Cardi B recently came under fire after a recording of an Instagram livestream from three years ago resurfaced. In the clip she rants about the struggles she has been through and what she’s had to do to get to where she is in the rap game. She talks about her past working as a stripper, which she has previously been open about, and talks about how she would use her position to make more money. “I had to go strip, I had to go, ‘Oh yeah, you want to f*ck me? Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s go back to this hotel,’ and I drugged n*ggas up, and I robbed them. That’s what I used to do.” Understandably, Cardi received a wave of backlash online, with people calling for her prosecution and comparing her to R. Kelly with the hashtag #SurvivingCardiB. Cardi claimed she was just being honest and “own[ing] [her] sh*t,” but there’s a fine line between honesty and confessing to criminal offenses.
Cardi claimed that she was just doing what she had to do to survive in the world she grew up in, as well as pay off $50,000 in studio time for her foray into rap. She touches on an interesting theme in hip hop about the intersection of morality and doing what you must to survive, even if it’s illegal. Her criticism also highlights double standards going both ways in the entertainment industry. People compared her with Bill Cosby and commented on how Cardi is so popular that this couldn’t even really damage her reputation, let alone get her in legal trouble. There are major differences between Cosby’s crimes and Cardi’s confession, but the fallouts are still interesting. There are probably some gender dynamics coming into play; very different images come to mind with a young woman drugging people as opposed to an older man doing the same. People may have a perception that Cardi is a less threatening figure and that she has built a reputation that makes this look insignificant. Cardi’s explanation of just doing what she had to do to survive is notably similar to many other rappers. Glorification of violence and crime has become central to hip hop, and male rappers talk about similar things, often without any real backlash at all. Take for example XXXTentacion, who viciously beat his girlfriend and many others, and was still largely forgiven in the public eye. It seems that something that previously flew under the radar is seen in a new light when the tables are turned.
It’s unlikely that this will really damage Cardi’s reputation at all. Throughout her climb to stardom, Cardi has been plagued by scandal after scandal. She has a reputation as a money-focused hustler, and has acknowledged her past as a Blood and as a stripper. Cardi didn’t really need to protect her reputation — and it shows. First, she tried to play it off and go after other people, but once she realized it could hurt her reputation she issued a vague apology. It’s just difficult to decide whether her apology is valid or an excuse. Her only show of remorse was saying, “I never even put those things in my music because I’m not proud of it and feel a responsibility not to glorify it. I made the choices that I did at the time because I had very limited options.” Cardi probably was put in a difficult position trying to get her career in rap started, but what she did was inexcusable, and she hasn’t really shown any remorse. This case brings into light the untouchable status celebrities have in our culture, bringing us back to the debate around the question: can you separate the art from the artist?