There are multiple stories running through one body, quickly responding to all feelings of anger, paranoia and vulnerability. Cardi B does not merely chase a quick appraisal with Invasion of Privacy, but rather reminds us that proving the doubt of success is hardest when in the spotlight.
Her definitive 2017 single, “Bodak Yellow,” became a chart-topping female rap record. Not only has she brought musical credibility to VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop,” but she also become the first female to have three top-10 singles on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts at the same time.
Prior to the reviews or criticisms, the belle of the ball has continued to live up to the hype. Her Bronx-to-riches narrative withstands many of the shields she holds within each track. Arguably, the woman in control is a full-time hustler. An ode to money, sex and the doubtful onlookers, Cardi B makes a believer out of pressure.
The mirror weighs on her shoulders. On “Get Up 10,” the ultimatum is no longer an option. A close resemblance to Meek Mill’s Dreams and Nightmares, the truth runs around karma in avoidance. Bar after bar, Cardi speaks an old satisfaction with pinpoint delivery. She portrays an invisibility through her Instagram page, and reiterates early on why the possibility to come from nothing is empowering: “Went from making tuna sandwiches to making the news/ I started speaking my mind and tripled my views/ Real bitch, only thing fake is the boobs.”
Invasion of Privacy claims hierarchical standards and debuts with inaugural status. While the clear meaning of the project is skewed, a response is undoubtedly made to place Cardi B anywhere but inside the boxes of media scrutiny. On “Drip,” she raps, “Is she a stripper, a rapper or a singer?/ I’m busting bucks in a Bentley Bentayga/ Ride through your hood like ‘Bitch, I’m the mayor!’/ You not my bitch, then bitch you in danger.”
The emotionally complex album is closely connected to the revival of vengeance. Cardi handles her enemies with bougie overtones in every conceivable way on “Bickenhead,” which samples Project Pat’s “Chickenhead.”
There is no clear pathway to stability. Indeed, the traditional standards by which we find comfort may take various directions — vices, even — but for Cardi, she is capable of undeniable determination. To her credit, the few times we see her leave the battlefield at an early stage resemble “Be Careful,” a public warning to the cheating speculations aimed at her fiancée Offset in late 2017. Cardi’s SNL performance last weekend debuted this song and confirmed months of speculated pregnancy rumors.
It is no surprise that the moment we learn to break the problematic tendencies we’ve become routined to, it seems the world is against us. Cardi’s unfiltered, yet necessary presence on social media is a strong reminder we are simultaneously learning and teaching from one another. However, it is important to acknowledge Cardi’s past problematic lyrics on songs such as “Foreva,” a clear alienation of the trans community. While Chance the Rapper’s unparalleled flow and captivating chorus are a feel-good revitalization on “Best Life,” Cardi’s lyrical response to her Twitter backlash must not be addressed as a form of accusation, but accountability. With such status as a female artist in hip-hop, there is no responsibility to address all issues of race and sexuality, but there is a responsibility to be informed within our community in order to change the toxic tendencies of our larger generation.
The staples of both worlds are not easily separated by a border. Cardi’s breakthrough in Latin trap alongside Bad Bunny and J Balvin on “I Like It” takes a bodega-style approach at wobbling bass, flaunting the money they’ve earned and the diligence to work twice as hard to break into the American industry.
It is difficult to conclude the chapters of a significant other. “Ring,” alongside “Thru Your Phone,” aggressively rant about similar subjects and the constant anxiety of an untrustful lover. You could say Cardi’s transparency is a form of endearment, all the while dangerously toxic. A woman in love — or the idea of it — doubts for good reason as she raps, “You risk your whole home for a hoe from the bar?/ You really want them hoes? You can have them bitches/... This shit is eatin’ me, you sleepin’ peacefully.”
Regardless of where Cardi B may attach her feelings of resentment to her past or current lover, the hustle to secure her bag is why we love her: She has broken out of her shell before our eyes. In a style all her own, her balance of clarity is diminished with an extended feature line, at times appearing as if she is a guest on her own project. The disconnection begins early on, as the empowering and autobiographical testimony on “Get Up 10” is followed by “Drip,” a song dominated by Migos. It is bizarre to hear a personality as large as Cardi’s being overpowered by the mere comfort that each artist presents on a track. While Kehlani and SZA’s guest verses repeat in our heads, the spotlight is no longer focused on Cardi’s verses.
There is no question Invasion of Privacy is one of 2018’s most anticipated debuts. It defines what fame becomes once the pressure is on. Cardi B has conquered the doubt that others see in her. She has conquered what fear may look like when the opposition is face-to-face with the relentless. Cardi B is indeed here to stay: Her “15 minutes of fame” are now becoming the multiple stories we see from her and the reasons we respect the hustle of a woman well-deserving of her “real-life fairytale Binderella shit.”
Final Grade: A