Spice and team. If you’re listening, we wish you all the best of luck with this and we’ll be following, we’ll be following along. Denisha pleasure as always.

[00:45:17] Denisha Kuhlor: Thank you so much for having me. 

[00:45:18] Dan Runcie Audio Outro: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend. Post it in your group chat. Post it in your Slack groups. Wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That’s how travel continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. While you’re at it, if you use Apple Podcast, Go ahead. Rate the podcast, give it a high rating, and leave a review. Tell people why you like the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.


Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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