At the beginning of 2021 — a year before she introduced herself to the world as Ice Spice, with her signature cinnamon curly afro — Isis Gaston wrapped her hair into two braids and tucked them underneath a silk scarf. Wearing a black lounge set, she smiled for the camera while a sample of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” faded into the background and the hook of “Buss It,” rapper Erica Banks’ breakout 2020 single, started. The clip cut, and Gaston, now clad in a teal cut-out dress, dropped it low and twerked with her long, light brown locks cascading over her frame.
The viral video was just one of millions from the “Buss It” TikTok challenge, which helped Banks earn her first Billboard Hot 100 entry, a Travis Scott remix and a partnership with Warner Records in conjunction with her own label, 1501 Certified Entertainment. But for the then-21-year-old Gaston, who was just mustering the courage to record her own music, the TikTok trend and the way it boosted Banks’ career seemed like something she could achieve, too.
“It was so funny — I was already working on my first song ever that I was recording. I had already wrote little raps and sh-t before that, [but] it took me a lot to get to recording. I was halfway done with it when I did the ‘Buss It’ challenge. When I saw it going so viral, I was like, ‘Damn, imagine that was my song I was twerking to,’ ” she recalls today with a chuckle. “The next month, I put out my first song and took it from there.” Read the full Ice Spice Billboard cover story here.