Billboard doesn’t always get it right when it comes to Woman of the Year, in my opinion. Giving it to Selena Gomez in 2017, Madonna in 2016, and Katy Perry in 2012 were a few of their serious misses. Those were not marquee years for those artists, and although some people also thought Cardi B wasn’t deserving of the title for 2020 because she only released one song this year, that one song was possibly the single most culturally impactful track released. I’m talking about “WAP.” Accepting the Woman of the Year Award, during last night’s virtual ceremony, Cardi admitted that she never expected the conversation to be so big. “I mean, it pissed off a whole bunch of Republicans for no reason,” she quips. This, in a year where politics was a huge polarizing conversation, but it wasn’t the only social discourse dominating our world, and Cardi B is being honoured for her contributions to those cultural conversations as well.
The Black Lives Matter movement was catapulted back into the spotlight in the first half of 2020 after some really hideous examples of racial inequalities when it comes to police brutality and the over-policing of Black and Brown communities. One of those examples is the killing of Breonna Taylor at the hands of the Louisville Metro Police Department. Last night, Breonna’s mother Tamika Palmer, called Cardi “one of the most outspoken advocates for justice over the last nine months,” during her introduction. It still breaks my heart that Tamika has to rely on celebrities to amplify her message of Justice For Breonna Taylor. Of course, what’s even more sad is that there’s still no justice. I remember over the summer when Cardi called on her male counterparts in the industry to join her in speaking out. She was trying to amplify the message as best she could, and also call on more Black men to speak up for Black women. The “WAP” hitmaker certainly knows the impact entertainers can have on their fans, especially in a year that temporarily shut down scripted programming production and other entertainment avenues, while (other than cancelled tours) the music industry and music consumption roared on.
Part of the reason why Cardi resonates is because she’s speaking to her fans on their level. She might be one of the biggest artists in the world, who broke streaming records this year as detailed by Billboard Woman in Music host, Teyana Taylor, but she hasn’t lost the charm of being the girl from around-the-way who made it. In her acceptance speech, she talks earnestly about working on her craft and listening to people’s critiques, because she always wants to improve her craft. Those who followed Cardi before she went mainstream will remember when she would perform on stage, out of breath, and struggling to keep up with the pace of her own songs — but she got better. Watching her journey in real time in this business, mistakes and all, and she has her share of them, makes her that much more relatable. She has the ear of her people and while she has it she’s going to do her damndest to (as she said in response to those who thought she didn’t deserve this Billboard honour) keep your grandma popping her pussy on TikTok, but she’s also going to promote the platform of Bernie Sanders, and fight for Justice for Breonna Taylor.