Since capturing the zeitgeist with “Bodak Yellow” late last summer, Cardi B has become arguably the hottest new musician in pop music. Cardi’s been around for years, but she’s only been in the wider public eye for a few months now. In that short amount of time, she’s managed to become the most polarizing figure in pop culture, beloved by her fans and loathed by her critics. The hype around Cardi B isn’t slowing down, though—in recent months, she got engaged to Offset, announced a pregnancy on Saturday Night Live, and became the first-ever co-host of The Tonight Show. Her debut album, Invasion of Privacy, was certified gold by the RIAA as soon as it dropped. But does she deserve her success?
Cardi, born in 1992 as Belcalis Almanzar, got her start performing as a stripper, a fact she proudly declares on “Bodak Yellow.” She skyrocketed to the top of the stripping circuit while amassing a huge following on social media—so far, 2.76 million followers on Twitter and 21 million on Instagram. It didn't take long before she caught the eye of the casting team of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: New York, where she starred as a cast member for two seasons. She released her debut mixtape, Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1, in March 2016, sparking the minor hit “Foreva.” Her extra-ness on social media and in her songs has been key to her rise, but it’s a blessing and a curse; if Cardi rubs someone the wrong way, they really don’t like her.
The Bigger Issue
Take, for example, the cover of Gangsta Bitch, which features the rapper getting eaten out while chugging the world’s biggest Corona. It’s easy to understand why people would be, ahem, offended or shocked by the image. Cardi's profile is based, at least in part, on making people uncomfortable. In interviews and on Love & Hip Hop, her personality often appeared manufactured or oversized. In several songs and on TV, one of her go-to catchphrases is, “Fuck your feelings.” To the uninitiated, she comes across as completely un-self-aware.
Cardi B has her faults. But she’s a performer through and through, a live wire who seems unhampered by doubt or social expectations. She’s unabashedly weird, spouting off bizarre noises at the end of bars and in the middle of interviews. She was able to stun even Jimmy Fallon, who interviewed Donald Trump without breaking. No other performer today, save for maybe CupcakKe, would say, “I feel it all, butterflies in my stomach and vagina,” to Giuliana Rancic on live TV at the Grammys red carpet. She gave us the maxim, “A hoe never gets cold,” a rallying cry for the partiers braving another endless Syracuse winter. Cardi B already has your attention. She deserves your respect. Okurrr?