Cardi B proves she’s here to stay on her powerful debut record, ‘Invasion of Privacy’

April 20, 2018

“Bodak Yellow” was a bolt of lightning. Though the beat wasn’t particularly special, the voice rapping over it certainly was. Savage and energetic, it felt like Cardi B’s flow was on top of that mediocre trap beat, elevating the track and launching it to the peak of the Billboard charts. There’s no one who sounds quite like Cardi, and her explosion onto the hip-hop scene quickly produced a similar chart topper, “Bartier Cardi.” And while the 25-year old Bronx MC certainly knows how to craft a banger, I’ll admit that I questioned whether or not her talent could produce a complete, cohesive album. “Bodak Yellow” came out of nowhere, but I wasn’t sure if Cardi B was here to stay. But on her debut studio album, “Invasion of Privacy,” Cardi not only cements herself as the queen of hip-hop, she also proves without a doubt that we’re going to be talking about her for years to come.

The record opens with the track “Get Up 10,” which expertly builds momentum and instantly sets the tone for the rest of “Invasion of Privacy.” Just as on the rest of the album, the lyrics on “Get Up 10” convey an aggressive self improvement—Cardi reflects on how far she’s come, and while the bars aren’t exactly Kendrick-level deep, there’s a coherence to Cardi’s album that really works. In other words, it would be disingenuous to say that the lyrics are the main draw, but the aesthetic and message Cardi doubles down on here are both effective and worthwhile. She’s the best, and she’s worked her butt off to get here. There are also some delicious one-liners here, from Cardi proclaiming that she’s like a “Little Caesars pizza, I be hot and ready” on the track “Best Life” and that she will “leave his texts on read, leave his balls on blue” in the song “I Do” (two highlights). Cardi isn’t a riddle-wrapped inside of an enigma; she says exactly what she’s thinking, and it’s awesome.

Following “Get Up 10,” Migos deliver a few mediocre verses on “Drip.” Honestly, it’s the beat and Cardi’s charisma that carry the song, but “Drip” is worth discussing because it contains one of the few explicit mentions of Migos’ member Offset, Cardi’s (sometimes unfaithful) fiance. While Cardi pledges that tracks like “Be Careful” and “Thru Your Phone” aren’t about the Atlanta rapper, the fact remains that Offset’s infidelity has been highly publicized, and Cardi addresses the prospect of being cheated on throughout the album. In fact, that’s the genesis of the quieter moments of “Invasion of Privacy,” where Cardi shows off some of the diversity in her songwriting. None of these tracks are solemn, but these quieter moments allow Cardi to display a greater emotional range.

That said, the standout moments are definitely Cardi at her most boisterous: The track “Bickenhead” is an anthem (even if the “Lawyer is a Jew” line is a little tacky), and the song “Best Life” is another winner (bolstered by a great Chance the Rapper feature). It all builds to my favorite song on the album, “I Do,” which is anchored by an equally aggressive hook from SZA. It’s a perfect conclusion, showcasing many of Cardi’s strongest aspects, and it certainly deserves the chart-topping success of Cardi’s earlier hits. It is worth mentioning that there are more than a few features here, but Cardi’s personality is so dynamic that the guests never steal the spotlight.

I do have a few issues with the album. At 13 tracks and 48 minutes, “Invasion of Privacy” is far from the bloated mess that is Migos’ “Culture II,” but there are a few songs that could have been left in the studio, especially on the back half. Not much after “Best Life” and before “I Do” is particularly essential, though I do like the Latin-infused “I Like It” and “Bartier Cardi,” which succeeds despite 21 Savage doing his best to kill all momentum on the track. The bigger issue is that there isn’t much of a progression on the album—this is more of a chance for Cardi to flex than it is an example of an evolution, and she’s the same badass on “Get Up 10” as she is on “I Do.” Maybe with more time Cardi could have crafted something with a bit more depth, but the powerful and triumphant album Cardi delivers is all the more impressive considering the quick turnaround. It was already clear that Cardi B deserved attention, but “Invasion of Privacy” presents an artist that’s far more than just a charismatic personality and a few hits. Cardi B isn’t going anywhere, and that’s a good thing.

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