It’s been clear since Cardi B hit the mainstream back in 2017 that she wasn’t quite like anyone else we’d seen before.
Cardi and her breakout single Bodak Yellow seemed to come out of nowhere and take over the charts, her debut being just one of a string of hit tracks that she’s released in the years since.
However, for those who’d spent more than a little time on the internet during the mid-2010s, Cardi might have been on their radar for a while.
Having established herself on Instagram, Twitter and now-defunct video sharing platform Vine, Cardi quickly began to build an audience thanks to her big personality, refreshing honesty and brash sense of humour.
For Cardi, the memory of her internet fame days brings about a sense of what might have been if she hadn’t been quite so forthcoming online.
“I’m always going to love social media because I came up from social media,” she told Billboard in 2020.
“If it wasn’t for me showing my personality on social media, I wouldn’t be where I’m at.”
“I would probably be a stripper owning a laundromat because that’s what I wanted to do when I was a stripper.”
The platform also afforded Cardi a space to be entirely authentic and to use her voice however she felt fit – something that she appears to see as being an incredibly important factor in getting to where she is today.
“IfI didn’t voice my feelings, I would probably be one crazy bitch on drugs,” she said.
“I don’t do drugs; I smoke a little cigarette here and there, drink a little wine and Hennessy in the club, but those drugs I don’t do.”
In the years following her initial rise to online prominence, she’d become well-known enough to catch the attention of TV producers over at VH1, who decided to add Cardi to the cast of the popular reality series Love & Hip-Hop: New York. The series followed the lives of hip-hop musicians and producers both in and out of the studio, each member of the cast keen to make their name known in NYC – few castmates went on to achieve this quite so brilliantly as Cardi B.
When her debut single went global in 2017, it felt like natural progression. She’s been a bonafide superstar ever since.
To Cardi, however, it’s important not to get too swept up in the lifestyle she’s come to live. She and her husband, Migos’ Offset, are already parents to their daughter Kulture and are expecting their second child later this year – and she’s determined that her kids won’t grow up with a sense of entitlement.
One side of the important lessons she’s looking to teach her kids are about the struggles faced by those within the Black community. She’s looking to teach them early, too. Last year, she and 2-year-old Kulture participated in the Show Me The Signs campaign, which paid tribute to Breonna Taylor and other Black women who have been victims of police brutality.
“I want her to grow up knowing how the world really is,” she said.
“She lives a different lifestyle than I lived. This girl gets in a pool every single day – I can’t swim because I barely went to the pool. There was only one community pool where I’m from. I want her to know that just because you have money, that doesn’t mean you’re super-privileged.”
“Even me with her dad, we have had really bad experiences with police and we’re rich and famous. I want her to know that you’re not going to be an exception.”
“I don’t want her to ever have the mentality of ‘This doesn’t apply to me’.”
Cardi is famously outspoken when it comes to this and many other issues, admitting that she knows that she’s been considered an activist by many – but she’s unsure if she’d consider herself eligible for such a title.
“I don’t know if I’m an activist.”
“There’s people out here that really go off and beyond, like a Tamika Mallory or Shaun King, who go out of their way to really help. I feel like those are activists. I don’t want to take away from what they are. I just want to be a person with a platform that believes in good.”
She does, however, know that she’s widely considered to be something of a role model. It’s a title that she’s slightly more comfortable with.
“I know I’m a role model because I know there’s a lot of women like me.”
“At the end of the day, I know I’m a bitch that made it through because I work my ass off, not because luck fell on my thighs.”
“I want to show people that you can do positive things, but you can also be yourself. I’m a very sexual person. I love sex, and I like to rap about it.”
Her confident and self-assured attitude towards sex is something that’s always made Cardi incredibly popular, with many believing that she’s worked plenty towards breaking down the idea that only men can get away with speaking casually about sex – both in and away from her music.
Her sexually charged lyrics are a staple of her music – the most iconic example, perhaps, being WAP, which she collaborated on with Megan Thee Stallion in 2020.
The track’s explicit content certainly got everybody talking, for better and for worse – the title alone was enough to rile up the more conservative side of the internet.
However, Cardi refuses to censor herself where her male peers within the music industry would not be asked to – as she told Billboard in no uncertain terms.
“I love pussy, and I love my body, and I want to be able to express that. I’m just a naughty girl, and I’m not hurting nobody because I love my body and want to rap about it.”
WAP wasn’t just about freedom of expression, though. It was also important to Cardi to feature a fellow powerful female hip-hop musician on the record as a response to the way the industry often pits female rappers against one another.
“When I linked up with Megan and it was time for me to send her a song, I was like, ‘This has to be the song. There’s no other song that makes sense for me to put her on. This girl is freaky-deaky — I know she’s gonna kill it’ and she did.”
“Every single time a female rapper comes out, people wanna start fake beef. Maybe because they don’t see me with other women as often as people want to.”
“I don’t want to be like, ‘Oh, female artists, we have it hard’, but we do fucking be having it mad hard! I could be bumping to one bitch’s music, and the next day, people are telling you, ‘Oh, this girl is better than Cardi. She’s gonna end Cardi.’ I hate that y’all do that. Why do you want me to argue and not like this girl?”
One thing that has always been immediately clear is that Cardi B is an artist who’ll stick to exactly what she believes in – whatever anyone else may think.