Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
It seems like in an industry full of breakouts from social media and other entertainment sources, Cardi B’s sudden rise to stardom was still a shock. Born in the Bronx as Belcalis Almanzar, Cardi B introduced her infectious personality and charisma to the world through Vine and Instagram, as a way to escape the hardships of working as a stripper. Her uncut ruminations on topics ranging from unfaithful boyfriends to Philippe Chow then landed her a spot on VH1 reality show Love & Hip Hop. A chatterbox with a soft spot for wild humor and charm, Cardi then decided to break out into rapping. Although it was a bold move, her brash exuberance and language fit in well with the hip hop community. Her first two mixtapes, released in 2016 and 2017, showed potential, but felt more like rough drafts than anything else. While a remix of “Lick” with Offset, a member of Migos and her current fiancé, gained her more attention, it wasn’t until a certain song that Cardi B took the world by storm.
Arguably the biggest hip-hop song of 2017, “Bodak Yellow” was more than just a regular hit; it was a force. Its significantly New York sound, with its off-kilter beat and triumphant braggadocio, caused it to work its way into dominance, eventually knocking down a Taylor Swift single to become the number-one song in the country, proving that rapping was more than just a side experiment for Cardi. “Bodak” also made significant chart history, with Cardi becoming the first solo female rapper to reach number-one since Lauryn Hill in 1998, with “Doo Wop (That Thing)”. Cardi’s dominance was now in full effect.
Oftentimes, viral internet success can cause major labels to drop an artist mid-peak, but Cardi’s debut album, Invasion of Privacy, released last week, suggests that perhaps they’re finding ways to use this success to its full advantage. It’s clear that lots of effort and money was put into Invasion of Privacy, but it never feels rushed or overdone. The album fully utilizes its roster of A-list guests, like Chance the Rapper, Migos, Kehlani, YG, and SZA, rather than using such a stacked guest list simply for a boost of star power. In fact, its guests are perhaps the least important aspects of the album, as Cardi is front and center here, with the guests acting as backup support. Trunk-knocking street mannerisms meet traces of velvety pop and R&B, all tied together with endless amounts of charisma, wit, and charm. Her Latin roots, stemmed from Dominicana, are also put on full display on “I Like It”, a swaggering collab with Latin trap superstars J Balvin and Bad Bunny that flips Pete Rodriguez’ 1967 boogaloo hit “I Like It Like That” to become a modern trap anthem for barbecues and clubs.
Despite her idiosyncratic rise to fame, Cardi is still deeply stemmed in hip-hop culture and knows where she comes from. The vigorous but deliberate flows and cadences of “Bodak Yellow” are adopted from Kodak Black’s 2015 hit “No Flockin”, and the soon-to-be club anthem “Bickenhead” pays homage to Project Pat’s “Chickenhead”. Fantastic opener “Get Up 10” is directly rooted from Meek Mill’s 2012 anthem “Dreams and Nightmares”, which, for its first half, utilizes elegant piano and strings to detail a classic rags-to-riches story, before the second half takes a complete 180 to welcome a hectic, turbocharged assurance of dominance and hunger. Cardi repurposes this layout for a female perspective, making for an equally superb way to open the gates.
On social media, Cardi is a multi-headed personality. She can be a rapid-fire comic, a vixen, and a hood empress all at once, often coming out loud and at the top of her lungs, and always coming out entertaining. These multiple personalities all dominate Invasion of Privacy; she’s at the peak of success, coming both confident and disgruntled at the same time. Her aim is at both detractors and romantic interests, addressing the latter on Lauryn Hill-sampling “Be Careful” and “Thru Your Phone”. The latter is a particular standout, a blazing, no-holds-barred attack on an unfaithful lover and his other woman that’s hilarious in the most twisted way possible. A pop beat and sung chorus juxtapose devilishly funny one-liners like “I’mma serve you cereal with a teaspoon of bleach/Serve it to you like, ‘here you go, n****, bon appetit’”, and “You gon’ wake up like, ‘why you got a knife?’”. It’s this absurdly infectious humor and charisma that permeates the album and further separates Cardi from the rest of the crowd.
Invasion of Privacy closes on a boisterous note with “I Do”. Anchored by a swaggering hook from SZA, the track is a triumphant acknowledgement of their successes that sums up the whole record. The track embodies the best aspects of both artists; Cardi’s infinitely witty and quotable one-liners, and SZA’s knack for unique, melodic mannerisms. They’re an unlikely pairing on paper, but the result is excellent, with both playing off each other with bounding chemistry. “I started winning when the whole world was doubting on me! Think imma lose with my little baby counting on me?”, Cardi tweeted after she announced her pregnancy on “SNL”. It’s not unlike a line that could fit anywhere on the album. Straightforward and confident, the tweet embodies the spirit of the album. She may have rose to fame in an idiosyncratic way, but everything is going as planned for Cardi. In an industry filled with social media stars going the music route, Cardi is the shining star, a force that her debut establishes, and one that is here to stay.
Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records