Cardi B is no stranger to her social media getting her into trouble with a certain kind of fan. The tool that helped slingshot her into the spotlight has also become a source of headaches for the “Please Me” rapper as her words are scrutinized and parsed by both supporters and critics alike for new stories, confirmation of theories and rumors, and just plain old internet harassment, which has prompted her to disable her accounts more than once.
The latest kerfuffle her Instagram antics sparked off may be one of the most serious, though — or so it seems. During a livestream wherein she addressed some of the criticism that’s been leveled at her — mainly consisting of the usual complaints about her speech and dress, which seems to really bother some more old-fashioned hip-hop fans — she seemed to admit to some pretty egregious crimes — namely, that she would drug and rob customers during her stripping days using sex as a pretext to gain access to her victims. Editor’s note: It should be noted that Cardi has since apologized in a statement, which you can read at the end of this article, and says the video in question was from three years ago, prior to her breakout with “Bodak Yellow.”
Obviously, this is a very bad thing to confess to. I hope we all know theft is a pretty serious crime. I hope we all know you shouldn’t drug people, but judging from some of the defenses in favor of Bill Cosby, it doesn’t seem like we all do. With that being said, the backlash, which is seemingly coming from anonymous accounts on Twitter and Instagram, doesn’t strike me as all that honest and well-intentioned. The folks who started and participated in a #SurvivingCardiB hashtag trend seem to mainly consist of anime avis and Nicki Minaj stans. Something doesn’t add up.
For one thing, more than a few of the accounts calling out Cardi’s admission make mention of rape, which Cardi herself never said she did. They’re drawing an inference — whether through honest misunderstanding or deliberate obfuscation — that doesn’t align with her statements. She clearly says in the video that men — customers at whichever establishment she happened to be dancing at the time — propositioned her for sex and that she robbed said men. She doesn’t say that she had sex with the drugged men, which absolutely would be rape. But that’s not how the scam works. If she had sex with them in exchange for money, that’d be prostitution — something Cardi’s remained adamant she never engaged in. This is the setup, which is something rap fans should be acquainted with, since rappers talk about this all the time.
The tale varies from tape to tape, but from elders like Nas to more recent entries from R&B singers like Ty Dolla Sign, male rappers have always rapped about using women to set up rivals. After gaining access to a mark’s home or hotel room, the women involved in the scheme either drug him and abscond with his valuables or allow access to their co-conspirators, who coerce cooperation with more violent methods. Cardi’s story is an old one, it’s just being told from a different perspective than the usual one, that of the male rapper telling the story, or from the point of view of the male victim.
In fact, Hustlers, the film in which Cardi is making her acting debut later this year, is built around the very premise of Cardi’s latest admission. In the film synopsis, Cardi, Constance Wu, and Jennifer Lopez are strippers who plot revenge on their smarmy customers by running up their credit cards after being propositioned for sex. Sound familiar? It’s even semi-based on a true story, which, to judge from rappers’ tales and Cardi’s own statements, is probably a lot more common than is even implied by the fact there’s a movie about it.
Compared to the narratives of drug sales and shootouts propagated by most (male) rappers, it’s a wonder that such a low-stakes, non-violent offense would get so much attention — certainly, it’s a backlash that’s been on par or greater than the ones that followed rappers like XXXTentacion, who openly admitted to badly beating a cellmate in jail for homophobic reasons, or to Kodak Black, who has an open rape case against him. Fans continue to show support to R. Kelly, who is accused of multiple counts of sexual abuse of underaged girls, or even the aforementioned Bill Cosby, who was actually convicted of drugging and raping multiple women for decades. In those cases, men spoke up as well — usually to admonish others to “wait for all the facts” or remind them that the accused were “innocent until proven guilty.”
Why then, are men so gleefully jumping to conclusions in this instance without “waiting for all the facts?” It seems as though there may be another agenda here, one that we’ve seen so often in the past when the discussion turns to protecting women from abuse. Deflection, distraction, obfuscation, and a willful misreading of the facts are tactics used to undermine accusations against powerful men. This happens mainly because other men project themselves and their own experiences onto accused celebrities, causing them to question themselves and whether they could be accused as well. When that happens they choose to defend those accused, powerful men as a proxy for themselves, just in case their own actions were less than ethical at some point.
The solution should be obvious: Addressing those actions and checking your behavior so the possibility of accusations never comes up. That seems like work though, and some of us, it seems, would rather twist ourselves into rhetorical pretzels rather than do that work to improve. If that means disingenuously attacking one of the few prominent female rappers with misguided accusations while seeking a pass for all the men who actually do harm to women, it’s probably not worth the mental gymnastics. Cardi may be wrong for scamming, but so are a lot of other rappers for a lot of what they do. Where you draw the line says a lot more about you than them.
Cardi B is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music.