Cardi B has only ever asked for one thing since releasing Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 2.
Belcalis Almanzar, self-made superstar, filled the early portion of her career with swaggering boasts and carefree, don’t-need-no-man sensibility, so when she made this one, simple request, she staggered the rap world with the sudden display of vulnerability.
“Be careful with me,” she implored on her latest single, a stunning departure from the boisterous club anthems that defined her rise to household recognizability. It implied fragility, softness, delicacy behind the ratchet, “gangsta bitch” facade. It caught everybody off guard.
It shouldn’t have. Cardi’s been telling us all along that she’s just a “regular, degular, schmegular” chick; it’s just that we were all too caught up in the glamour and rambunctious presentation to notice.
Which is exactly why “Be Careful” was exactly the right song for Cardi B, at exactly the right time.
With her album, Invasion Of Privacy, dropping at the end of the week, the expectations are as high for Cardi as they’ve ever been. When “Bodak Yellow” dropped, she was still a relative nobody, coming off the release of the second of two well-received, but only lightly-marketed mixtapes and still best recognized as the loud girl from all the Love & Hip-Hop: New York memes. “Foreva” was her biggest hit before that, its success predicated on the familiarity of the listener with her reality show antics.
Then “Bodak Yellow” broke all kinds of records, unseated Taylor Swift from her usual position at the top of the charts, and skyrocketed Cardi to a career plateau where she was routinely being mentioned in the same breath as Nicki Minaj and Lauryn Hill. It may have all been too much, too soon, but here we are. Cardi had to prove that she could follow up the monstrous success of her first charting single with another, or be banished to the designation of one-hit wonder.
Instead, she followed up with a string of hit records, featuring with fiancé Offset on “Motorsport” alongside Nicki Minaj, the reigning queen of hip-hop, whom fans had tried so desperately to pit her against. She gave G-Eazy a gift with another raucous verse on his Master P-homaging “No Limit.” She extended the shelf life of Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic, giving him enough of a recency bias boost to surpass Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar at the 2018 Grammy Awards, where Cardi again stole the show during their ‘90s reviving live performance of “Finesse (Remix).”