There’s formula to this: tell your come-up story; vow to remember where you came from; threaten anyone who’d dare jeopardize your ascension. But it takes personality and talent to sell it. Cardi B has both, which is why Invasion of Privacy lands so well.
Classic themes spark the slow rising burn that’s Get Up 10. It’s part origin story: “Used to dance in a club right across from my school” is a vivid indictment of housing-segregation-in-everything. The track understates Cardi’s come-up, though. She’s not just making the news; she’s dominating it.
And while in those headlines, she’s navigating two kinds of distance: then and now (time), her and them (space). She issues reminder after reminder that she can shrink both in a blink—each a promise that she’s not the one (“You gon’ run up on who and do what?”) but would love it if someone gave her reason to prove it.
Literally trying to outshine everyone around you (see track two, Drip) is a move. But using sex as a money move is a power move too—maybe more so—and Bickenhead has Cardi entirely unapologetic about getting cash by pussy means. In verse three, she says “pussy” 12 times. In 40 seconds. It’s glorious. So, I really wish her line about her lawyer being Jewish hadn’t made the cut, because this fuck-you-pay-me vibe is otherwise flames.
Bodak Yellow is the dismantling of your self-worth. The way it eviscerates reminds me of Drake’s Up All Night: “Bracelet’s saying you should quit; cars saying fuck your life.” Cardi makes an A1 nod to the 90s (“I put my hand up on my hip...”) and lays claim to your entire environment (“You in the club just to party; I’m there, I get paid a fee”) by deftly announcing her status as your setting. There is no party without her.
In Be Careful, the Ex-Factor interpolation plus the grit of Cardi’s verses is great. Her vulnerability gets time in the chorus, but the dominant theme is her strength (“It’s not a threat, it’s a warning”). “Thinkin I’m flawed because you inconsistent” is terrific articulation of what we absorb in relationships.
She also exposes him for losing the authenticity she still holds (“Guess you actin out now, you got an audience”)—for letting other women stroke his swollen ego. Altogether, it’s kind of unbelievable she’d stay. “Be careful” suggests opportunity, but “make me sick” doesn’t have a hint of forgiveness. It’s conceivable this is tunneled anger, but tunnels like this don’t usually have light at the end of them.
There’s a celebratory combo in the middle of the album. In the setup, Best Life, her hearing god tell her she’s made for this reveals—despite all the surrounding confidence—that Cardi hadn’t equated dreams with expectations. Her annoyance at being hashtagged problematic puts her at a height as earned as the right to boast about it, but is also a small concession that she’s newly aware of the fragility of A-list rankings (see Drake, “They telling lies about me; oh yeah, I must’ve made it”). Her ability to center amidst that newness (“I never had a problem showin y’all the real me: hair when it’s fucked up, crib when it’s filthy”) is the best part of her persona and performance.
I Like It is the second half of that combo. With lines like, “Oh, he’s so handsome; what’s his name?” it’s almost playful. And anyone who doesn’t smile at “Yeah, they call me Cardi B; I run this shit like cardio” is an opp.
Kehlani on the hook in Ring is perfect. “A nigga only gon’ do what you allow” is a claim to power, reinforced with lines like “Learn to text with your nose if your thumb broke” that cut through his bullshit. Ultimately, she wants him to be strong enough to withstand their strife. If this is about the same relationship from Be Careful, though, I’m just not sure it lasts.
Money Bag sounds like Bodak Yellow plus Drip. “How you gon’ suck your man’s dick with my name in your mouth?” is proof she knows your whole existence is in shambles. Money Bag dwarfs the boasts in Bartier Cardi, a song I forgot happened after just 70 seconds of She Bad. Because, look: If making preachers sweat (“Write a verse while I twerk; I wear off-white at church”) is Cardi’s platform, I’d vote for her. And verse two of She Bad is, frankly, just— It’s warm in here.
Thru Your Phone’s open is fearsome: “Look, I just wanna break up all your shit—call your mama phone, let her know that she raised a bitch, then :dial tone, click:.” Bieber’s “My momma don’t like you, and she likes everyone” was a touch of death, but this is a slaughter. The threats are legit assaults: “I’mma make a bowl of cereal with a teaspoon of bleach” (which, Goodbye Earl); “Thinking ‘bout stabbin you.” My guy needs to make amends before the L he takes is of life.
I Do closes the album with three themes. Fortitude: “My little 15 minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” Threats: “Only time I’m a lady’s when I lay these hoes to rest.” And foreplay: “The coop is roofless, but I get top in it.” It’s entirely possible to feel like a piece of shit and also turned on by this, right?
April 6, 2018
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