The numbers are in.
Cardi B’s debut album, Invasion of Privacy, has snagged the number one spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart with the biggest streaming week ever for a female artist. Is it time to stop asking whether Cardi has staying power?
As soon as you hear that her stage name was inspired by the alcoholic beverage Bacardi, it’s not hard to believe that such a boisterous personality would closely follow. But such is the case for hotshot rap sensation Cardi B, who has just set the record for the highest streaming week by a female artist.
Born Belcalis Almanzar, the lovable loudmouth first captured the world’s attention in 2013 via her tough and frank accounts on Instagram of life as a stripper. Cardi’s Instagram musings quickly ascended her to viral fame, which she later leveraged for a slot on VH1’s infamous reality show Love & Hip Hop: New York. One of Cardi’s first underground hits Foreva was inspired by a moment on the show where a comment she made (“if a girl have beef with me, she gon’ have beef with me… foreva”) went especially viral, proving from day one that she was not just an authentic rapper, but a savvy businesswoman who knows how to capitalize and strike while the iron’s hot.
Inspired by the high praise she received for the “two mixtapes in six months” she dropped in 2016, Cardi ditched Love & Hip Hop: New York at the end of the year to completely focus her hustle on her music industry dreams. Only two months later in February 2017, Cardi was snapped up by the iconic Atlantic Records and subsequently released her major label debut – Bodak Yellow – in June that year.
Bodak Yellow is the most apt introduction to Cardi’s brand of brazen, in-your-face confidence. The bop was somewhat of a sleeper hit but, by September, the Dominican-Trinidadian’s inescapable hit had made music history by becoming the first single by a solo female rapper since 1998 to hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Cardi’s major debut even had Top Dawg Entertainment president Punch (aka the guy who gave us SZA) comparing Cardi to the OG rap king Tupac while reflecting on what exactly it is about Cardi that has audiences addicted: “Pac wasn’t as skilled technically as some of his iconic counterparts, like a Jay-Z or Nas or B.I.G. and yet, he’s still viewed by many as the greatest rapper of all time. Why is that? The answer: a combination of passion, content, delivery, and HONESTY. Her interviews are as raw as her music. She’s politically incorrect, yet, her charisma means you cannot stop watching and listening, whether you agree or disagree.”
Naturally, doubters began to wonder whether the queen of the Bronx herself would be able to stick around after dominating with Bodak Yellow; Cardi challenges these naysayers in I Do, her banger with fellow sensation SZA. “They said by now that I’ll be finished, hard to tell / My little fifteen minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” Cardi asks.
With the release of her debut album Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B exceeded her hype not just by landing at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart, but by smashing several different records:
- The second-largest sales week of 2018 with 255,000 equivalent album units; those units make Invasion of Privacy the biggest streaming week ever for an album by a woman.
- The most simultaneous Billboard US Hot 100 entries by a female with a phenomenal thirteen song entries, twelve of which came from Invasion of Privacy. Beyoncé previously held this record with twelve entries.
- Five simultaneous Top 10 Hits on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and the only artist to achieve the feat with her first five chart entries.
Make no mistake – Cardi B is in the business of making hits that sell. For the record, Cardi sets records. Okurrrrrr!
With this insane demand for Cardi’s bops, it’s safe to say that the public’s appetite for female rap is skyhigh again. Cardi is hot right now, but she’s leading this resurgence of female rap alongside other in demand newcomers like Stefflon Don, Ms Banks, CupcakKe, Little Simz, Noname and Junglepussy. But on the flip side, the messy controversy following MotorSport, Cardi’s much discussed collaboration with heavyweight Nicki Minaj, highlights a major issue within female rap culture: competitive beefing. Or rather, the public’s desire for these women to partake in competitive beefing.
The reactions to MotorSport insisting that Nicki and Cardi have beef, which Cardi herself has vehemently denied, effectively limits female collaborations and breeds rivalry instead of comradery among a minority group who already face enough adversity as it is in this male dominated industry. Sure, Nicki’s “If Cardi B the QB/ I’m Nick Lombardi” lyric from the original version of MotorSport is super shady, but Cardi (and Nicki to a lesser extent) has actively denied the beef. So let. it. go. and let female artists thrive without pitting them against each other.
It feels somewhat reductive to champion 2018 as the Year of the Female Rapper, when we of course hope each and every year beyond this one will keep female rappers front and centre of the hip-hop canon with a positive representation and a strong sense of comradery. To quote Lil Kim’s 2000 bop Aunt Dot, “can’t we all just get along, and make hit songs?” Stop encouraging our rap queens to fight with each other, and instead champion them to fight against misogyny and sexism!
Cardi’s rags-to-riches story is a product of authentically living every truth of her life out in the open; the answer to the question of how to be famous in the modern age. Cardi From the Block found the courage within herself to pursue her dreams against all odds, yet Cardi’s backstory is tragically all too familiar for not only Dominicans, but Latinas in New York.
Cardi B grew up in an area where 53.5% of the residents are Hispanic — most of them of Dominican descent, the fourth-largest Hispanic population in the country. Like many Latinas living there, Belcaris was raised in poverty and attended a racially isolated and economically disadvantaged New York City public high school, all while experiencing domestic violence. For many New York Latinas, Cardi B‘s success against all odds nourishes them with hope because Cardi climbed to the top by staying true to her roots and identity. Her success story is one that those young Latina girls from the Bronx need to know. That being said, any form of uplifting milestone for women of colour in the entertainment industry is worth being celebrated – even if it only took twenty years. Sigh.
From Instagram influencer to reality TV star to legitimate record breaking rap star, Cardi B took an unconventional and challenging route to get to where she is now. You can love her or hate her, but the combo of her plain-spoken honesty and endearing fighter’s spirit will keep her around. Much like the Kardashians, Cardi B has successfully transformed one grain of exposure into a sustainable career – and that business savvy is why Cardi’s here to stay.
“I’m gonna be famous forever,” Cardi declared to The Fader in June 2017. With her hit music breaking and setting records, surely Cardi B now has the receipts to prove that?