It can be difficult to blog about music and discuss current artists in the music industry. Mostly because everyone has an opinion of their own. I’m not complaining. Those opinions make the world interesting. However, sometimes we tend to jump to judgements without clear understanding. It’s a normal human tendency. For that reason we work hard not to prejudge. This week I chose to feature a new artist who has burst upon the world of music fast and with a fury. Young music fans of all backgrounds are providing her a formidable following. Yet, older music fans are approaching her, and her bold music with raised eyebrows. This week, the WMC is featuring hip hop sensation Cardi B.
Cardi B is young, she turns twenty-five October 11, 2017, but she has lived a very tough and eventful life. If you are not familiar with the young rapper, you might not know about her past. However, her music provides much insight into her experiences up to this point in her life. Like most of the young artists I have featured, Cardi B is quite open and unapologetic about the choices she made. This openness is the thing that causes concern for older folks who might be parents of her fans. I’m a parent, and understand why a parent might not have enthusiasm for an unfiltered musical artist like Cardi B. That’s something each parent will decide for their children. Nevertheless, this is the Weekly Music Commentary, and I feature musical artists each week. It might be good to look at how Cardi B got to this point in her young career.
Cardi B was born Belcalis Almanzar, to a Trinidadian mother and Dominican father. She was raised in the Highbridge neighborhood located in the South Bronx section of New York City. As a youth, she claims to have been a member of a street gang, and gangbanger since the age of 16. She went on to attend Renaissance High School For Musical Theater & Technology, a small specialty school collocated on the Herbert H. Lehman campus. Cardi B turned to stripping at the age of 19. She has said she became a stripper to escape poverty and domestic violence, having been in an abusive relationship at the time. She has also said becoming a stripper was positive for her life in many ways: “It really saved me from a lot of things. When I started stripping I went back to school.” She says stripping was her only way out, a way to earn enough money to escape her dire situation and get an education. However she ended up dropping out of college. In 2013, Cardi B began to gain notoriety due to several of her videos going viral on social media, namely Vine and her official Instagram page.
Cardi B made her musical début two years later, on Jamaican reggae fusion singer Shaggy’s remix to his single “Boom Boom”, alongside fellow Jamaican dance hall singer Popcaan. Simultaneously, Cardi B got a lot of exposure on television. She joined the cast of the VH1 reality television series Love & Hip Hop: New York, debuting in season six. It was at this time when I first noticed the young, budding star. She is considered the breakout star of the show’s sixth season. The sixth and seventh seasons chronicle her rise to stardom and her turbulent relationship with her incarcerated fiancé. On December 30, 2016, she announced that she would be leaving the show, after two seasons to further pursue a career in music. On March 7, 2016, Cardi B released her first full-length project, a mixtape titled Gangsta B**ch Music, Vol. 1. January 20, 2017, she released her second mixtape, which is the second installment to her Gangsta B**ch Music series. In late February, it was reported that she signed her first major record label recording contract with Atlantic Records.
In May 2017, the nominees for the 2017 BET Awards were announced, revealing that Cardi B had been nominated for Best New Artist and Best Female Hip-Hop Artist. Although she failed to win any awards, losing to Chance the Rapper and Remy Ma, respectively, Cardi B performed at the BET Awards after party show.
With the exposure gained at this point, Cardi B could not turn back. She was a star waiting on the next big event of her career. On June 16, 2017, Atlantic Records released Cardi B’s commercial début single, titled “Bodak Yellow” via digital distribution. “Bodak Yellow”, reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, with the New York Times calling it “the rap anthem of the summer”. All of a sudden Cardi B was everywhere, with Bodak Yellow playing on radio around the world quite often. As she made her way to more interviews, great numbers of people were enjoying her ebullient and honest demeanor. It did not take long for fans to understand that her music uniquely mirrored her personality. In a 2017 Complex article about her, the editor wrote “unapologetic does not begin to describe the totally unfiltered and sheer Cardi B-ness of Cardi B’s personality. She’s a hood chick who’s not afraid to be hood no matter the setting. Cardi B is Cardi B 24/7, 365, this is why she resonates with people, and that same energy comes out in her music.”
Interestingly, as I examined the rise of Cardi B, I thought about so many artists who similarly rose to prominence. Many times they came to stardom with checkered pasts behind them, well hidden from their fan base. When that past was revealed, it hurt their popularity. Not so with Cardi B. She openly speaks about her past and her fans love her even more. Much has changed compared to musical artists just a few years ago. Cardi B, and many other new stars are popular while openly speaking about everything, good and bad, in their pasts.
Will Cardi B bring us more music and remain as popular as she is today? That is hard to say, but she sure has a great foundation to build more success. Now we wait and see!