- Ice Black: a prodigious talent who was on the cusp of mega-stardom
- Slide show: her life in pictures
The rapper and singer better known as Ice Black was born Yasmin Alicia Black in Brixton, South London on 11 November 1995 to a British mother, Paula Black, who worked part-time as a cleaner, and a seldom-employed jazz musician father Abayomi Owesu, originally from Ibadan in Nigeria. The youngest of four siblings – the eldest, Ife, was employed as her tour manager – Black grew up on a balanced cultural diet of pop and hip-hop classics along with experimental jazz, blues and Afrobeat.
In her mid-teens, Black regularly performed as a spoken word poet at venues in and around Brixton. She spent a term studying English Literature at University College London before dropping out to pursue a career in music full-time, landing a recording contract before her nineteenth birthday. As a rapper, Black retained traces of her literary beginnings – as likely to reference Wilde and Woolf as Wu-Tang Clan.
In late 2015 Black dropped her breakthrough mixtape Bad Apples, almost immediately soaring to stratospheric heights. She was adored by fans and critics for her ability to fuse glacial beats with a rapid-fire delivery, possessing a preternatural maturity belying her age. The richly textured soundscapes she crafted wove together an eclectic array of samples and influences from across the decades and continents.
- Review: Ice Black: Bad Apples – ‘taking a bite out of the competition’ (****)
Black was every bit a 21st century celebrity, with a very active and provocative Instagram account, becoming something of a fixture in gossip columns and celebrity magazines. Unusually fair-skinned with silken ebony hair and a fragile, bird-like figure, she quickly became a favourite of designers including Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs, headlining shows in Paris and Milan. Her image challenged and subverted the prevailing female rapper aesthetic epitomised by Nicki Minaj, Lil Kim and Badkween – porn star, hooker, Barbie – with an angular beauty and a broad spectrum of visual reference points: from sci-fi hero to silver screen starlet. Like so many iconic musicians before her, she even tried to push at the boundaries of gender. Ultimately, it was the barriers of her chosen industry that would entrap her.
Following the incident last Thursday, friends and fans of the star set Twitter ablaze with sadness and rage. Controversial rap superstar Kanye West, a friend and frequent collaborator of Black’s, described her as ‘one of the greatest female rappers of ALL TIME! Scratch that – one of the greatest rappers of ALL TIME, PERIOD! That bitch spat flames.’ Even US President Donald Trump dedicated one of his daily tweets to honouring the musician. ‘A beautiful young woman was SLAUGHTERED by a FAT JEALOUS PIG! Sad!’
- Read more: Award-winning rapper Ice Black found unconscious at rival’s home
Black’s dominance of the genre proved to be a poisoned chalice. The young rapper was originally thought to be something of a protégée of reigning supreme Badkween, and the increasingly fractured relationship between the pair became a source of frenzied media speculation. “The hip-hop game wasn’t big enough for the both of them, that much was clear,” wrote Pitchfork journalist Paul A. Thompson.
‘Move over Badkween! Rap’s new princess is half your age, with twice the talent”, The Mirror proclaimed.
“The supposed feud between Badkween and Ice Black is a misogynist, forced media narrative that demeans them both,” said the Guardian’s Alexis Petridis in October 2016.
What started out as a sexist media fantasy about two female stars’ inability to coexist seemed to seep out of the headlines and into real life. Black’s 2017 LP Green Eyes was believed to be a less-than-subtle dig at Badkween.
- Review: Ice Black: Green Eyes – ‘Ice keeps her eyes on the prize’ (*****)
“Kween was obsessed with this idea that there could only be one, one big female rap star at any one time. She kept asking ‘is Ice hotter than me?’ I told her no, but she wouldn’t listen to me. People were saying Kween was over, cancelled. She started to believe them,” confessed a friend of the star, who asked not to be named.
- Read more: the top 10 greatest female rappers of all time
Badkween, real name Lisa Jackson, fled Twitter on Monday after receiving a barrage of death threats. She might not be able to evade the law so easily. Ever since Black was found unconscious at the veteran rapper’s Kensington home, speculation has been rife that Badkween was responsible. Her flat is being treated as a crime scene.
‘WTF was she doing at Kween’s crib? They weren’t friends! They hated each other!’ posted Twitter user IceQueen99, asking what many are thinking.
The increasingly elusive Badkween has only been spotted in public once since that fateful night. On Sunday she was snapped by paparazzi escaping into a waiting vehicle, deep in tears and flaunting her legendary curves in a skin-tight latex mini-skirt
- Read more: Get the look: Badkween’s £35 High Street bargain
How times have changed from just a few years ago, when Badkween was as famous for her attention-stealing antics – X-rated music videos, nude Playboy centrefolds and her high-profile, volatile relationships – as she was for her electrifying live performances. It’s been over a decade since her breakthrough hit song **** My ****** *****, which was famously banned from all mainstream UK radio stations.
Industry experts are divided over what exactly caused Badkween’s downfall. “It’s easy – she just ain’t hot no more,” declared one insider. “That sorta s*** ain’t cute when you’re over 40.” “Ice Black is much younger, prettier, thinner, cooler, fresher, classier, smarter – do I need to go on?” another added. Others gave a different perspective: “I don’t think she’s ever been the same since the divorce,” confessed a former confidant, referencing Badkween’s acrimonious split from Brooklyn-based rapper and producer King Killa, who occasionally worked with Ice Black.
- Read more: are these two rappers having a secret affair?
- Read more: Rapper Badkween accuses husband of assault
It is feared that Black will join the ranks of Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, Biggie and Tupac: legendary artists struck down at the height of their powers by vicious crimes. There are rumours that Nick Broomfield, acclaimed director of Kurt & Courtney and 2017’s Whitney: Can I Be Me, is already working on a documentary about Ice Black and Badkween.
- Read more: which one of these newcomers will be the new Ice Black?
It has been reported that Jet Prince, American football player and Black’s rumoured paramour, is due to visit the hospital for a bedside vigil.
Scotland Yard declined to comment due to the ongoing nature of the criminal case. Initial toxicology reports are due to be released on Friday.
Correction and apology
A previous version of this article, posted online on Tuesday 31st October 2017 at 5.30pm, erroneously reported that Ms Black had died. While her fate is uncertain, she is still very much alive. We apologise profusely for this error.
Who cares?!?! Fuck both those whores!
Good rapper. I liked Bad Apples.
She definitely did it.
Hope the c*** dies. Women can’t rap for shit.
I’m appalled by all these horrible comments! Show some compassion! A young woman is in a critical condition! What a sad story
Hayley Sleigh is currently studying for the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham. She also works as a freelance marketing and communications consultant. You can find out more by visiting her website here and her Instagram here.