Asmar Bouie // REVOLT TV
A highlight of the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, which included a fire performance from Kendrick Lamar, occurred before the annual event even started. That moment happened when Cardi B took to the pre-show's stage for a high-energy performance of her chart-topper, "Bodak Yellow." As a confident Cardi chanted lyrics like "I'm the hottest in the streets / I know you probably heard of me," from her current anthem, it became clear that she had officially arrived. Due to both the massive success of "Bodak Yellow," which comfortably sits in the no. 2 spot of the Billboard 100, as well as the support of her loyal following that seems to follow her lead in whatever direction she decides to go in, the Bronx native is hip hop's current talk of New York.
Cardi B's journey from Highbridge to the top of the Billboard charts has been something to watch. The 24-year old former exotic dancer's recent achievements have included locking in a deal with Atlantic Records, racking up a couple of award nominations, popping up on the OVO Fest stage with Drake, having her song used to teach sixth grade geography lessons and etching her name in the history books. She recently became only the third female rapper to ever have had a top 30 hit without any assistance from a featured artist.
"It's a dope beat. It has hot lines like 'I got a bag and fixed my teeth. It references Freak Nasty's club banger "Da Dip," which is some hip hop history for people that pay attention on that end - the record kind checks off all of the boxes," says Rob Markman, journalist and Manager of Artist Relations for Genius, offering reasons to why the record has been so successful.
Y'all can't deny that sis has glowed up to boss chick status, but is she also the hottest MC in NYC? And if she is, how exactly did she get there?
"MC to me is still about being a lyricist, but MC also means moves the crowd," says The Breakfast Club's Charlamagne Tha God. "I don't think nobody is moving the crowd like Cardi B is right now." The famously opinionated radio personality, who admits he been a fan of Cardi long before she added crafting rap hits to her resume, believes the young rap star is the ideal example of how to break an artist in this current era.
Cardi B's ascension to rap stardom may seem to have been a sudden occurrence, but it has actually been a long time coming. Her first taste of having all eyes on her happened during her time as an exotic dancer dancing at New York hotspots like Sue's Rendezvous. Upon becoming a local celebrity of sorts, the nightlife queen's popularity began to grow beyond the clubs she frequented, as a result of several of her Vine and IG videos going viral. The buzz built online eventually landed the entertainer on VH1's prime-time hit television show, Love & Hip Hop. Her time on the hip hop soap opera, which she immediately became a fan-favorite on, properly positioned Cardi to officially make her next money move in music, which is a rare feat. "You have to remember, Love & Hip Hop was where you ended up when your career was over," says Markman.
"She's authentic. You can see she's not faking anything," says Superstar Jay, DJ and host of Shade 45's VIP Saturdays on SiriusXM. Gone are the days of perfect celebrities who were difficult to identify with. Many of today's biggest stars are tatted up, curse, leave their home without makeup, smoke weed publically and prove that though they are successful and famous, they still can be relatively normal. Obviously comfortable in her own skin, the self-proclaimed "stripper hoe" never hesitates to put herself on blast or speak on insecurities she's dealt with, and her fans have accepted her, flaws and all. "Her fans love her music because they love her," adds Jay. Cardi has made it easy for the fan love to transfer from her to her music with lines like "Thanks to all my followers that's always defending me. Yall like my godbrothers and godsisters I will dead jump in yall fight," which she says in the beginning of GBMV2's closing track "Pop Off".
Whether dancing in Sue's or dropping gems on IG or on handling beefs on TV or soundtracking your turn up, Cardi has invited fans to both watch and experience her journey. Many rappers have claimed to have started from the bottom, and many have, but in the case of Ms. Cardi she has shown exactly where's been, where's she at and where she's going. "So much in hip hop is a business and manufactured, and this is somebody we can be like we seen her come from the strip clubs," says Markman.
With over 9 million followers on Instagram alone, it's safe to assume that all Cardi fans aren't necessarily about that Cardi life, yet a part of the appeal of Cardi B is that both her and her music can be extremely relatable. Even though she's literally referencing stripping when she says "I don't dance / I make money moves" on "Bodak Yellow", those lyrics should also be interpreted as her showcasing how she bossed up and is now getting to the paper, which can be felt by any woman or man in any profession. "It's kind of an anthem for working girls, girls that are on the grind, girls that are in the hood - she relates to everybody," said Superstar Jay. Cardi in a very Cardi way, provided a soundtrack to not only twerk to, but to also be empowered by. She's ratchet meets boss chick. "It's like the new girl anthem that's also not too girly," says Dylan The Gypsy. The NYC-based DJ, who's rocked venues such as Up&Down and Webster Hall. She also notes that Cardi's music isn't only for the ladies. "Dudes like it too," she says.
On the GBM2 track, "Pull Up," young Cardi raps, "Some people think I'm just a dumb bitch / If that was true I wouldn't have shit." It isn't difficult to understand why the blonde beauty, who lacks any type of filter, isn't quite considered the Albert Einstein of her era. The loudness, the political incorrectness and all-around ratchetness of Cardi - though crucial to her success - can be misleading, however. Longtime followers of Cardi have long been aware that she is a surprising combination of beauty and brains. "Although you can see she didn't come from the most expensive education, she's not dumb," says Dylan. "She knows what she's talking about and she knows how to maneuver life in her own way."
The impact New York artists have had on shaping the current landscape of hip hop is still a frequent topic of discussion amongst some hip hop circles. While those debates have been hashed out one way or another, the masses have been introduced to once local upstarts like Nicki Minaj, A$AP Mob - which includes A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Twelvy and A$AP Nast - Desiigner, Joey Badass, Bobby Shmurda, Young M.A., A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Flatbush Zombies and others, who have all gone on to achieve some level of mainstream success. Cardi B continues this promising trend that has kept the birthplace of hip hop relevant lately.
By seamlessly navigating through multiple career changes over the course of the last few years, Cardi B has made it difficult for even her biggest haters and critics to question her work ethic. "What bitch working as hard as me?" she asks on "Bodak Yellow," right after reminding listeners that she gifted them with two mixtapes in a six-month period. It should also be acknowledged that the newfound fame and accompanying fortunes haven't altered who she presents herself to be. Yes, she's officially famous now, but she'll still jump in a fight for her sis. With no signs of her money moves slowing up or her switching up on her fans on the horizon, Cardi B stands tall as the hottest rapper in the streets of New York.
Watch REVOLT TV tonight (Sept. 20) at 9 p.m. for more on why Cardi B may be the hottest MC in New York City.