SOUND VS. STYLE: CARDI B.
by Jeremy Danté
the story of cardi b. is that of a cinderella story. but in the most american way. american in the way of a brown family venturing into the states to make a better way for their children, only to be met with poverty stricken circumstances and struggles of project living. american in the way that immigrants often times go to community colleges to cut costs on education. and that’s what belcalis almanzar did. while attending community college and working at a mid-town grocer, she decided to enter into the world of adult performing to spike her own financial status. and that she did. with means to an end, the bronx girl planned to work as and adult performer from 18 at 25, eventually ending her time in the clubs at 23 years old upon social media superstardom.
in an age of social media artificiality, filters and make believe; cardi b. defines a brand of genuine appeal through simply being real, from a human level. never one to shy away from the spotlight and share her experience- struggles and glory alike; anyone that comes across anything she’s done or doing is immediately taken with her personality. one aspect of her career that was almost outshadowed by her superstar personality was her music. after her entire feed on instagram went viral for literal years, she was then cast on VH1’s “love and hip-hop” as the sparkle from their own star was beginning to dim for the new york edition of the franchise. She starred on the show for two seasons, which showed her trying to get DJ’s and producers to take her music seriously; while also knocking Billboard on it’s back with her mixtape-gone-major smash, “bodak yellow”. the single shattered radio airwave requests as card’s star rose into historic hip-hop territory, being the longest running #1 single by a female rapper atop billboard since lauryn hill, in 1998. while her style is a culmination of female rap greatness, while cardi manages to encapsulate her own unique interpretation of everything from homaged rap flows, to inspired looks on the red carpet. it is with great recognition, that i share my adoration for who she has become as an artist. against the odds, defying what others thought or even didn’t think possible for her. today she drops her first full length studio LP. appropriately title, “invasion of privacy” the album boasts 13 back-to-back tracks of sonic greatness. one of the strongest efforts that i’ve ever heard by any female artist, let alone any rapper at all. cardi has a unique way of showcasing her personality through rhymes in a way that is thoughtful and as close to what is current as anything out- across the board. she’s a pure trendsetter who understands the path that was created for her by the artists who’ve come before her. for this, she is honorable. while i don’t often take time to etch out song by song reviews; as cardi is an exception of many things- i will make an exception for her.
the album starts off heavy, packing powerful bars with even more powerful production, with “get up 10” where cardi talks about odds being stacked against her and the details of her come up. this is an especially important starting point for the album because it shows cardi’s own grounded nature. “drip” features migos, and was dropped at the top of this week with the intention of creating buzz for the friday release of the project. “bickenhead” sees cardi borrowing melodic queues from project pat, as the ‘folio of rap bangers starts it’s upward climb. “bodak yellow” enters the sequence at track 4, reminding us of the smash that we had all been playing in our cars and on our phones, and bobbing heads to at the club all last winter and summer. coming in at track 5, the mid-point of the album is “be careful” which again dips in tempo and adds an homage to big pun, while cardi is heard flexing a little bronx muscle to an ex love, heeding the warning of caution by a woman scorned. track 6 sees cardi taking a more commercial route of fun and free on the chance the rapper assisted, “best life”. a show of optimism that allows us to celebrate with cardi and all her success, as hard hitting hip-hop takes a backseat to a sweet flow that is dripping in dollars and smiles. borrowing from pete rodriguez’ 1967 hit “i like it like that”, cardi sprawls in spanish flavor amidst a feature of bad bunny and j. balvin on track 7, aptly titled “i like it”; which gives you that washington height in the summer vibe, perfectly. on the track cardi tells us all the things she likes from text messages from exes begging for a second chance to diamonds and handsome men. kehlani shares a track with cardi on the album on “ring”; which shares a softer side of the female rap star, as she debates whether to call or not call the dude she’s feeling, through vibes of pride. my favorite track on all the album is “money bag” – which allows cardi to dominate in a space that could easily be the musical soft spot of iconic rappers like lil kim and foxy brown, in today’s musical stratosphere. “money bag” enters the sequencing to remind us that this is a hip-hop album, and true to rap form- boasting and showing one’s own money takes center stage as cardi raps about girls so pretty that they should bridesmaids, but still just as hood to be ‘gang, gang’. track 10 showcases the single drop of hit “bartier cardi”; which seen cardi dropping a glitzy music video, and celebrates 100 million streams on the musical platform, spotify. YG rolls through with the ease of california on track 11, where sex appeal and repetitive lyrics of designer bags cite cardi as being bad. everything from physical features to album features are game on this record, which is yet another track that is single-worthy. “thru the phone” is where cardi shines through rap vulnerability and feminine strength, sharing a story of woman scorned versus heart on the sleeve warn; cardi sings beautifully on the record and showcases a dimension not often seen through her uptown bronx exterior. i love this record and admire cardi’s artistic development most, on this record, which is the antithesis to all the bangers she’s had thus far. the album closes out with a feature from SZA, on “i do” as cardi shares sentiment on female empowerment, being your own boss and bad bitches being a gift from god.
all in all, cardi’s style evolution as a celebrity is secondary to her rap career and ability through musical composition and success through executing the job. the album is a milestone, not only for cardi; but for all rappers and especially for women. to rise though the odds, and mark your own seat for success is what the american dream is all about. i congratulate cardi b. and atlantic records on this amazing showing of female rap. i encourage all to listen to this album to enjoy it, and if you do, to share it with others with encouragement to listen. this project is evidence that culture has won.