Music

Nothing Brought People Together In 2018 Like A Cardi B Song

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Cardi B’s “I Like It” appeared on our critics poll songs list at No. 7 and Invasion Of Privacy was No. 5 on the albums list. Check out the songs poll here and read our thoughts on the song and her current impact on culture.

There’s no better example of how much people love Cardi B than seeing her fellow New Yorkers belting “Bodak Yellow” in the middle of a crowded train station in December 2017. Working adults with sh*t to do took a break from their travels to scream Cardi’s Billboard No. 1 hit at the top of their lungs. Every utterance of “these expensive bottoms, these is bloody shoes” seemed to be rhymed that much harder, showing how much her fans identified with her triumph — if not her assertive mic persona.

If the Bronx rhymer had reached Billboard top 10 relevance with only that Kodak Black-inspired track before tapering off into more modest success, she would have reason to be proud of her moment of victory. But right after “Bodak,” she became the moment. Not only did “Bodak Yellow” go No. 1, “No Limit” with G-Eazy caught fire. Then, her “Motorsport” collaboration with husband Offset’s Migos and now-rival Nicki Minaj skrrted into the Billboard top 10 as well. It was clear during Cardi’s history-making 4th quarter of 2017 that she was going to stick around in the game, and anticipation for her debut album hit an upsurge.

It’s an understatement to say that Invasion Of Privacy delivered. If you choose not to believe our poll, consider the fans who engendered the following metrics: The album reached the top of Billboard in its first week and eventually went double platinum off the strength of 202.6 million streams — the largest streaming week ever for a debut album. Fans helped fuel “Bodak Yellow’s” rise as a veritable viral challenge, but Invasion Of Privacy couldn’t have reached that wide mass of listeners unless the music actually had mass appeal.

Esteemed critic Jon Pareles recently noted in The New York Times that “social media is pushing [the pop celebrity spectacle] to become continuous, intimate and hyperactive on multiple fronts.” Cardi gained notoriety by showcasing her endearing “raunchy cousin” personality in viral clips from the strip club, and she’s maintained it in part by letting the public nestle intimately into her private life during makeup-free, in-bed live sessions about whatever’s on her mind from Offset’s infidelity and motherhood to taxes.

The album stitched up those viral qualities together through song, radiating both her filter-free sense of humor and vulnerable candor over a strong 13 tracks. In a year where too many albums felt like bloated attempts to game streaming services, Invasion Of Privacy was as lean as she looked in her “Money” video. Aside from a too-blatant attempt to recreate “Bodak” on “Money Bag,” there were few tracks on the album generally regarded as mistakes.

Cardi succeeded where so many other trap artists fail by imbuing every bar with her personality. Whether it was her emphatic delivery or quotables like “this some real-life fairy tale Binderella sh*t” from “Best Life,” she resolved to not merely be a sentient triplet flow over 808 productions, truly mastering the ceremonies on her own. Her charisma shone throughout the album, so much so that her delivery became the impetus for other women (even critics like Azealia Banks) to feel empowered merely miming her.

Fun songs like “Bickenhead,” “Bartier Cardi,” and “I Like It,” among others, are tailor-made to bump at the functions, which are probably the only appropriate times to scream “pop that p*ssy while you work, pop that p*ssy up at church / pop that p*ssy on the pole, pop that p*ssy on the stove” from “Bickenhead.” “I Like It” was a fun track that breathed new life into Pete Rodriguez’ boogaloo standard “I Like It Like That.” The 86-year-old Rodriguez has said that he learned about the track when his kids and grandkids called him about it. He likely never thought his scintillating instrumentation would be the canvas for lyrics like, “flexing on b*tches as hard as I can,” but now Cardi can count him as one of her fans. The term “carefree” was a pop culture buzzword last year, and Invasion Of Privacy sounds like an album made by someone living that life before it had a catchall term.

The album helped entrench her as a central figure in shifting perceptions of how free a woman can be in society, whether that’s being open about how her “p*ssy so good, I say my own name during sex” or admitting “I like niggas that been in and outta jail” without a care for respectability politics. People can say what they want about who may have written on the album, but there are few artists who could sell such audacious lyrics.

Beyond the album’s bombast are intimate moments like “Best Life” that help the listener identify with Cardi on a more tender level:

I said I never had a problem showin’ ya’ll the real me
Hair when it’s f*cked up, crib when it’s filthy
Way-before-the-deal me, strip-to-pay-the-bills me
‘Fore I fixed my teeth, man, those comments used to kill me

That level of honesty about her insecurities makes it easy to root for her, as do songs like “Be Careful,” which shed insight into the rollercoaster of a relationship she’s had with Offset. She showed off her versatility by ratcheting down her swagger to rap an earnest narrative about a man getting too comfortable with a relationship, “hurtin’ and bruisin’” her.

The track would have worked as Instagram caption fodder without the tabloid component of her husband Offset’s real-life philandering. Social media users have joked that their breakup is going to engender her version of Lemonade, but “Be Careful” was already a step toward such biomythography, like Invasion Of Privacy was a firm step toward her lasting music superstardom.

Cardi’s debut is one of the most impressive introductions of an artist sure of who they are, who they were pleasing, and who was confident in their tools to do so. That’s why it’s easily one of the top albums of 2018.

Invasion Of Privacy is out now via Atlantic Records. Get it here. Check out more results from the songs poll here and albums poll here

Cardi B is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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