Written by: TRES.8
To become an acclaimed rapper in the music industry has always been a daunting task to say the least. The slope to the top of the hypothetical mountain is steep, and often riddled by many pitfalls capable of easily slowing or reversing an up and coming artist’s stride, such as beef with other individuals, meddling labels, unsavory press representation and mishandling of funds. This effect can be considered to be even more severe and apparent for female rappers, as there has only been a handful of successful female artists in comparison to their male counterparts. All of these factors add up to make the rap game a cold and unsavory place for female artists from many perspectives – which makes Bronx native rapper Cardi B’s ascension, culminating with her summer anthem “Bodak Yellow” (the aggressive, quotable stuffed hip-hop track you’ve undoubtedly heard multiple times on your local airwaves by this point) all the more impressive.
Cardi B, real name Belcalis Almanzar, was a self proclaimed “regular degular schmegular girl from the Bronx,” and a former stripper before she began to build a career in entertainment starting with a role in VH1 reality series “Love and Hip Hop” and establishing herself as an Instagram personality, dropping frequent one-liners that rapidly stuck with her growing fanbase and became thrown around phrases amongst fans of all generations. On the show, she demonstrated an exceedingly strong and magnetic charisma while possessing some role model like qualities, specifically present in her position in viewers’ eyes as a figure of female empowerment; she’s unapologetic about her hustle and work ethic, stating quite frankly, “Imma get that schmoney,” in the words of fellow NY rapper Bobby Shmurda.
It’s this same hustle that propelled her past two seasons of Love and Hip Hop to constructing her debut mixtape Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1 in 2016, a project that quickly put her into the public eye on the grittier side of the entertainment industry. Riding off hard hitting punchlines, a distinct Bronx vernacular and impressive microphone presence for an artist new to the game, Cardi’s track to the new guard of rap in a matter of months in comparison to the years it took some of her peers was one of the most intriguing stories in rap culture over the past year. From being nominated for the BET award for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist along with the juggernaut Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma’s, to performing Remy Ma’s classic female anthem U.N.I.T.Y with Queen Latifah, Lil Kim, MC Lyte, Lady of Rage, Young M.A., to dropping Bodak Yellow the very next week, a very strong work ethic has become evident in monitoring Cardi’s rush from local emcee to nation-wide phenomenon.
Though “Bodak Yellow” debuted at No. 78 on the Billboard charts, in a matter of weeks the aggressive, southern-influenced track jumped 70 spots to No. 8. This massive movement was largely in part to a swift media campaign, beginning with Cardi obtaining the coveted Fader cover merely a week after Bodak Yellow dropped and promoting both her brand and her future hit all throughout July at clubs throughout New York, all the while “Bodak Yellow” was storming New York airwaves and gaining traction all across the country. This burst of coverage reached its apex with Drake bringing Cardi out to perform at his annual OVO fest concert in the heart of Toronto, Canada, affirming her position as one of the summer’s hottest artists both on the street and commercially.
This newfound success for Cardi B has not been without its challenges, however – over the course of the summer, she’s had to deal with rumours of racial implications in her statements towards other females in her industry, having referred to them as “roaches”; rumours she quickly dismissed as typical Bronx slang for people of low stature in the Bronx, having nothing to do with skin color. On a larger scale, she’s consistently had the threat of a high stakes beef with Nicki Minaj looming over her head, regardless of how both sides have played the field regarding the chances of such a scuffle occurring. Minaj has held the title of “Queen of Rap” for nearly a decade to this point, but has recently had her spot challenged by a feud with Remy Ma. The swift rise of Cardi B can easily be taken as a threat towards Minaj’s crown, though both sides seem to have little interest in being baited into what can be a career-ending conflict.
Ultimately, none of these potential traps have managed to ensnare the up and coming rapper and negatively affect her career. In fact, as she’s just coming off her single penetrating the Billboard Top 10, a feat unaccomplished by any woman in the industry since Nicki Minaj herself in 2014, and performing said single in her hometown to hundreds of adoring fans, it would seem that the hype fueling her career has been boosted by the influx of press surrounding her. Regardless of you feel about Cardi B’s longevity in the industry, with “Bodak Yellow” officially hitting No. 1 on Apple Music and creeping up the Billboard charts, it’s undeniable that her summer of 2017 was, and still continues to be, absolutely massive. Whether or not is serves as a display of possible future success is still up for debate, but the present most definitely belongs to this “regular schmegular girl from the Bronx”.