Bodak Yellow dropped 10 months ago. It’s hard to imagine the charts without Cardi B. Her culture dominance and her presence in the pop world are now so pervasive, it’s astonishing that it has only been 10 MONTHS since Bodak Yellow became the instant classic that catapulted her from rap-reality star to hip-hop powerhouse.
In these 10 months, Cardi has shown us so clearly who she is, it feels like we’ve known her forever. In these 10 months, Cardi B has been waiting to prove to her “haters” that she’s not a one-hit wonder or just a bombastic character here to entertain us on talk shows. Cardi talks about her haters a lot but much like everything else she does, there’s an authenticity to her defensiveness that other current artists lack because she has been unfairly underestimated. I’m a fan of Cardi B and I underestimated her.
I love Cardi B a lot but even I don’t think I believed that she would deliver a great album. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it would be good. I expected some bangers – maybe a couple more Bodak Yellow and Bartier Cardi adjacent hits – but I don’t know if I anticipated this. I did not anticipate that over the course of my weekend-long digestion of Invasion of Privacy, I would be holding up these 13 songs against legendary rap debuts like College Dropout, Reasonable Doubt, Illmatic, or my all-time favourite The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I’m not saying that Cardi B is as talented an MC as Kanye, Jay-Z, Nas or Lauryn but in the same that those artists did with their debut albums, Cardi has made it impossible to deny how talented she is. Invasion of Privacy is Cardi B living up to her potential. It’s the definitive proclamation of her arrival in the game and an assertive reminder to never underestimate her again.
On Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B is brash, fearless, introspective, sensitive yet hard as f-ck, unrelentingly self-aware and f-cking funny. If you follow Cardi on social media or have watched a single interview of hers, you know that she’s hilarious. Her personality shines on the opening track Get Up 10 with standout lyrics like:
Went from making tuna sandwiches to making the news/ I started speaking my mind and tripled my views/ Real bitch, only thing fake is the boobs
Great albums tell a story. Great debut albums give us a clear snapshot of an artist and the story they are attempting to tell. Cardi B’s story is the classic hip-hop fantasy. It’s rags to riches. It is, as Cardi raps on Best Life, “some real-life fairy tale Binderella sh-t.” She’s the first and only person in her family “to see six figures.” Unfortunately, that story is all too familiar and somehow, Cardi makes it feel like it’s the first time we’re hearing it. She’s a proud ex-stripper with fake boobs who’s using her Louboutins to press into the neck of antiquated standards of femininity and sexuality.
If you’ve heard the cheating rumours surrounding Cardi’s fiancé Offset (who makes an appearance on Invasion of Privacy with Migos on the album’s weakest but still solid song Drip) and wrote Cardi B off as a weak woman going back to her cheating man, both Be Careful and Thru Your Phone paint a different picture. Cardi has sworn that rhymes like “poured out my whole heart to a piece of sh-t” are not directed at Offset but it’s hard not to view the album through the lens of their reportedly tumultuous relationship. Even if rumours of Offset’s infidelity are true, Cardi B makes it clear that even when she’s a woman scorned, she doesn’t need our sympathy.
Imma make a bowl of cereal with a teaspoon of bleach / Serve it to you like, 'Here you go, n-gga, Bon Appétit!
That line made me scream with laughter. There are so many lyrics that I had to pause, scroll back and say “OKUURRR” to out loud into my phone. You can’t fake talent. You can fudge your way through an entire 13-track album. There’s not a syllable of pretense on Invasion of Privacy. It’s so good because Cardi B knows exactly who she is and despite guest spots by artists who have the capability to overpower her, Cardi holds her own.
Chance The Rapper injects his usual joyousness into Best Life (and comes through with one of the album’s many Beyoncé shout outs) but it’s Cardi who controls the track and packs a lyrical punch that could easily be the album’s thesis:
I said I never had a problem showin' y'all the real me/ Hair when it's f-cked up, crib when it's filthy/ Way-before-the-deal me, strip-to-pay-the-bills me…
Never did I change, never been ashamed/ Never did I switch, story stayed the same/ I did this on my own, I made this a lane
It would be easy to break down the album’s technical strengths like the solid production by multiple hit-making producers or Cardi’s poetic prowess (look at my Sean Penn-worthy alliteration!) but there’s something intangible about why Invasion of Privacy is so special. You could argue that Cardi B arrived when she became an Instagram celebrity. You could argue that her arrival coincides with any of the many Billboard records Bodak Yellow broke but with Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B has truly arrived.
Variety called Invasion of Privacy “one of the most powerful debuts of this millennium.” You’re going to read a lot of reviews making grandiose statements about this album. I just spent way too many words saying what Variety put in nine words. They’re not wrong. Cardi B just dropped the album of 2018 (so far.) Until Beyoncé blows our minds with another surprise drop, it’s Cardi’s moment.