“Everything came out like I wanted it to come out,” Cardi B said in 2018, of her debut album, Invasion Of Privacy. “Perfect hooks, perfect verses. Oh my God, Jesus love me, I must be doing something right in my life.” Cardi B is a rapper who is both brash and vulnerable, and can be funny and deadly serious within the space of a few words: she took those contradictory impulses and crafted one of the greatest debut albums of the 2010s.
The backstory: “I feel like I’m getting better”
Cardi B’s greatest quality is her realness. While she will frankly, and repeatedly, rap about her achievements and her swag, she is also open about her flaws, worries and challenges. It’s hard to think of another rapper who would publicly state their reservations about their own rapping, and how they wanted to work on their flow, but this is precisely what Cardi said she wanted to do before starting work on Invasion Of Privacy.
“If you listen to my mixtape [Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol.1], it’s very trappy, it’s almost like drill,” she said in 2018. “Sometimes I felt like I will never be getting out of that style, I’m so stuck on rapping like that.” Cardi said she wanted “to flow a little bit easier, and cleaner… I don’t feel like I perfected it yet, but I feel like I’m getting better.” Invasion Of Privacy started from a humble place, a conscious unlearning, in order to fly ever higher.
The writing: “Everybody is expecting some crazy magic from me”
The best Cardi B songs illustrate her versatility. From brutal, punk-like takedowns to sun-kissed Spanish flavours, Cardi B is seldom predictable. Yet, and especially following the enormous hit Bodak Yellow, Cardi has been open about the pressure she feels when working on lyrics.
“To me, it’s not been easy writing,” she told Billboard in 2018. “This has been the hardest thing ever. It’s not easy to focus on a song because the type of pressure everyone has put on me. Like, at first when I was doing music it was fun and I was so eager to get in the studio all the time. Now, I get anxiety when I go to the studio because everybody is like expecting some crazy magic from me.”
Yet the songs she created for Invasion Of Privacy are a portrait of a whip-smart, hungry mind. Get Up 10, the album’s opener, is upfront about her past and gleeful about her present. Cardi has never hid or underplayed her experience as a stripper; she’s pitiless towards those who put her down at the time, and have come crawling since she became famous.
Be Careful, one of the album’s highlights, is Cardi at her most exposed. “When I hear this song, I be really crying,” she said in 2018. “It really means so much, it gets me angry, it gets me sad, and I felt that women are going to relate.” Lauryn Hill granted the use of her 1998 song Ex-Factor as a sample in Be Careful, which was particularly symbolic to Cardi: she called Hill’s approval “the biggest stamp” to the song.
The collaborations: “They mad humble”
SZA, Migos, Bad Bunny, Kehlani, Chance The Rapper, J Balvin… Invasion Of Privacy’s guest list is diverse, exploratory and was artistically stimulating to Cardi B. “I just felt that he was so perfect for this song,” Cardi said of Chance The Rapper’s appearance on Best Life, one of the album’s most uplifting tracks. “He was so easy to work with.”
Recording I Like It, Invasion Of Privacy’s fourth single and Cardi’s second US No.1, was a particularly positive experience. While in the studio with J Balvin and Bad Bunny, Cardi found that the two huge stars were excited to work with her. “They mad humble, and they thanking me,” she said. “If you ever need a kidney, I’ll give it to ya!”
“I can say nothing else except she’s incredible,” Kehlani said about Cardi, and their collaboration, Ring. “She deserves everything coming to her, she works hard and she’s stayed humble.”
The title: “People cannot expect me to open up about everything”
“Little by little, I’m feeling like I’m getting trapped and muted,” Cardi B said in 2018, reflecting on how fame was eating away at her. She would soon be even more explicit in her anger on the 2019 single Press, but for now she chose to call the album Invasion Of Privacy, as she worked through her feelings on being a public figure.
“I have been so open to people about myself, but people cannot expect me to open up about everything. Certain things to me have to be private,” she has said of the album’s title. “You cannot invade my privacy. I’m not an animal at the damn zoo.”
The release: “It’s my first time doing it”
“It’s a big weight off my shoulders,” Cardi said when Invasion Of Privacy was released, on 6 April 2018. “I feel confident, and I’m also very nervous… It’s my first time doing it, and the pressure that everybody was putting me under… ooooh.”
She needn’t have worried. Invasion Of Privacy garnered near-universal critical acclaim, has been certified triple-platinum and broke multiple streaming records. Immediately hailed as one of the best female rappers of all time, Cardi would go on to smash through even more glass ceilings – notably with WAP, the 2020 mega-hit – and the world impatiently awaits her second album.
But, just as with Invasion Of Privacy, Cardi B knows that making sure it’s right, rather than rushing, is the key to success. Her lyrics are a reflection of her, and this is what fans love about her. “When you hear my lyrics, you hear the shots that I throw at people,” she has said. “I throw shots because I always been the underdog. I got rejected so many times, and I say it in my lyrics constantly.”
Find out where Cardi B ranks among the best female rappers of all time.
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