Music

For Women In Hip-Hop, Cardi B’s Co-Sign Is The New Drake Effect

Rico Nasty is next up, according to Cardi B. Apparently, so is Chika, the Alabama rapper who might also be just as well-known by her Twitter handle, @oranicuhh. Even though Rapsody’s been around for a while, Cardi B’s co-sign also brought her to the attention of a much wider audience — so much so that when Rapsody’s 2019 album Eve was snubbed by the Grammys, fans old and new raised an outcry that is still reverberating to this day, a month after the ceremony itself aired.

The common denominator, obviously, is Cardi B, who is choosing to use her position at the height of stardom to open doors for other women to flourish in hip-hop at a greater level than any since the Golden Era and “Ladies First.” This is something of a departure from tradition; for the decade previous to Cardi’s precipitous come-up, it seemed hip-hop had an unspoken, Highlander-esque rule in place regarding women. Only one artist was allowed to represent her entire gender within the genre. Anyone else who wanted a seat at the table had to dethrone the reigning queen first. With the last few years seeing an explosion of female talent in hip-hop, this philosophy could easily have turned the rap game into the Game Of Thrones.

Cardi herself nearly became a victim of this backwards mentality when fans and media alike pitted her against Nicki Minaj, who’d dominated the rap landscape for much of that era. The more popular Cardi became, the more the peanut gallery agitated for beef between the two women, right up until their simmering feud boiled over into real-life confrontation. Once secure on the throne, perhaps no one could have blamed Cardi for jealously defending her crown but instead, she chose to reach out to those coming up after her to offer her support, much like Nicki’s onetime partner-in-rhyme, Drake. In doing so, she is showing how much better rap can be when artists help each other rather than fight over fans.

To be fair, the Nicki Minaj of the last few years has also sought to avail herself to her younger counterparts, specifically shouting out Asian Doll, Kash Doll, Maliibu Miitch, and Ms. Banks, but the difference here is one of scale. Nicki used Queen Radio, her Beats 1 Radio platform to big-up these four rappers. That’s a massive platform, yes, but those Nicki-approved rappers are thus only exposed to Nicki’s previously existing fanbase, during a set that many only tuned into for the possibility of hearing Nicki badmouth Cardi at the height of their feud. It should also be noted that aside from working with Trina at the outset of her career and Foxy Brown in its twilight, she steadfastly refused to work with any new female rappers, until she broke that decade-long trend with her collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion on “Hot Girl Summer” — Megan’s song, not Nicki’s.

Cardi hasn’t yet collaborated with any female rappers just yet, either, but it’s still the early part of her career — and with her sophomore album set to release at some point in 2020, she still has plenty of opportunities to work with the rappers she shouted out herself. She also beat her former rival to the punch in working with Megan during Thee Stallion’s rise to superstardom, organizing her “Femme It Forward” mini-tour alongside Megan and City Girls to show solidarity with the upcoming generation as equals. Then, when Jermaine Dupri’s comments about female rappers all sounding alike riled fans and professionals alike, Cardi stepped in, shining a spotlight on alternative options and exposing her massive Instagram and Twitter following to the likes of bars-first rappers like Chika, Rapsody, and Tierra Whack, along with the upbeat singsong flow of Bay Area rapper Kamaiyah.

The effect that the Cardi co-sign had wasn’t quite the same as Drake working with Blocboy JB, Lil Baby, Makonnen, Migos, or Roddy Ricch, but considering the ways in which Drake’s early OctobersVeryOwn blog co-signs helped launch the careers of collaborators like PartyNextDoor and The Weeknd, Cardi’s co-signs can’t be discounted. By telling Rico Nasty publicly that “you’re up next,” she not only provided encouragement and support to her sister in hip-hop, but she also put her 9.6 million followers on Twitter onto the name Rico Nasty, just after Rico had experienced her peak search traffic on Google per Google trends when fans spazzed out over her not being included on the Birds Of Prey soundtrack. Cardi’s co-sign may very well have sparked a self-fulfilling prophecy, crowning her successor just when the public’s eyes were firmly fixed in her direction.

While some of Cardi’s other co-sign beneficiaries have yet to achieve the same level of success, should Rico pan out to be the superstar Cardi thinks she is, it’s probably not unreasonable to guess that fans will start to look to her as a barometer of up-and-coming artists’ star quality, the same way we do with Drake. If nothing else, Rico is in prime position for a takeover. The second-highest jump in search traffic for “Rico Nasty” for the last 30 days took place on January 23, the day Rico released her new single “IDGAF,” and just days after I-D magazine re-printed an interview with Rico originally printed in the magazine’s “Rihannazine” special edition.

The benefits of all these artists shouting each other out and supporting one another are obvious; not only do they cross-pollinate fan bases, allowing them to increase their reach with each co-sign, but it shows fans that there are multiple lanes for various tastes. If Rico Nasty and Tierra Whack’s punk funhouse imagery is a little too out-there for fans who like things a little more low-key, Chika and Rapsody are right there with their syllable-stacking, metaphor-filled bars. If those two turn out to be too wordy for fans looking for a good time, Kamaiyah’s got them covered with her sunny, post-hyphy West Coast slappers. The fact that they all have the blessing of the biggest name in the business today sets them up for more success, which in hip-hop has always derived more from word-of-mouth than the most elaborate marketing schemes. By using her platform to put on for more women in hip-hop, Cardi is helping to make hip-hop healthier as a whole. It’s more well-rounded, with more of the styles, sounds, and stories that have always been needed to truly reflect who runs the world.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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