Just like Gucci Mane and other artists utilized the power of mixtapes to elevate their brand, Cardi B did the same with social media — which is why it was so weird to see her Instagram page deactivated last week. After a contentious spat with the rancorous artist Azealia Banks — wich followed her recent habit of responding at naysayers in social media comments — Cardi apparently decided she needed an Instagram detox. She returned to Instagram last night to tease a video for “Be Careful,” but her brief break was probably a good decision, especially for the welfare of the baby she has on the way.
Though it could be argued that Cardi’s situation paralleled Iggy Azalea’s self-imposed exile from social media after chafing at appropriation criticisms — including Q-Tip’s well-meaning hip-hop 101 — it wasn’t Cardi’s first Twitter break. She left the site in March after dropping her Invasion Of Privacy album. When she returned, she noted that the “reason why I took a break from Twitter is cause people are so negative and disgusting here. I had to log off, [too] much negativity is not good for the soul.”
Azealia called out Cardi’s “newfound Blackness” in a long post that was less interested with teaching Cardi than retorting to the “Bodak Yellow” rapper’s insults with more insults. Their exchange was a butting of heads between two women who have been through a lot of trauma. They both have a hardened exterior that makes them prone to clap back and stand their ground without backing down — except Cardi B eventually did this time, bemoaning the negative energy that their back-and-forth was sustaining. She deactivated her Instagram account and made her Twitter private, before re-opening it.
Previously, at Banks’ recent Breakfast Club interview, she surmised that “there was just this really, really, really intelligent conversation [about Black women’] going on nationally and then everything just kind of changed and then it was like Cardi B.” She went further, calling Cardi a “caricature of a Black woman that Black women themselves would never be able to get away with.”
While claiming that Cardi B extinguished a discussion about Black womanhood is tenuous, Azealia is right that Cardi B’s complexion affords her privilege that Banks and other dark-skinned women don’t have. The scourge of colorism under white supremacy can be summed up by Lil Kim’s saddening lament that she felt “being a regular Black girl was not good enough” when “guys always cheated on me with women who were European-looking.” Cardi is of Dominican and Trinidadian heritage, but there is long-documented anti-Blackness in the Latino community.
That’s why many Black women advocate for Cardi B to be as free as she wants but can’t help acknowledging that there’s never been a Black female artist who acts like her, for fear of being called “ghetto.” It’s also fair for them to side-eye past transphobic statements, and her usage of the words “monkey” and “roach” when referring to Black women — even if she says roach is a general insult in her native Bronx. Cardi has referenced her Blackness, noting “I don’t got to tell you that I’m black. I expect you to know it,” but that’s not good enough for some people — as she’s quickly learning on social media.