Cardi B’s Debut Album, ‘Invasion Of Privacy,’ Is Both Polished And Flawed, Just Like Her

Atlantic Records

Halfway through Invasion Of Privacy, Cardi B truly finds her true groove on “I Like It,” a Pete Rodriguez-sampling nod to Cardi’s Latin roots featuring Bad Bunny and J. Balvin. It’s a moment that forms the centerpiece of not just Cardi B’s album, but also Cardi B’s identity. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more moments like it. That’s not to say that her first album isn’t enjoyable on its other merits, because, with Invasion Of Privacy, Cardi B proves that she has the chops to carve out a long-lasting career in the rap game.

It’s just that there aren’t so many moments on the album that feel so free and personal as “I Like It.” It’s one the songs here that don’t sound perfunctory and kind of formulaic. Even the relationship songs like the Kehlani-featuring “Ring” and “I Do” with SZA, feel uncertain and impersonal. They could have been written for or by pretty much anybody. The thing that made Cardi so entertaining on Love & Hip-Hop and on Instagram was her unique insight and boisterous personality.

Cardi has always been 100 percent herself, loud and carefree, reactionary but with a healthy sense of humor about herself and her unexpected rise to prominence. She let us into her life in a way that few stars had ever done before. Cardi’s co-stars on Invasion Of Privacy‘s seven guest-featuring tracks show up to open up beyond their guarded and curated public images, especially Kehlani and SZA, whose careers have been marked emotional openness as by their musical output.

With Cardi, even her mundane moments are productions in themselves, because she’s so funny and so genuine and so honest and so extra. She broke up with her boyfriend over a missing blanket. She claps back at her haters on both Twitter and Instagram (far less now that she has a career to protect). She captures her intimate familial moments in her mom’s kitchen dancing to merengue with her hair disheveled and her face bare. She’s a joy in moments like these.

I guess it might have been too much to expect her to be able to fill her debut with moments like this while also proving her rap skills and setting doubters and critics straight about her lyrical abilities and musical range. For an album titled Invasion Of Privacy, my only real gripe is that I don’t feel like Cardi gives any deeper sense of who she is as a person or an artist.

But as a rapper? Hot damn is she one hell of a rapper.

While there were slightly more guests on the album than anyone anticipated from the tracklist she previewed a few days before its release, she straight up outshines everyone on here except for Takeoff, who’s been on a low-key lyrical tear ever since Migos began promoting Culture II. Cardi’s wit and charm absolutely shine through on tracks like singles “Drip” and “Bartier Cardi,” but on “Get Up 10,” the album’s stunning intro, she chews through a nearly four-minute verse addressing seemingly every critique, nitpick, or asshole comment she ever received with a snarl and a smirk.

“Said, ‘I was just trying to chill and make bangers’ / Tell all these old bitches they in danger,” she spazzes. “The thing on my hip whip bitches into shape / That’s what I call a fucking waist trainer.”

It’s another one of those moments that invasion needs just a few more of, containing more rawness, vulnerability, and personality than the next three songs after it — which include Cardi’s breakout monster of a hit, “Bodak Yellow.” I’m not sure that was a song that really needed to be included here, but it’s a savvy move to generate just a few more streams.

Invasion‘s beats certainly bang, even if there is an over-familiarity with the sort of club-friendly trap anthems that have largely defined Cardi’s career to date. The album could have benefitted from more sonic experimentation with Cardi’s musical roots, like “Be Careful” and “I Like It.” They switch up the vibe just enough to keep the proceedings from becoming monotonous, but even the trap is so polished and snappy that almost any of the album’s ten non-singles could easily find its way into regular rotation at your local nightclub — and likely will. The slower, R&B-pitched efforts still maintain enough momentum to keep from draining the energy from the album, and the sequencing is as close to perfect as any debut album of the streaming era.

Minor quibbles aside, Invasion Of Privacy does exactly what it’s supposed to do: Introduce Cardi B as a full-fledged album artist and break her out of the “singles rapper” mold that she’d begun to settle into after “Bodak” trampled the pop music landscape for almost six months straight. She proves she can hold her own around the best of the best, including a totally out-of-nowhere Chance The Rapper feature that will surely turn some heads, and flashed a potential for real artistic expansion in the future.

While you may not learn more about Cardi from her debut than you did from her social media in the last few years, with an open book like Cardi B, there wasn’t much left to reveal in the first place, but plenty to prove — which she does and then some. Besides, in the era of Facebook data leaks and nonstop Twitter overshare, there isn’t really any privacy left to invade. If anyone knows that, it’s the Dominican superstar who grew up right before our eyes.

Invasion Of Privacy is out now via Atlantic Records. Get it here.