Cardi B is a Bronx, New York rapper of Dominican descent. This week, she’s been turning up at the Toronto Caribbean Carnival Caribana’s various events, and it looks like she’s having the time of her life. Caribana festival is a Canadian celebration Caribbean culture and traditions held each summer in the city of Toronto, Ontario. The locals appear to be getting a kick out Cardi as well; a video she posted to Instagram captured a crowd of hundreds singing along to her hit “Bodak Yellow,” which is currently burning up the charts and the subject of much discussion online and in real life. Cardi, who started out as an exotic dancer in the clubs of New York, rose to fame through her appearances on popular VH1 reality show, Love & Hip-Hop, but her reception — both stateside and abroad — is proving that she is more than just another C-list celebrity riding out her 15 minutes in the limelight.
Cardi has received co-signs from A-list actors like Idris Elba, who shouted her out while on press tour for his new movie The Dark Tower, and rap’s former Queen B, Lil Kim, who has expressed a desire to remake her 1997 hit remix “Not Tonight (Ladies’ Night)” with Cardi. The fiery Bronx lyricist signed her first major deal with Atlantic Records, then celebrated with her first major magazine cover on The Fader.
Even stans for rap’s current queen Nicki Minaj have recognized Cardi as a threat to the head Barb’s title, launching a harassment campaign aimed at knocking Cardi’s upward climb toward superstardom. But the slick-talking, outrageously bombastic Cardi has merely kept to her hustle. Throughout it all, Cardi has maintained the same level of “keep it real” relatability that made her famous in the first place, still calling herself the “regular degular shmegular” girl she was as the scrappy underdog on Love & Hip-Hop.
She still goes on hilarious Instagram rants for her 8.1 million followers, often offering sneak peeks into her real life, with her sister, cousins, nieces, and mom making cameos in her videos of her goofball antics at home. The only thing she’s changed is her teeth; after years of being bullied for her crooked smile, she used her first big money (after buying her mom a new crib) on dental surgery.
The fun-loving rapper has been credited with advancing the sound of New York rap, from her first independently-produced mixtape, Gangsta B*tch Music, Vol. 1, to “Bodak Yellow,” a send up of Floridian rapper Kodak Black’s flow. The video for her first single, “Foreva,” sampling one of her lines from Love & Hip-Hop that went viral as a social media reaction meme, has accumulated over 14 million views in a year’s time; compare that with the current 30 million views for “Bodak Yellow,” which was released only one month ago. It’s clear that Cardi’s star power is no fluke, and she’s no one-hit wonder, either.
If the questions now are ones like “can she keep this up?” or “where does she go from here?,” Cardi B supporters needn’t worry. Her hustle, drive, determination, and star-making personality have put her where she is today, and those are qualities that don’t just vanish overnight. The only place left to go for her is up. While the Atlantic Records deal may turn to be iffy in terms of release schedules and promotional budgets, remember that Cardi did all this without a record deal.
She is the quintessential self-promoter; in addition to her 8 million Instagram followers, she also has a highly engaged following on Twitter, where she is just as active, and just as likely to clap back at a hater as plug a new song or video. The only thing modern rap fans love more than a trap-themed, 808-heavy beat is drama, and Cardi knows just how to keep that entertaining as well. She takes pride in writing her own raps, and conceptualizing her own videos and marketing; she is taking all the right lessons from ostensible rival Nicki Minaj. While nobody does it all alone, Cardi B can safely say that she is the main reason she’s blowing up now, and the reason her star will only continue to rise.