Authenticity in the world of hip-hop is often lost in translation amid the duplicity of rappers who try at all costs to be someone other than themselves. For Belcalis Almanzar, better known as Cardi B, her innate ability to be herself and not hide it from the public is exactly what separates her from frauds and makes her fans and haters alike pay attention to the tune of 40.9 million followers and counting. On any given day, watching her is better than any reality TV show. Her audience listens to her words and are often granted access into her world via Instagram live, which is never a dull moment and naturally curated with equal parts of reality, juicyness and shock value. She is a rare type of talent with a uniqueness that has catapulted her into fame, stardom and a strong run of hard earned success.
Whether you like her music or not, it really doesn’t matter. In the words of Jay-Z, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” Her stats have consistently broken records, with her foot on necks and the endurance of Flo Jo on the track without even breaking a nail.
Dominating the top of the charts, she became the first rapper to place her first three Billboard Hot 100 entries in the chart’s top 10 simultaneously at the beginning of 2018. A clothing deal with Fashion Nova, a Pepsi commercial, a partnership with Reebok, gracing every top magazine cover, being nominated for 5 Grammy Awards, taking home a win along with making Time 100: The Most Influential People of 2018, the past year and a half has been a phenomenal journey.
During the announcement of her Grammy win for Best Rap Album for Invasion of Privacy in 2019, the emotional rapper appeared to be in disbelief. Visibly shaken, she embraced her husband Offset and gave a double high-five to Brooklyn Johnny, the music executive and CEO of District 18 Entertainment, who secured her record deal in 2016 with Atlantic Records.
The businessman who makes things happen shared that he’s seen a lot of talented artists, but not “Special” and that is essentially what made Cardi different. “I feel like the Cardi story is going to be a movie … How she recorded her whole album carrying a whole child,” he told Billboard Magazine.
Her stats have surpassed Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé, commanding cheers from the Bardi Gang and industry peers. The world is about balance and with that love, also comes hate. Just as the rapper dropped her single “Be Careful” social media, the streets and hip-hop lovers attacked her credibility by essentially stating that she had a ghostwriter and didn’t pen the catchy and emotional song of betrayal and heartache.
A plot to sidetrack her, it held no weight in the long run. Some of the greatest songs created in the history of music were not written by the artists who performed them. We see this frequently in other genres and nobody raises a brow-but in the rap world and hip-hop culture it is used to start beefs and end careers.
It is magnified in the male dominated genre, often filled with misogynistic words and perspectives. This sexist behavior usually becomes the subject of debate because after all, women can’t possibly write their own rhymes, right? Tuh.
The Bronx native’s strength is her resilience and relentless hustle. The kind that transforms a stripper with dreams hungry for more out of life. She never speaks negatively regarding that period in her life. Previously working in a grocery store, she found herself ambitious to make more money to have a better home life. At the time, she was in an abusive situation that was in the way of her life goals including her education. “I was living with my ex-boyfriend that was beating my a–,” she told Vlad TV.
When asked how she got out of the living arrangement her answer was crystal clear. “Stripping, getting my own money and leaving. How was I gonna leave if I only made $200 every week?” Because of her past, she is often open to scrutiny and judged. Her truth tends to be a double-edged sword.
She credits women in the strip club with teaching her some serious lessons that have helped her stay focused in her career today. “A lot of women here taught me to be more powerful … I’m glad for this chapter in my life. I don’t ever regret it. I learned a lot. I feel like it matured me,” she told CBS Sunday Morning during an interview while visiting her previous jobs. Dedication took her to the #1 spot and the fact that she is a woman who lives by her own rules draws people of all ages, races, genders, colors and socio-economic backgrounds near like a magnet.
Her outspoken candor makes her a conversation piece amongst all audiences. Denzel Washington recited “Bodak Yellow” lyrics with confidence like the lines from one of his movies. Bruno Mars took her under his wing welcoming her as family to collaborate introducing The Stereotypes production. Maroon 5, Jennifer Lopez, The Migos, Blueface and Offset have all featured Cardi allowing her signature sound to be heard.
There is no malevolence with the petite rapper, however, when attacked usually via social media, there are often clapbacks. Mastering as a social media maven, she allows the world to see her with with no makeup on, hair undone-with and without a lace front intact. She speaks about her marital problems and later locks tongues with her husband on red carpets and in the backseat of cars.
She speaks her mind in what some refer to as broken English-yet every word is understood and gets politicians to respond to her inquiries. The rapper studied history and political science in college and has a fascination with both areas, so she often gives her two cents freely. From the government shutdown to supporting Colin Kaepernick, there isn’t too much in her opinion that she’s silent about.
She does this all whilst embracing motherhood, long bicoastal hours in the studio, connecting with fans, brief retirements, iconic photoshoots, flexing her nails like an emoji, closing business deals and giving mind-blowing performances.
The demand for her social media presence, outspokenness and unrivaled hilarity acquired the attention of Stephen Colbert, when he started a petition via Twitter to have her do the State of the Union rebuttal. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez quoted Cardi’s “Best Life” in a tweet sending some into distress and others into excitement. Yeah, the Bronx girl from Highbridge has that type of influence.
All eyes will remain on the self-proclaimed “Trap Selena” who went from saying “Shmoney” to rapping her hit song “Money” and literally getting it. Her circle is as staggering as the 1992 Olympic Dream Team and is a family full of talented individuals in their own right. Stylist extraordinaire Kollin Carter has done the unimaginable securing vintage and couture designs.
Publicist Patientce of Cream PR now adds Grammy Award-winning publicist to her resume’ in addition to the friendship they share. It’s the type that will have your bestie holding your leg to keep you in the birthing position in the delivery room before your first child’s arrival. Makeup Artist Erika La’ Pearl created flawless beats that place her at the top of the MUA game. Then of course there’s Cardi’s sister Hennessy, who is usally by her side and stays ready for anyone who comes for her big sister and wants smoke. Last but not least, let’s not forget her management Quality Control. With Kevin “Coach K” Lee and Pierre “Pee” Thomas, she sits front and center at the winner’s circle.
Right now she’s on top of the world. Cardi and Invasion of Privacy proves that the world is tired of carbon copies and desires more, not soley from the music, but identity.