Ice Spice

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12 Artists Who Bodied 2023

  /  12.28.2023

This year witnessed the rise of fresh faces and the triumphant return of familiar icons, each bringing their unique flair and indomitable spirit to either music, the internet or an otherwise familiar facet of artistry. Standout performers included the likes of Ice Spice, whose meteoric rise captured the imagination of fans worldwide, and Gunna, who overcame personal and professional challenges to deliver some of his most impactful work to date.

These artists not only dominated the charts but also shaped the cultural conversation, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of sound and style. Below are 12 rappers and singers who had a spectacular 2023.

1. Ice Spice

From brand deals to major co-signs, Ice Spice is the music industry’s it-girl. She took off toward the end of 2022 with “Munch (Feelin’ U),” inking a deal with 10K Projects and Capitol Records. While some critics credited her triumph to colorism and pretty privilege, she spent this past year showing us that’s far from the truth.

In January, she released Like..?, which was bolstered by anthems such as “In Ha Mood,” “Princess Diana” and “Bikini Bottom.” Amid the positive acclaim and feedback, the Bronx native had another hit on her hands, PinkPantheress’ “Boy’s a liar, Pt. 2,” which nabbed the pair’s first RIAA-certified Platinum record.

Co-signs from mainstays like Drake, Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj dispelled any notion that she was a one-hit wonder or simply enjoying 60 seconds of fame. Minaj joined Ice Spice on “Princess Diana (Remix),” which went No. 1. Swift’s “Karma” followed the same trajectory while introducing the rapper to a broader audience. In addition to Like..? (Deluxe), the “Deli” hitmaker also landed several massive brand deals, notably SKIMS, IVY PARK and her fitting collaboration with Dunkin’ Donuts.

2. Gunna

Despite being taken into federal custody for RICO charges in 2022 and taking an Alford plea in December of that year, Gunna’s success story is one that’s prevailed through several character attacks and alleged blackballing. While former collaborators like Lil Baby and Lil Durk kept their distance — both privately and publicly — the Georgia native went completely mum until the release of “bread & butter” in June. It served as the lead single to a Gift & a Curse, his first full-length project since leaving prison.

Throughout the 15-song offering, Gunna provided his perspective on the difficult cards he was dealt in addition to playlist-friendly bangers. Notably, “fukumean” earned the artist his first No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart. The LP itself managed to do the same on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart. With the whole world waiting on his next move, Gunna proved to be resilient amid all the odds stacked against him — and outpaced his detractors in the process.

3. SZA

On the R&B side, SZA has been having one heck of a run. With her chart-topping, record-breaking sophomore album, SOS, finishing off 2022 strong, this year saw her savoring her success. The LP notably spawned “Snooze,” “Kill Bill” and “Nobody Gets Me,” to name a few. Throughout the past few months, the album was also nominated for every award show you can imagine: the Soul Train Awards, BET Awards, 2024 Grammy Awards and more.

For much of 2023, SZA was on the road for her “SOS Tour,” which began in February and ended in October, thanks to the addition of a second North American leg. However, that also didn’t stop new music from coming. In April, Doja Cat hopped on “Kill Bill (Remix),” marking the TDE songstress’ first No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart. Months later, she joined Travis Scott on “TELEKINESIS” as well as Drake on “Slime You Out” and “Rich Baby Daddy.” Amidst all this, SZA has also been teasing her forthcoming album LANA, which is rumored to be dropping very soon.

4. Doja Cat

Entering the year with five Grammy nominations, Doja Cat boldly departed from her Planet Her era’s pop-centric style with the intention of going in a “more masculine direction.” Her single “Paint The Town Red” not only topped the Hot 100, becoming the year’s first Hip Hop chart-topper but also thrived on radio and TikTok without relying on viral trends. It paved the way for her fourth studio album, Scarlet, joining a medley of other tracks like “Attention” and “Demons.”

Despite some controversies — including a Twitter tirade disowning her earlier albums as “cash-grabs,” being accused of devil worshipping and alienating some fans with blunt statements — Doja’s resilience shined through. She spent the latter part of 2023 on her “The Scarlet Tour,” joined by Ice Spice and Doechii. With “Agora Hills” still lingering in playlist rotation, the young star definitely set the stage for her future in the industry.

5. Sexyy Red

Sexyy Red got a warm embrace from the Hip Hop community ever since her breakthrough track “Pound Town” hit the airwaves. Nicki Minaj hopped on the remix, earning the St. Louis artist her first Billboard Hot 100 entry. The song appeared on Hood Hottest Princess, one of Rap-Up’s top albums of the year, alongside cuts like “SkeeYee” and “Looking For the H**s (Ain’t My Fault).”

To add icing on the cake, she got picked up as an opening act for Drake and 21 Savage’s “It’s All A Blur Tour,” with the former collaborating with Red on “Rich Baby Daddy” in October. The raunchy nature of her records has never gotten in the way of Red remaining true-to-self or landing major placements — see: “No Panties” from Rap Sh!t S2: The Mixtape.

6. Megan Thee Stallion

In the face of attempts to destroy her character and being held back by her own record label, Megan Thee Stallion didn’t let the internet or the industry dim her light. She kept a relatively low profile in the wake of Tory Lanez’s guilty verdict, but reemerged stronger than ever toward the end of this year. November’s “Cobra” marked her first solo effort of 2023, peeling layers back on her struggle with addiction, losing her parents and being on the opposing end of infidelity. It was preceded by “Bongos” with Cardi B, which served as a fitting collaboration considering their history.

Although she may not have been as active as fans would’ve liked on the music front, that doesn’t rule Megan out completely. She made her feature-film debut in A24’s D**ks: The Musical, followed by Netflix’s “Big Mouth” and contributing to The Color Purple soundtrack. The Houston native seemingly already has her sights on 2024, inking a distribution deal with Warner Music Group after leaving her former label, 1501 Certified Entertainment.

7. Coco Jones

Although she’s garnered acclaim as one of R&B’s most exciting acts, Coco Jones’ journey is no overnight success. The singer has been putting out music ever since her tenure as a Disney star and is only just starting to reap the fruits of her labor. Although released in 2022, her single “ICU” picked up enormous steam this year. The record reached No. 63 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and has over 44 million YouTube views to date. It, along with her label debut, What I Didn’t Tell You, is up for five Grammy nominations.

8. Drake

Drake kicked off 2023 with a buzz, launching his “It’s All A Blur Tour” alongside 21 Savage. Amid the trek’s excitement, the Toronto native remained a master at creating controversial moments. April’s “Search & Rescue” included a soundbite of Kim Kardashian discussing her ex-husband Kanye West, sparking debate and contributing to the track’s No. 2 debut on the Hot 100.

The summer saw Drake maintaining his relevance through collaborations like “On The Radar Freestyle” with Central Cee and “MELTDOWN” with Travis Scott. Despite the tracks not reaching the heights of his previous hits, the rapper’s tour success was undeniable. Each night birthed a viral moment, ranging from an arsenal of bras being thrown to gifting audience members purses.

Even then, the anticipation for Drake’s album For All The Dogs was high, especially after mixed reactions to his previous projects. The lead single, “Slime You Out” featuring SZA, initially soared but quickly faced criticism, including disapproval from Halle Berry. Despite this, the LP debuted at No. 1 with collaborations from J. Cole, Chief Keef, Yeat, Lil Yachty and Sexyy Red. For All The Dogs Scary Hours Edition welcomed six new songs, several of which were speculated to be jabs at Kanye West, Joe Budden and Pusha T, respectively.

9. Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj is undoubtedly one of the greatest rap artists of all time, and 2023 did nothing but showcase her unyielding dominance in the genre. Starting with “Red Ruby Da Sleeze” in February, she quickly charged the Barbz up for her newest project since 2018’s Queen. Earlier this year, the Trinidadian musician announced her record label, Heavy On It, and teamed up with an array of this generation’s artists: Ice Spice, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Kim Petras and Sexyy Red.

Just when you thought things couldn’t be better, she delivered “Barbie World” with Ice Spice for the Barbie soundtrack. Although Minaj announced the project in June, her highly anticipated fifth studio album didn’t hit streaming platforms until December. 

Pink Friday 2 featured a star-studded guest list including Drake, Lil Wayne, J. Cole and Lil Uzi Vert. Meanwhile, songs like “Big Difference,” “FTCU,” “Everybody” and “Barbie Dangerous” not only catered to her longtime followers but also opened doors to new listeners. Knowing Minaj, the year couldn’t go without a few brush-ups with her detractors, including her infamous “Photoshop them bars” tweet and shading Elon Musk.

10. Victoria Monét

If you weren’t introduced to the singer via 2019’s “MONOPOLY” or 2021’s “F.*.*.K,” Victoria Monét made it virtually impossible to ignore her magnitude this year. She kicked off her Jaguar II era with the Lucky Daye-assisted “Smoke” in March. It preceded “On My Mama,” the songstress’ positive affirmations anthem, which topped the R&B/Hip Hop Airplay chart.

On her debut studio album, Monét showed she’s an unstoppable force with surefire cuts like “Alright” and “How Does It Make You Feel.” If her charting success and equally impressive tour say one thing, it’s that she’s definitely an artist to watch in these upcoming years.

11. Cardi B

Even though we didn’t get her long-promised sophomore album, Cardi B completely dominated the internet this year. From her McDonald’s meal and viral mic toss incident to “Bongos” and assisting Latto on “Put It On Da Floor Again,” the rap mainstay kept fans — and detractors — on their toes. The New York native was selfless when it came to music, lending her voice to FendiDa Rappa’s “Point Me 2” and Offset’s “JEALOUSY,” among others. Elsewhere, Cardi made a massive entrance at Paris Fashion Week and starred in a SKIMS ad in October. She also made her runway debut as part of Balenciaga’s pre-fall 2024 show earlier this month.

12. Tyla

Riding on the success of her viral song “Water,” Tyla is this generation’s next Afrobeats star. The track climbed to No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with everyone from Ciara, Tank, Jennifer Hudson and Quenlin Blackwell dancing to it online. In addition to vying for the 2024 Grammy Awards, it got remixes from Travis Scott and Marshmello. Even beyond having the song of the season, Tyla has been slowly building a catalog of formidable hits: “Girl Next Door” featuring Ayra Starr, “Truth or Dare,” and “Been Thinking.” Her debut studio album and subsequent headlining tour are slated to take place next year, so there’s no slowing down for the South African songstress.

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