Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

It’s fun to be indelibly dazzled whenever a fantastic new rap song seems to come out of nowhere, but they always come from somewhere. In the case of “Munch (Feelin’ U)” by Ice Spice, somewhere is a few places: the 22-year-old’s native Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop itself; a still-burgeoning drill subgenre that continues to span boroughs, state lines and oceans; and perhaps most crucially, inside the airlocked privacy of her mind.

Since dropping “Munch” back in August, Ice Spice has become one of the most magnetic voices to emerge from New York’s drill scene since the late Pop Smoke’s godly baritone first came rumbling out of Brooklyn in 2019. As he did, she knows exactly how and where to exhale her rhymes into drill music’s sleek architecture, offering a breathy human counterpoint to the alien bass lines, the glitchy hi-hats, the antiseptic synth melodies that tend to hide out in the corner. The cool lilt of her voice, however, consistently occupies the center of the room, and it’s treated with just enough reverb to make us feel like we’re eavesdropping on the inner-monologue unspooling at the center of her consciousness — a place where the brags and taunts fly unchecked.

About those. “Munch (Feelin’ U)” is an I-don’t-love-you-at-all song, which makes the parenthetical head fake in its title feel deliciously cruel. Listen to the refrain just once and you’ll instantly deduce that Ice Spice is not feeling you whatsoever. It seems that a “munch” is a guy who, ahem, has only one use — an admirer so inadequate, a new piece of slang had to be invented to properly describe his insignificance. She doesn’t dwell on him, though, rapping calmly and swiftly: “I’m walking past him, he sniffing my breeze.” Two needling verses, three cold hooks and it’s all over. The song’s concision is almost as devastating as its sang-froid.

So now what? After we determine where an out-of-nowhere song came from, we tend to wonder where everything else might be headed. We can chart the ascent of “Munch” out of the TikTok wilderness and onto Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart where it currently resides, but any speculation about where its path leads beyond that feels beside the point.

Maybe Ice Spice is the next Cardi B. Or maybe “Munch” goes down in history as this year’s “Mo Bamba.” Does it really matter? The value of new music shouldn’t depend on our prognostications of how much it’ll be worth tomorrow. It’s the other way around, in fact. Try to remind yourself by listening to this song right now, loud and repeatedly.

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