In a since-deleted post on Instagram, Azealia Banks, the poster child for self-destruction, launched another attack on hip-hop’s newest female superstar, Cardi B.
News about Banks trolling a peer on social media in itself is as mundane as word about the color of the sky, but part of her critique—“Scary ass, ghost written, sucking and getting knocked up for left over migos rap”—was intriguing all the same because it mirrors the contrarians currently tripping over themselves to counter the widespread acclaim for Cardi B’s debut album, Invasion of Privacy.
Cardi B rightly ignored Banks, but she did address chatter over criticism that she used a ghostwriter on “Be Careful” by acknowledging that, yes, she did indeed hear the record originally from Pardison Fontaine and ultimately wanted it for herself.
“I don’t give a fuck,” Cardi B explained to an audience at her listening party last week. Anyone paying attention to Cardi B’s ascension shouldn’t be surprised by her candor. After all, when she was accused of biting Kodak Black’s flow for her inescapable first single “Bodak Yellow,” she offered a similar response, according to HotNewHipHop.com:
“For anybody that be telling me, ‘Oh, bitch you copied Kodak flow, you copied this and that flow,” So what, bitch? So what? I’ma sound like all your favorite rappers. I’ma take all they flows and I’ma body it bitch. One day I’ma sound like Kodak, the next day I’m a sound like Meek Mill, the next day I’ma sound like Migos. I don’t give a fuck. Cause at the end of the day, bitch, I [?] with that pen,” Cardi said, alluding to her writing skills.
Previously, having this sort of accusation leveled against you—particularly if you’re a woman who raps—could be detrimental to your career. However, in an era in which Meek Mill called out Drake for using reference tracks, only to find himself become the butt of everyone’s jokes in a rap beef with the Canadian who somehow has a Houston accent, does it really matter if Cardi B borrowed a few lines for a song that ultimately sounds like Lil’ Kim circa Notorious K.I.M. anyway? Especially when, now more than ever, the public is painfully aware that rappers over the decades have had far more help crafting their songs than they previously let on?
It doesn’t—and therein lies part of the reason that Cardi B has managed to attain an unprecedented amount of success in a short amount of time in spite of many obstacles: She’s about her money, and pretense has never driven and will never drive her profit margins.
Cardi B wants you to know she writes her own music, but she doesn’t play dumb about all that goes into making a mainstream rapper successful. It’s always taken a village to build a rap star. Why do we have to keep feigning otherwise?
That’s what makes Invasion of Privacy all the more enjoyable. It is a well-sequenced, well-produced, shrewdly crafted debut intended to hit all of its intended targets. She does indeed sound like Meek Mill on tracks like “Get Up 10” and Migos on a few more, but while she draws influences from others (as do her peers—just turn on the radio or your streaming app of choice), she possesses a personality that is unrivaled, and a delivery uniquely all her own. If you consider that “leftover Migos rap,” gold star for you, but when I turned on “Drip,” all I thought was, “Oh, bitch, that shit slaps.”
The same goes for her platinum-certified follow-up single, “Bartier Cartier.” Honestly, it makes sense that Cardi B works so well with Migos-esque tunes because as I’ve learned from my dating life in New York City, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans often remind me of my fellow Southern black brethren, only they order their swine en español. Not to mention, for several years now, New York rappers like A$AP Rocky, Nicki Minaj and, more recently, A$AP Ferg have all notched hits piggybacking off of Southern sounds found across the whole region.
While spring presently needs an Amber Alert in much of the country, by the time it truly warms up, you can rest assured that the Project Pat-and-La Chat-sampling “Bickenhead” will be heard from then until the end of time. The same goes for “She Bad,” featuring YG. I’m fairly certain that “Money Bag” will be heard at strip clubs and gay clubs alike—even the white ones that don’t typically fancy too much color on the premises. It should go without saying that “I Do” and its SZA-sung hook will be played in the background somewhere on future episodes of Insecure and Love & Hip Hop.
The Kehlani-assisted “Ring” will be quoted on Instagram for the foreseeable future by our nieces, select nephews and lil’ cousins. And while I could do without “Best Life,” which includes
Yung Kirk Franklin Chance the Rapper, it’s definitely the sort of track your churchgoing auntie will blast before she secretly turns to “Bickenhead.” And of course, the Bad Bunny-and-J Balvin-assisted “I Like It” is Cardi B’s best shot at netting another monstrous hit on the charts.
Much has been said about Cardi B’s previous life as a stripper, but not in the context of how good a stripper’s ear typically is. Strippers know what moves a crowd, which is thus why they have a much better idea of a given track’s hit potential. So while Cardi B genre-hops a bit across Invasion of Privacy, not even the pop-leaning tracks shift too far away from the largely trap sound that has molded and shaped Cardi’s short-lived music career. In that, she has managed to do something that not even my beloved Nicki Minaj has done. If anything, Cardi B and her team at Atlantic have perfected that model. Praise those who understand the virtues of editing.
Invasion of Privacy is an album full of glorious thot bops. As someone who purchased Cardi B’s free mixtape (I support the arts), I always thought of her becoming more of a Trina-like figure—i.e., someone who slowly but steadily maintains a solid fan base but doesn’t necessarily become a staple of the mainstream. I’m gleeful about being wrong on that front, but more so because for those of us who blasted “Foreva,” “Washpoppin” and “Lick,” Cardi B’s mainstream debut doesn’t stray too far from what made us take her seriously as an artist before others joined the wave. She didn’t bend to the mainstream; she made it bend to her.
The only difference between Cardi then and now is that she has a machine behind her. The same machine Azealia Banks had after “212” went viral and suddenly she was booked on Chanel shows. The same machine that gobbled up Tink and unfortunately spit her back out. Ditto for Iggy Azalea. These women all had better setups than Cardi B, yet she is the one to cement herself as the first female rapper since Minaj to break out in such a big way.
It’s not simply because of Migos’ influence, Cardi’s early infamy from social media or growing celebrity from reality TV, or that she’s just more endearing thanks to her personality. It’s a combination of those things, plus a good ear and a shrewdness not seen since, well ... Minaj. And again, Cardi lacks pretense; she is not engaged in anyone’s hip-hop-purist-of-convenience-led debates. She wants to drop hits and is not going to pussyfoot about the steps that led to them. She is the perfect star for this moment.
For those worried about Cardi B’s moment potentially fading because of her pregnancy, remember that she’s rich, recall that she’s only 25 years old, and more important, don’t forget that time and time again, Belcalis Almanzar has shown that certain hip-hop truths either never really mattered or, if nothing else, don’t apply to her. Besides, Invasion of Privacy will still be played while she goes on maternity leave. I’m sure that in all of her planning of her money moves, Cardi B knew to make sure that it would.