AFTER THE HYPE: Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy

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I have only just become familiar with Cardi B’s music. I’ve heard the name thrown about in conversation, I’d seen her name across the internet headlines, and I knew the dude from Migos knocked her up. But it wasn’t until Teish came home heralding she had just listened to the new Cardi B album, Invasion of Privacy, like the town crier, that I showed some interest. At first, I was concerned. I had often confused the relatively new name in trap/hip-hop with Nicki Minaj whenever I heard her debut single Bodak Yellow. I dismissed her music as some hyped trap shit, dripped in excess from head to toe in her music videos for someone so relatively new to the industry. And as I sit back and think, that’s probably what turned me off her music, and continues to turn me off the new trap artists emerging into the world like an infant Richie Rich; flashin cash with a no-fucks-given attitude. For these new artists, Cardi B included, less is definitely not more. From their lyrics, to their music videos, or what they wear in public, excess means power, regardless of where your career is at in the music industry. Gone are the days of border-line poverty stricken hip-hop artists trying to make their way along the long road to success. Now, thanks to the internet, you’re a star in a day, and then you can brag about it in every song you write. But I digress. Cardi B was thrown into that section of humanity I don’t necessarily support but intrigued by. But after listening to Invasion of Privacy for the past week, Cardi B has my support.

I thought I’d try to weigh up the pros and cons of this album instead of going from song to song, dissecting the album. And in doing so, I found the pros outweigh the cons. They outweigh them by a shit load. I hadn’t been this surprised since I found out Childish Gambino and Donald Glover are the same person. Instead of starting her album off with over-excessive fireworks like her trap contemporaries, Cardi B dials it down a notch with opener Get Up 10. She raps over a minimalistic piano melody, spinning a yarn about where she came from. It’s not humble beginnings for B, she’s struggled through her twenty-five years, and as many headlines have covered to death, Cardi B was a stripper before she was an internationally known rapper. And B addresses that straight away. “Look, they gave a bitch two options: strippin’ or lose. Used to dance in a club right across from my school. I said “dance” not “fuck”, don’t get it confused.” Immediately Cardi B is calling the shots. She boldly says don’t assume you know me. And I fuck with that. The piano builds under B and a dirty bass kicks in against a light trap beat. What initially started small has ramped up and Cardi B is spitting fire, she’s ferocious like a young Missy Elliott. Cardi B caught me off guard, Get Up 10 is a banger.

In fact, most of the album, especially the first half of the album is full of bangers. Drip (feat Migos) follows. It sounds like your standard Migos song: distant bass line, generic trap hi-hats and the stupid Migos adlibs. But it’s not a bad song. Cardi B opens with a strong presence on a track accompanied by trap’s royal family. It begins to feel like a Migos heavy track by the end after all three of the MCs have finished, but even if it was a Migos track featuring Cardi B, I’d still like it.

Cardi B shows variety in her production on Bickenhead and Be Careful, both stark contrasts of Cardi B’s ability. Bickenhead is one of B’s strongest songs; she’s powerful in the verses and spits a catchy hook in the chorus. The beat sounds like the standard trap snare and hi-hat, but B knows when to pull away and use the beat to her benefit. Where her contemporaries and lower Soundcloud affiliates drown themselves in a low-budget beat, Cardi B shows that restraint in a repetitive beat can actually work in your favour. Who the fuck would have known? The drum beat is almost non-existent in Be Careful, compared to trap bangers; it’s a simple drum beat. The main catch in Be Careful is the poppy synth melody that bounces throughout, accompanied by the light, dirty bass that crawls underneath. B’s hook is another catchy melody, once again showing restraint in an industry riddled with vocal effects. Even B’s verses are strong; she showcases more song writing ability in the first handful of songs on this album than other more prolific artists have done in the past couple years. I’m looking at you Lil Pump, XXX Tentacion and Post Malone. Cardi B continues to spit some fire lyrics on Money Bag and Bartier Cardi (feat. 21 Savage). Both tracks are solid trap tunes, she holds her own and makes the track her own with her confident delivery and consistent flow. Especially on Money Bag where B’s flow dances over the sinister bass and beat, she sounds dangerous and fierce.

B shows more of her diverse style in I Like It. The beat is an infectious mix of hip-hop and Latin American boogaloo, thanks to the sample of I Like It Like That by Pete Rodriguez. It’s a little salsa cross trap number as Colombian rapper J Balvin begins to sing. It’s one of the highlights of the album.

Though, in saying that, Invasion of Privacy does have its downsides. Particularly the sixth track, Best Life (feat. Chance the Rapper) that sits in between two great tracks, Be Careful and I Like It. Cardi B doesn’t do anything wrong here, I love her opening line: “I’m like Big Pop’ mixed with 2Pac, I’m like Makaveli. You need some, Little Caesar’s pizza, I be hot and ready.” And I like the minimalist production, but I feel like Chance the Rapper was the wrong choice as the feature. The whingey tone of his hook sounds as if he’s trying to do a Childish Gambino impersonation; as if Gambino is the tender cut of Wagyu beef but she could only afford steakettes. I appreciate the unusual feature for such a trap heavy album, but Chance was the wrong choice and ruins whatever B established in the verse.

The same can be said again for Ring (feat. Kehlani). B has a solid verse, but Kehlani’s hook feels shoe-inned. Kehlani is the artist to call up for a generic, radio friendly (😉) track that will get airtime and push sales/streams of the album. The hook is the same thing I’ve heard time and time again on the radio; the bland mix of pop and trap. It’s uninventive and unexciting.

Fortunately, the album ends on a strong point with I Do (feat SZA). SZA’s auto-tuned opener isn’t the best sound on the album, especially since SZA sounds fine without any distortion over her vocals, but it’s elevated by the eerie, tinny synth melodies that faintly drip in the distance. Where Cardi B opened the album with her story of struggle, she finishes on I Do with the classic story of excess in the rap game. “Now I’m a boss, I write my own name on the cheques. Pussy so good, I say my own name during sex. I might smack a bitch ’cause I felt like it. Gucci shoes and a belt like it.” The only difference between this and everything else in the trap genre is that Cardi B can rap and write well. And that’s enough for me to forgive the overly excessive lifestyle lyrics.

I had Cardi B all wrong. And though there are some low points to Invasion of Privacy, none of them are the result of a bad Cardi B verse or an awful B hook. I have an issue with the features and what they bring to the album. I don’t think they were the right fit for the tone of the track or even the tone of what Cardi B was trying to set. B is the strongest on her album. And so it should be, but unfortunately in the over-saturated hip-hop market, the features sometimes outdo the artist. But not on Invasion of Privacy. I think it’s one of the better hip-hop albums of 2018, definitely one of the best trap albums in a long time, and I’m very excited to hear the next evolution of Cardi B’s music. I just hope she can evolve her lyrical content and explore new topics other than dick, pussy, hoes, bitches and Gucci.

Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy was worth the hype.

After the Hype is a weekly series where I listen to an album after the hype dies down and give my general thoughts, sometimes a little whinge. It’s ok to disagree.

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