Even almost 50 years after the emergence of hip-hop in the South Bronx, after global marketing and global roots, after generational struggles and retro waves, after opening up to voices far beyond the macho-hetero mainstream, there is one rule: Who has the best catchphrase, the world belongs to him. Or better: He owns the world. Right now and for the foreseeable future, this is New York rapper Cardi B.
Her song “Bodak Yellow” was the biggest hit of the summer of 2017 and reached number 1 on the American Billboard charts – the last time a solo rapper succeeded was in 1998 with “Doo Wop (That Thing)” by Lauryn Hill who at least had a first career with the Fugees behind her. Cardi B, on the other hand, only had some social media reputation, a role on a reality show, and a previous stint as a stripper in New York.
In the central line of the song she conjures that these times are over: “I don’t dance now / I make money moves”, and actually the entire new edition of the famous Merriam-Webster dictionary should have been crushed to get “money moves.” “- Earn money, get money in motion, spend money – add it afterwards. Eternal fame in the pantheon of rap slogans somewhere between “Fight the Power” and “It’s all good, baby baaaaby” seems certain to her.
Humor, heart and fighting spirit
Or, to stick with slogans, is it more like a case of “Don’t Believe The Hype”? Their debut album “Invasion Of Privacy” (Atlantic / Warner), which has just been released, has to prove that, which almost feels like the end of a chapter, as Cardi B has been so omnipresent in the last few months with numerous features and its own singles. Her appearance at the Grammy Awards, where she accompanied Bruno Mars on his “Finesse” remix, ultimately served as a ticket to the mainstream.
Cardi B has more star quality than Bruno Mars role models, plus a story, the skill to tell it, as well as humor, heart and fighting spirit. In a long portrait for “GQ”, Caity Weaver goes so far as to divide pop culture into pre- and post-Cardi. Right at the beginning of “Invasion Of Privacy”, the 25-year-old rapper tells how this came about again for everyone to take notes and print t-shirts.
Like each of the 13 outstanding songs on the album, the opening track “Get Up 10” is a party anthem, battle cry and self-therapy in one. Her path leads her from, clearly, at the very bottom, to, also clearly, at the top, from the strip club across from her high school to the top of the charts, and as a narrator she masters the tone between bitterness and triumph with which other street rappers have become multimillionaires are: “Ain’t telling y’all to do it, just telling my story,” she asserts. The question of what Biggie Smalls would sound like if he was into guys was answered by Lil Kim in the nineties and early Nicki Minaj ten years later. Cardi B now shows what a female Jay-Z could look like, and even overtakes the actual favorite Beyoncé in the process. Not a role model and still wanting to be the greatest in an inspiring way is just one of the many contradictions that make their music thrive.
Cardi B grew up with a mix of English and Spanish
In addition to the return, the demands that are made of them, because Cardi B doesn’t just do hip-hop, but is a female MC. Historically, this is a position that is less precarious and yet more tragic than sometimes assumed. There have always been rappers like Tanya Winley aka “Sweet Tee” whose “Vicious Rap” was perhaps the best hip-hop single of 1980, even before Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks”. The best, but not the best-selling, and of late fame or simply the satisfaction of having been a pioneer, you can’t buy anything, make money moves.
The market has meanwhile grown, expanded and complicated – an artist like Princess Nokia can, despite weak albums and poor production, perform in front of enthusiastic audiences all over the world, because she not only has musical talent, but has also been neglected or discriminated against by the mainstream Addresses identities such as queerness. Cardi B shares Hispanic roots with Princess Nokia – her father comes from the Dominican Republic and speaks only Spanish with her, her mother is from the island of Trinidad and only speaks broken English. This mix of languages has shaped Cardi B. One of the greatest pleasures of the album is just listening to her – she rhymes “finger” with “anger” and proclaims to be out of the “muhfuckin ‘Bronx”.
Her favorite word is “bitch”
If this type of verbal art also attracts attention outside the rap scene, it is usually only with a whole load of projections, reservations and exoticizations. As with the arrest warrant, which first had to be transfigured into the new Goethe or Savant in order to be taken seriously because being a rough, clever and style-forming rapper from Offenbach is apparently not enough. Cardi B may face the same fate in some circles, but her love for the spoken word is contagious. Just what she does with the words “lord” (drawn out and with an open end) and “dollars” (with nasal a) is worth praise. In the portrait of Caity Weaver, she explains how long she ponders such subtleties.
Her favorite word, on the other hand, is “bitch”, sometimes as a positive self-description, sometimes as a neutral filler word, but sometimes also as a damning judgment, for example towards all women who supposedly want something from their type. At the moment it’s the rapper Offset from the Migos group. Compared to their reduced trap sound, Cardi, who samples boogaloo icon Pete Rodriguez and tells real stories instead of just rapping in tatters, sounds almost classicistic.
Their jealousy ends almost fatally for the lover
But anyway, it’s more about “my type” than a concept. Behind this, viewed from the Marxist wing chair, there is a problematic aspect: Cardi B shows a lack of solidarity down to his lashes. It is no coincidence that her most popular clips starring the reality soap “Love & Hip-Hop: New York” show her declaring war on other women. Jealousy and deception are recurring motifs, the song “Thru Your Phone” is a jealousy-almost murder ballad, because Cardi B decides in the end not to pour bleach into the cornflakes of her unfaithful boyfriend.
This is the rougher version of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”, in whose heart, under the supposedly radical layer, there was more of a pleasant “stand by your man” story. It didn’t hurt Jay-Z, now he’s dressed up as super-ally because he has generously accepted that his mother is a lesbian. Beyoncé’s real anger was not for him anyway, but for his affair “Becky with the good hair”, whose real role model was then attacked by fans and called “ordinary slut”. That there are no sluts at all, this idea is apparently too radical.
“You’re a worker, bitch”, Cardi B rebukes her opponents, and later sets up by quoting Snoop Dogg: “Hoes down, Gs up”. Almost 20 years ago, the Marxist rap duo The Coup from Oakland reversed this formula: They shout “Pimps down, hoes up” while, almost prophetically, they stand on Donald Trump’s Bentley. In contrast to this liberation vision, Cardi B only has to offer very grippingly implemented authentic confusion and equally gripping gestures of self-empowerment, which is quite sufficient in hip-hop, but not always. She lives in a complicated and unjust world. Money moves might lead out of it – or just deeper into it.