I think it’s fair to say that my appreciation for consumption of entertainment of the avian element is quite well documented. My favorite celebrity couple is Cam’ron and Juju. Close second? Remy and Papoose. I have been known to hit the chicken head and the toe wop in the club in this year of our lord, 2016. I send semimonthly requests to Spotify to make “Suck It or Not” available to stream. When I ultimately meet my maker, I plan to request that my friends and family Milly Rock to “Melodies From Heaven” mixed over “Crush on You” at my wake.
All of that said, every woman has a line. And until March 7, 2016, I was under the impression that my line was listening to mixtapes from Instagram celebrities—until Cardi B, High Bridge pioneer, proved me wrong.
Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1 kind of slaps, you guys.
I’m not saying this hyperbolically, either.
For one, she certainly has more bars on the album than The Life of Pablo—which, to be fair, is absolutely not saying much, since there are entire stretches of that album where ’Ye barely even gets 16 bars on a track. And it certainly gets a strong assist from the production*; “On Fleek,” “Washpoppin’,” and “Foreva” all have just enough bass in them to provide energy to any girl crew’s “getting ready before the club” session, the latter being an obvious rework of Plies’ “Ran Off on Da Plug.”
For two, you can never underrate Cardi B’s innate understanding of the medium in which she flourishes—namely, Snapchat and Instagram, concise video platforms that pretty much only allow you to squeeze in one or two witty lines within their time constraints—and the bulk of her songs make sure that she has at least one quotable line to pair with the new dog-face filter that everyone seems to be so keen on.
On “Washpoppin”: “Real [n—gas f—k] with me, the bad bitches [f—k] with me/so if you don’t, it’s probably cuz you broke or you ugly.” “Lit Thot”: “If you ain’t talking ’bout money, then I’m pitching nothing but curves.” You could tell me that those quotables aren’t better than “if I [f—ked] a model and she just bleached her [a—hole],” but you’d be lying. No one’s lip-synching to that on IG—and if they are, then you need to run far in the other direction because that person has a cocaine problem.
I’d be remiss not to acknowledge where Cardi B’s artistic endeavors could use some growth—and what I will say is that this mixtape is missing a few features to take it over the top. “Foreva” is a Remy Ma verse away from being the petty anthem of every chick who still has “Stilettos (Pumps)” in her workout playlist (see: me). If “Trick” had a Trina assist, it would be the “10 Crack Commandments” of hoeing—although if Cardi wanted to keep her coins in the Mona Scott empire, Mariah Lynn could work in a pinch.**
If nothing else, this mixtape shows us that Cardi B is a woman of many layers. She covers a wide swath of topics—scamming, loyalty, resilience, safe sex, physical abuse, pride, bravado, self-confidence, authenticity and independence—in 13 tracks, all while making sure it’s over a popping beat. Yeah, the four skits were overwrought and pushing it, but so what? Folks defend Lauryn Hill’s silly-as-hell skits on Miseducation to this day. Cardi can do fake interviews if she wants. Cardi used a skit to shed light on domestic violence against strippers. Lauryn told us that grade school kids don’t know much more about love than how to spell it.
It amazes me that on a season of Lust and Unpaid Studio Time in Harlem, which featured one of my favorite female rappers ever, the music I enjoyed the most was from a former stripper whose music wasn’t even played on the show. We saw a wholly unnecessary and is-there-a-state-of-whelming-below-underwhelming-because-it-was-that performance from bum broads on deck when I could have seen my Queen Cardi work at her craft!
I blame DJ Self and his insistence on overloading his camera time with women whose names start with “Y” instead of playing “Foreva” on the radio like the streets needed. I hope Mona heeds my advice and lets us listen to Gangsta Bitch Vol. 2 next season while shipping Self’s brown M&M doppelgänger face off to La Marina and away from the TV screen like we deserve.
* That said, whoever mixed this project should never work in music again. The vocal overlay is absolutely lacking, and I hope Vol. 2 gets mixed and mastered by someone who hasn’t just been using Pro Tools for nine months.
** Speaking of which—her two singles are bops as well. “Money Gun” is the jam.
Shamira Ibrahim is a 20-something New Yorker who likes all things Dipset. You can join her as she waxes poetic about chicken, Cam’ron and gentrification (gotta have some balance) under the influence of varying amounts of brown liquor at Very Smart Brothas.