Cardi B's debut is a solid-but-safe introduction to one of the game's most divisive newcomers.
Cardi B’s Invasion Of Privacy has arrived, marking the birth of a hip-hop’s latest unsung hero. At least, that the narrative a majority of online music critics have accepted as fact. With her buoyant personality and undeniably endearing demeanor, Cardi has inflamed the passions of fans and haters in equal measure. Admittedly, Cardi fever can prove exhausting, especially when her every antic seems to garner media attention; I can speak from first hand experience on that front. Yet the fervor is a testament to her magnetic starpower. People simply want her to succeed.
Amidst the Invasion Of Privacy rollout came the idea that Cardi B was hip-hop’s most valuable underdog. Don’t get it twisted. Cardi stopped being an underdog the second “Bodak Yellow” went gold. Underdogs aren’t managed by Quality Control, nor are they securing Migos, Chance The Rapper, and SZA on their debut albums. That’s not a slight to Ms. Cardi, but rather a testament to her hustle. To write her off as hip-hop’s rendition of the cinematic footballer “Rudy” is a slight of the highest order.
Despite what her haters may believe, Cardi B has the makings of an excellent rapper. Her delivery is solid, as is her dynamic, animated flow. In some ways, the most notable tool in her arsenal may very well be her dual nature; Cardi frequently switches it up, displaying the lewd, sexual confidence of a lust-drunk Aphrodite on some tracks, while others trade it in for an authentic sense of vulnerability. Though her larger-than-life persona has made her a star, the deconstruction of her public image ultimately makes for the strongest moments.
We all know “Bodak Yellow,” the song that catapulted the project to nigh-instantaneous gold status. Likewise for “Bartier Cartier,” which largely feel like “Bodak’s” less-attractive-but-still-good-looking cousin. Even the Migos-assisted “Drip” plays like an attempt to capitalize on the Culture wave, a veritable “Motorsport 2.0” sans Nicki Minaj. The end result is a safe and inoffensive trap banger. The flute-driven Cassius Jay instrumental is upbeat, easy listening trap fare, with Cardi acquainting herself effectively amidst her fiancee’s group.
It’s clear that Cardi can craft a banger, and Invasion Of Privacy has several, with varying degrees of quality. The Three 6 Mafia inspired “Bickenhead” is a delightfully raunchy endeavor, dedicated to Cardi’s “nasty hoes across the globe.” Keyzbaby & Ayo The Producer’s beat combines in-your-face percussion with an understated, Gothic organ-line; it’s at once sexually charged and tense. While Cardi’s “pussy-popping” lyrical content may be admittedly tailored toward a specific demographic, female empowerment through sexuality remains one of her favored themes.
On that note, album opener “Get Up 10” emerges as the project’s most overtly victorious moment. Comparisons to Meek Mill’s “Dreams And Nightmares” have already been thrown around, largely in part due to the two-act structure, and tragedy-to-triumph narrative. Lyrically, it’s an interesting journey, and one that touches on the aforementioned underdog theme with a notable self-awareness. Despite the shift from humble to beast mode, “Get Up 10” strikes a welcome balance, adding much-needed character development to Bardi’s unapologetic “gangsta.”
As we all know, Cardi’s personal life has been no secret, least of all her tumultuous and passionate relationship with Offset. Mired in scandal and infidelity rumors, Cardi found herself on the receiving end of public heartbreak; while her hardened exterior remained unfazed, those who genuinely care about her well-being wondered how she truly felt about the betrayal. In that regard, album highlights “Be Careful” and “Thru The Phone” expanded on the inner workings of a larger-than-life figure, bringing down to her a relatable level.
While "Be Careful" lacked the immediacy of "Bodak Yellow", in the context of an album, the subdued, New York vibes of the lover-scorned-anthem make for a refreshing change of pace. Though rampant ghostwriter claims have since tarnished the song’s hype, the work of co-author Pardison Fontaine is hardly a worst-kept-secret; far from a phantom, his partnership with Cardi comes from a place of respect and collaborative spirit. Despite allegations, the song remains uniquely Cardi, and hearing her put Offset on blast for his transgressions is a refreshing reclamation of power.
Though perhaps more radio-friendly than some of the other choice cuts, “Thru The Phone” may the album’s most definitive, personal cut. Over a drifting, dreamlike beat, Cardi expresses her frustrations over one-sided monogamy. The many facets of her personality get a moment in the sun, from the spurned lover to the hilariously exaggerated “psychotic ex.” Perhaps it would behoove Offset to avoid any and all bowls of cereal in his vicinity, tempting as they may be. In all seriousness, the penultimate track features a vulnerable vocal performance from Cardi, further enhancing an already soul-bearing affair.
Does Invasion Of Privacy stand alongside the genre’s quintessential debuts? No. It does not. Still, the project remains an enjoyable listen across the board, despite suffering from an inconsistent middle section and occasional bouts of lyrical and musical repetition; “Money Bag,” “She Bad,” and “I Do” seem to blend together in a hazy cloud of eerie-trap and X-rated braggadocio. Despite that, Cardi’s introduction to the hip-hop pantheon features plenty to enjoy, even if you are reluctant to hop on the ever-growing bandwagon.
Of course, some will remain unashamedly biased in their hatred, and those minds will never be changed. Admittedly, it can occasionally feel as if Cardi’s newfound mantle of “The People’s Champion” can be off-putting, especially when personal feelings seem to influence an objective take on the music. Yet Cardi’s Invasion Of Privacy is a success in a variety of ways, and at a concise thirteen tracks, she never quite overstays her welcome; that in itself is more than one can say about her contemporaries and their tome-like albums. As with most big-budget "trap" records, the production is solid across the board, if a little overtly-topical, and Cardi is charismatic to imbue the filler tracks with personality.
The future looks bright for the mother-to-be. Now that the pressure has surmounted, hopefully Cardi B can continue to evolve as an artist. One thing is certain. The next project will feature an abundance of “Mama!” ad-libs. At least, it better.