However you strip her down, Cardi B is a superstar
As with our Zahara, opinion about the rapper's meteoric rise is split into two equally belittling camps
You don’t have to go too far into Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy album, which dropped this month, to understand how meteoric her rise to stardom has been – she lays it all out on the opening track, Get Up 10.
“Look, they gave a bitch two options – stripping or lose,” she begins, addressing her previous careers, among them being an exotic dancer. “Used to dance in a club right across from my school. I said dance not fuck, don’t get it confused. I had to set the record straight because bitches like to assume ... I was covered in dollars, now I’m dripping in jewels ... went from making tuna sandwiches, now I’m making the news.”
Not that she’s feeling down or ashamed – she’s now in the ascendancy. She calls the shots now. She can enter a Christian Louboutin store, see two pairs of shoes she loves, and get them both if she so pleases. She can walk into her record label and demand: “Where the cheque at?”
So it is even more perplexing to see that people have misgivings about Cardi B’s ability to manage for herself, by herself.
So much of her rise reminds me of our very own Zahara’s; people are divided into those who underestimate or ridicule her, and those who feel like she needs to be protected or spoken for, which can also be seen as belittling.Twenty-five year-old Belcalis Almanzar was born and raised in the Bronx, in New York City, to a Trinidadian mother and Dominican father. She (still) speaks New York street slang and a distinct drawl.
She turned to stripping in her late teens, after losing her previous job as a cashier, so she could afford to move out of an apartment she shared with her then boyfriend, who allegedly abused her.
She has openly spoken about her insecurities and how those were exploited by trashy men. Hell, she’s even spoken about her fiancé, Offset’s philandering ways and her right to make her own decision about the status of her relationship(s).
Her fault, just like Zahara, was trying to remain a regular person, speaking her mind (even if they don’t enunciate the way people expect) and doing regular people things, therefore allowing people to surmise that she was not worthy of the type of adulation and idolatry that we reserve for “more refined” superstars.
But as unorthodox and unpolished as people may perceive her to be (she makes whimsical comments like “I’m feeling good, I’m feeling nervous, overwhelmed – everything. Butterflies in my stomach and vagina”), she is a superstar. So is Zahara.
The rapper’s Bodak Yellow was indisputably the song of 2017, and this album was one of the most anticipated this year. That breakout hit soared to the summit of the Billboard Hot 100 last year and saw her become the first solo female rapper to achieve such a feat since Lauryn Hill did it with Doo Wop (That Thing) almost two decades prior.
It also earned her two Grammy nominations, for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. She picked up the Best New Hip Hop Artist at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards, five BET Hip-Hop Awards, and was added to the Coachella 2018 line-up alongside Beyonce, Eminem, SZA, The Weeknd and Nile Rodgers.Yet, in a world awash with uniformity, those who resolutely cling onto their true selves are seen as anomalies. But anomalies are not left alone, they are instead prodded at; people want answers on how she could be such a deviation and still make a success of herself in such spaces. How can Zahara sweep the SA Music Awards after one album and eclipse the hauls of some of the most revered musicians in this country, when she comes from a so-called disadvantaged background where, according to the singer herself, she grew up “without shoes to wear and not having enough to eat”?
How could she be a multi-platinum-selling artist and so easily navigate industry and market spaces she had no business ascending to?
Oddly, some rags-to-riches stories are less motivating than others. Here I was thinking that’s why we loved them.
It is perfectly fine to be intrigued by anybody’s “overnight” success, but it’s something else to be astounded by it due to their background.
Two very interesting viewpoints popped up following the release of Invasion of Privacy, this past week. The first was “concern” for the baby due to be born to two “unintelligent” parents (Cardi B and Offset), and those who argue she should have used protection because motherhood would stunt her career.
The second was the GQ cover story in which the writer seemed more surprised that her subject had viewpoints (far-out as some may be), rather than fascinated with her perspective.
The chronicling of Cardi B’s life (and that of many others) should be an autonomous project, one that is curated by Ms Belcalis Almanzar herself. Solely. As candidly as she wants.