I don’t care who you are, Cardi B is having a better year than you.
Just yesterday the American rapper broke Beyonce’s record for most songs simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100. Days before that, she gave an energized show at Coachella Music Festival— performing while 6 months pregnant. But it was only last week Cardi B dropped her debut album, Invasion of Privacy, which has already broken streaming records and gone Certified Gold in the US.
She’s a powerhouse with a New York attitude, a rags to riches poster child, and her music is provocative (it’s not the type of music you want on with the kids around). Between her tawdry language and her take-no-prisoners attitude, she’s the 21st century feminist many women have been waiting for. She’s all anyone can seem to talk about in America, but she has yet to make an impact of the same magnitude in Europe. So here’s what you should you know about Cardi B, the female MC unapologetically dominating the rap scene.
Real name Belcalis Almanzar, Cardi B grew up in the Bronx borough of New York City, her Trinidadian mother was a cashier and her Dominican father a taxi driver. Cardi’s family never had much money and she had a rough childhood, including being involved in gang violence. When she was 19, she found herself stuck in an abusive relationship, and after an unsuccessful attempt at university, became an exotic dancer in order to make enough money to leave her situation. During this time, her personal Instagram page was overflowing with viral videos of hilariously vulgar rants about her life as a stripper. Her massive internet following eventually landed her a spot on American reality show Love & Hip-Hop, where her popularity grew as the breakout star of her season.
But those days seem worlds away. Now you can find Cardi B gracing the cover of Rolling Stone, co-hosting The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and performing her chart-topping singles on Saturday Night Live. It’s a big jump for Cardi to have made from strip club, to Rihanna congratulating her on her Coachella show, especially over the course of five short years. Which is why everyone who knows of her— love her or hate her— is fascinated by Cardi B.
The leap between her relative ambiguity and all-out stardom came last summer. In June of 2017, she released her hit single, “Bodak Yellow,” which within weeks could be heard through every club speaker and car radio across the US. By September, Bodak Yellow began it’s three week reign as number one on Billboard’s Hot 100. It was the first solo song by a female rapper to hit number one since Lauryn Hill in 1998. The single earned her two Grammy Award Nominations, one for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance, all this before she released her album.
In October 2017, Cardi was performing in Philadelphia alongside rapper boyfriend Offset (of rap trio Migos), when he proposed on stage. She accepted and now boasts a half-million dollar engagement ring. The most recent development in their romance came earlier this month, when after weeks of swirling pregnancy rumors, Cardi confirmed the couple are expecting. The big reveal came while performing her single “Be Careful” on Saturday Night Live, as the camera panned down past her waist, revealing an obvious baby bump among a chorus of audience cheers.
Cardi B is America’s new sweetheart, not one of soft smiles and flowings dresses, but spitfire attitude and ambition larger than the Empire State Building. She isn’t just a success story, she’s a role model unlike one we’ve ever seen. You might not want your daughter listening to her go-hard trap music or mimicking her eye-popping outfits, and yet to so many young women, she’s an inspiration.
Cardi seems to have awoken something in the female populus. She throws the aggressiveness of the male-dominated music industry right back in its face. She encourages women to “make that schmoney” and own their sexuality while doing it. She can make even the most proper lady recite rap lyrics as if they too were raised in the Bronx. Say what you’ll say about Cardi B and her past, but the way she empowers women, especially women of color, is nothing short of groundbreaking.