Yesterday marked three years since Cardi B released her debut album, Invasion of Privacy. I still love that title, especially for a debut. The album made history when she became the first solo female hip-hop artist to win Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammy Awards and Invasion also launched two Billboard #1’s — including “Bodak Yellow”, which recently achieved diamond certification. Sometimes that kind of success is followed by self-doubt about whether or not your career peaked your first time out. These personal insecurities are typical to most, but in Cardi’s case, she was also pregnant in the middle of her promo tour and she has spoken in the past about what it was like navigating her professional high during such a monumental shift in her personal life. Now three years later, she’s not quite at the end of her journey to the sophomore album, but she’s learning a lot on the way.
Covering XXL magazine, Cardi’s photographed by AB+DM, the same duo who beautifully captured Viola Davis and Regina King for EW’s Oscar issue this week. Inside, she tells the mag that this year (besides working on music) she’s aimed at getting her money right. Which to her, means paying for things upfront, so she doesn’t owe nobody nothing at the end of the day, and making sure these brands pay her what she’s worth.
“I’m a colored girl and I’m from the ’hood and sh-t. And they might be like, ‘Oh, we could offer her a $2 million advance.’ And the company is gonna make out of you, probably f—ing $50 million, $100 million. And you settle for $2 million because they think that you’re so thirsty for that money that they just gonna give you the $2 million.”
We’re always telling people to “know your worth” but I think sometimes the messaging unfortunately stops there. Cardi is actually researching her worth. She’s looking back at how much money her past partnerships and endorsements have made different companies and she’s arming herself with those figures when she negotiates new deals. There’s a learning curve, but she’s getting more confident and admits that it also involves surrounding herself with a team of “gamblers” that believe in her as much as she does — plus support from the husband too.
She’s finding strength in her femininity as well (and I’m not talking about “WAP”). Whereas some women in rap don’t want to be confined to the “female rapper” label, Cardi is cool with it. She says she loves being a woman and likens it to her desire to hypothetically be the first female billionaire over just another billionaire.
“[In the World Wars] the Russians, the Soviet Union, right, they had women soldiers. And the Germans were so confused when they used to see them, like, “What the f—k?” And then, like, they used to be so confused that, that distract them and next thing you know, you’re getting shot.”
I never anticipated Cardi would be the one teaching me that women fought in both world wars, but here we are. She loves war history. She says female soldiers also had more patience and when troops would come up against each other, waiting for the other side to make the first move, the men would often break the stalemate out of impatience and the women would dominate because of it. A lot of people don’t want to be referred to as female rappers because they say it’s subjugating their art to a second-class valuation next to male counterparts (which I agree with), but Cardi doesn’t want you to overlook what she brings to the table because she’s a woman. There’s value in both sides of the argument.
Speaking of rap, her sophomore album is promised for later this year after whetting our appetite quite successfully with “WAP” and TikTok favourite, “Up”. She was originally planning on putting the album out last year, but got discouraged by COVID because she wouldn’t be able to tour (after not touring the first album because she’d just given birth). She also wouldn’t be able to go promote the album with in-person interviews, just Zoom interviews which she isn’t a fan of: “there’s no feelings to it.” Listen, a year into this pandemic, we all know there’s always a certain amount of chemistry lost through video calls, but what does it say that Cardi, the queen of creating a late night talk show viral moment, doesn’t even think she can elevate the medium to something she’s proud of? *sigh* We miss you press junkets. We miss you red carpets. You will return, because your magic can’t be replaced.
Now, Cardi feels like her album release is on the schedule she is comfortable with, noting how last year Nicki Minaj, Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion and more rap girls were all releasing music and people were saying “Where’s Cardi? Cardi B is over.” At the time she had “WAP” ready to go, but she’s no longer trying to work at other people’s pace and she’s sitting on it until she feels it’s time. Looking back, her timing has always been on point.
For more of Cardi in XXL, click here.