Illustration by Gemma Fa-Kaji
Cardi B is the best example of how to get famous in today’s day and age. Her dynamism, honesty, and shamelessness have made her an undeniably magnetic person in the industry who naturally draws everyone’s attention towards her.
Her well-documented rags to riches backstory only adds to her appeal. She got her start stripping and eventually became a reality TV star before she pursued rap full time. Cardi is used to putting her mind and body on display, and she maintains that same level of openness in her debut album, Invasion of Privacy.
The album starts with an anthem to what she’s been through and where she’s going in “Get up 10.” It is a decent track, but it is pretty expected from basically any musician who’s just made it big, and it seems a little forced coming from Cardi. She seems most natural in songs like “Bickenhead,” which is a revolutionary anthem to women’s sexual liberation that makes the argument that women’s sexuality and humor aren’t mutually exclusive.
Ever since “Bodak Yellow” blew up, everyone is pretty used to hearing about Cardi B’s comeuppance and her sexuality. Hearing her rap from a place of power and authority is not going to blow anyone out of the water at this point. So, the songs that stand out the most are ones that come from a place of genuine hurt and vulnerability, a rarity for a female hip-hop artist where the genre is known for promoting a facade of stoicism.
There is something really heartbreaking about hearing Cardi try to drop her hard persona and abrasive voice in “Be Careful.” If you weren’t familiar with the rest of her music, it would seem like a pretty basic track about the pain of being cheated on. But knowing what Cardi usually shows of herself to the world, and then hearing her voice soften as she repeats “be careful with me” is genuinely upsetting and makes for a highlight of the album. “Thru your phone” is focused on the same theme, but it’s a little less depressing because it is more about the initial outrage of being cheated on, rather than a plea to the person who’s hurting you.
It seems like Cardi B and her producers have not really mastered how to use features yet. One of the only tracks where the feature plays off of Cardi in a nice way is “Bartier Cardi” which features 21 Savage.
Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny is a welcome addition to “I Like it,” but J Balvin as a secondary feature is unnecessary overkill. Sometimes, the features serve as background vocals, like YG in “She Bad,” and basically have no purpose in the song. Even worse, Cardi’s features sometimes outshine her on her own track, like SZA in “I do” or Chance the Rapper in “Best Life.”
Cardi B wasn’t completely unknown before “Bodak Yellow” hit #1 on the charts. She had previously gone viral for several videos, including but not limited to a vine in which she stated that, “a hoe never gets cold” while sporting a risque dress. Additionally, she starred in the hit VH1 reality show Love & Hip Hop. Still, there was a strong possibility that she would only have fifteen minutes of genuine fame if she didn’t play her cards right. That’s part of the reason why her debut album isn’t all that adventurous or experimental. This isn’t to say that’s a negative thing because plenty of successful artists go through their whole career doing uninspired music, but it’s hard not to expect more from someone with such a bold, unfiltered personality.
Now that it’s obvious that Cardi B isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, it’s going to be fascinating to see how her music mutates as she reveals more about herself and her personality.
One of the major themes of Invasion of Privacy is learning your self worth. Cardi tears people down throughout the album, but mostly focuses on bringing herself up and being proud of where she came from. It’s not a rarity in rap to hear someone brag about their humble beginnings, but Cardi’s part of a new wave of rappers that have been confident about who they are at any given point in life.
As a stripper and a rapper, Cardi B has had high self-esteem. It is a refreshing message because most of her fans are young and still at the humble beginnings of their life, and she is telling the audience that you don’t have to wait 10 years to love yourself, you can start right now.