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Best Cardi B Songs: 20 Unapologetically Badass Tracks
List & Guides

Best Cardi B Songs: 20 Unapologetically Badass Tracks

From sex-positive anthems to forthright blasts at her critics, the best Cardi B songs have set new standards for straight-talking in rap.

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Hip-hop is a genre born of scrapping, intense creativity, cultural pride, fighting your corner and hustling for success. Cardi B knows about all of those: as the best Cardi B songs reveal, the Bronx-raised rapper, real name Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar, has experienced gang culture, abuse and conflict in her life. “Y’all gotta bear with me,” she raps on Best Life. “I been through some things.”

This history of Cardi’s personal demons means that when she raps on how great she is – as she frequently does – it makes you warm to her, because it feels like a defence mechanism. Those who deep-listen to her words find she builds a self-protective wall with them. Her vulnerability and her flaws are there when you choose to hear them, and this is one of the things that draws a wide variety of fans to her work.

She’s also a shit-spittin’ firebrand, feasting on those that cross her – her beefs recall the earliest days of hip-hop, when Roxanne Shante took down every rapper in her field of vision with undiluted rage. Cardi has said that she knows not everyone can relate to money, cars or expensive clothes, but “I know that every bitch don’t like some bitch, and it’s like, that’s what I wanna rap about”.

In her relatively short career, which has taken her from the reality-TV show Love & Hip Hop: New York to record-breaking status in the music industry, she has made an indelible impression, and her second album has been anticipated for several years now. While we wait, here are the 20 best Cardi B songs so far…

Listen to the best of Cardi B here, and check out our best Cardi B songs, below.

20: Drip (featuring Migos) (from ‘Invasion Of Privacy’, 2018)

Drip is a self-confident cavalcade, pulsating with excess. Featuring deep trap beats, it’s classic Cardi B, pumped full of humour and swag. The best line is when she tells herself to stay out of Gucci, because she’s about to run out of coat hangers. Not a problem too many of us share, granted, but it’s still nice to hear that she’s happy.

19: Um Yea (with Quality Control and Offset) (from ‘Control The Streets, Volume 1’, 2017)

Cardi B’s relationship with her husband, Offset, has had its fair share of ups and downs. Um Yea was definitely made when they were on an “up”, as Cardi revealed on Twitter. While Offset was recording, “he kept looking at me and smiling and shit”, and Cardi knew she wanted to be on the track. “So I just started writing my verse and everything, and he was looking at me like, ‘Oh shit, girl!’” They recorded it and then quickly got down to more carnal matters.

18: Money (standalone single, 2018)

A frequent criticism of Cardi is that she’s obsessed with money, and that she equates sex with getting cash. Cardi, however, could not give a shit what people who have never had to fight for their wealth think of her. Money is almost her doubled-down response to what critics say about her supposed materialistic outlook: “I got a baby, I need some money,” she raps, making the point that money isn’t only about consumerism, it’s about security and future-proofing. Built around a heavy beat, this is one of the best Cardi B songs for revealing her ability to condense ideas into a concentrated essence, shot out via vicious vocal spikes.

17: Bronx Season (from ‘Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol.2’, 2017)

One of Cardi’s most uncompromising tracks, Bronx Season is hardcore rap, as she recounts how she street-fought her way to recognition. Her New York City accent is more prominent than usual (something she attributes to the influence of her paternal grandfather), verging on parody in the final bars of the song.

16: I Like It (with Bad Bunny and J Balvin) (from ‘Invasion Of Privacy’, 2018)

A playful take on My Favorite Things, from The Sound Of Music, I Like It became a global megahit which remains the most-streamed song by a female rapper in the UK. Working with Colombian singer J Balvin and Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny over a Pete Rodriguez sample, Cardi explores her Latin heritage with endless energy and sunshine.

15: Bartier Cardi (featuring 21 Savage) (from ‘Invasion Of Privacy’, 2018)

Bartier Cardi is a master class in controlled menace, Cardi’s words whipping and landing with pinpoint accuracy. She shines like a diamond on this track, swaggering purposefully over all her haters, playing with the new fruits of her success.

14: Up (standalone single, 2021)

Her catchiest song since I Like It, Cardi has said that Up was a return to the inspirations of her first mixtape: Chicago drill and gang culture. Describing the track as her “hood song”, Cardi has explained that “if it’s up, then it’s stuck” means “street beef”. At the time of Up’s release, she was also conscious that it had been a while since the release of her debut album, Invasion Of Privacy, but she was resisting pressure to put out another full-length, trying to ensure that any new material would match up to the best Cardi B songs. “I feel like I’m not gonna let that shit get to me to the point that I’m gonna put out a song that I’m not really in love with just ’cause,” she said.

13: Leave That Bitch Alone (from ‘Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol.2’, 2017)

Cardi’s early mixtapes were an essential training ground for Invasion Of Privacy, hinting at what many of the best Cardi B songs could do. Less complete than her debut album, they are nevertheless loved for how they work through themes that Cardi would explore with more confidence in the years to come. Leave That Bitch Alone is a fantastic example of this: it feels like the no-holes-barred first draft of Be Careful.

12: On Fleek (from ‘Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol.1’, 2016)

Cardi B’s first mixtape, Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol.1, offered plenty of trap beats and unpolished raps, and was her first calling card. Surprising many – how often do great records come from a reality TV star? – On Fleek is the standout cut. The mixtape’s cover art, of Cardi being pleasured, has also proved controversial: male model Kevin Brophy has claimed she superimposed his distinctive back tattoo on another model without permission.

11: Motorsport (with Migos and Nicki Minaj) (from ‘Culture II’, 2017)

With all due respect to Migos, they are but the stage for the main attraction of Motorsport – the battle between Nicki Minaj and Cardi B. The pair would go on to have very public fights, but here Cardi uses her words as flying projectiles, going head-to-head with Nicki for the first time. These two women are often compared, but are they are very different – something which is clear on this song. Where Cardi is direct, Nicki revels in complex imagery, shapeshifting even in her short verse here. Let’s call it a draw.

10: I Do (featuring SZA) (from ‘Invasion Of Privacy’, 2018)

“My little 15 minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” is how Cardi signs off on Invasion Of Privacy. With SZA Auto-Tuned to oblivion, the two women create a contrast of organic and automatic, machine and flesh – almost evoking Janelle Monáe’s fascination with cyborg-human relationships on albums such as The Electric Lady. I Do is a fitting finale to one of the finest hip-hop albums of the 21st century.

9: Wild Side (with Normani) (standalone single, 2021)

Wild Side is peerless in the way it channels the spirit of dark R&B pioneered by Aaliyah’s Try Again, Brandy’s What About Us and Ashanti’s Only U. Cardi’s verse was added after Normani had already posted a snippet of Wild Side to her social media; but Normani felt that Cardi’s words would complete the track. She was right. Cardi’s verse roughs it all up, making Normani’s gloom-groove utterly contemporary.

8: Hot Shit (with Ye and Lil Durk) (standalone single, 2022)

Sampling reggae queen Marcia Griffiths, Hot Shit was Cardi B’s first single as a lead artist since donating Bet It to the soundtrack for Bruised, the directorial debut by Halle Berry. She’s said the song predates her sex-positive anthem WAP, and has paid tribute to Ye’s contribution. “Kanye gave me this verse a couple of months ago when he was just all over the media, because of all of the things that were going on,” she said as the track dropped. “I had a lot of conversations with Kanye West. I learned so much about him and he’s such an amazing, sweet person. I’ve been feeling like, I wish a lot of people have conversations with him so they could just see the real him.”

7: La Modelo (with Ozuna) (from ‘Aura’, 2018)

Just because Cardi is a straight-shooter and rarely dances around her point, never mistake her for inflexible. Though she is a featured artist on this Ozuna track, La Modelo sits among the best Cardi B songs, absolutely proving her range and versatility – and not only because she sings in Spanish. Her rap is gentle as summer rain, her flow tinkling over the relaxed reggaeton mood.

6: Press (standalone single, 2019)

“I used to tell myself that I will always be myself,” Cardi said in 2018, in response to her meteoric fame. “Little by little, I’m feeling like I’m getting trapped and muted.” Press is Cardi exploring that feeling, near-punk in its straightforward vitriol and murderous in its savage fantasy. Barely two minutes long, it is a howl of protest against stereotyping, gossip and – yes – invasions of privacy.

5: Get Up 10 (from ‘Invasion Of Privacy’, 2018)

Cardi B told us, on Get Up 10, that she is a “real bitch, only thing fake is the boobs”. It sums up her brilliance in eight words: in a world where celebrities routinely deny they’ve had plastic surgery, Cardi will cheerfully admit to it. Her background in reality TV has meant she understands the power of honesty and exhibitionism, and her very realness about fakery is almost a trademark throughout the best Cardi B songs.

4: Everything (from ‘Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol.1’, 2016)

Cardi often moves so fast, with her whip-smart flow, alliteration and lines that leave you reeling. But Everything is a different beast. Here Cardi is as clear as she can be about how poverty forces these so-called “bad choices” of sex work and abusive relationships. She refuses to be defined by her past, but equally she does not seek to deny that what she’s been through has shaped who she is today.

3: Bodak Yellow (from ‘Invasion Of Privacy’, 2018)

A summer banger that rejected the usual feel-good cliches to somehow suck the sun from around it, the menacing and steely Bodak Yellow was Cardi’s debut single, and a No.1 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot Rap Songs and Rhythmic charts. Announcing herself by wearing an enormous “A” (for anarchy) symbol in the video, she’s at her most raw and febrile on this track – quite an achievement for such a mainstream hit. She wrote the lyrics on a plane, and later said, “Every bitch that I don’t like came to my head. And I pictured me, slapping it to them.” Easily one of the best Cardi B songs, Bodak Yellow is a statement of intent that made everyone take notice.

2: Be Careful (from ‘Invasion Of Privacy’, 2018)

“Poured out my whole heart, to a piece of shit.” Heartbreak with Cardi B doesn’t sound like much fun – for anyone. She blasts her poetry of despair over beats that punch like a pneumatic drill. “You got me lookin’ in the mirror different, thinkin’ I’m flawed because you inconsistent,” is the real kicker line, with Cardi at her most exposed. She also samples Lauryn Hill’s Ex-Factor which – given the track’s subject matter – is a stroke of genius.

1: WAP (with Megan Thee Stallion) (standalone single, 2020)

Topping our list of the best Cardi B songs, WAP is also the best Megan Thee Stallion song – hell, it’s the best song of 2020. Nasty, provocative, controversial and unbelievably captivating, WAP set new standards for explicitness in pop while questioning just who gets to set those standards in the first place. Cardi and Megan have completely different flows and approaches to their verses, yet together the effect is stronger than if either had attempted WAP as a solo endeavour. There’s a whole history to explore with this one: or you could just listen again and again and again.

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