“My little 15 minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” Cardi B asks daringly on the close of her debut album, Invasion of Privacy.
Her 15 minutes has 2018 turned into a Cardi B kind of year, as was 2017. And through her ascent to worldwide fame, she’s maintained her charming sense of humor and bodacious truths. Where her mixtapes, Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, were mostly gritty and slightly unrefined, Invasion of Privacy showcases the Bronx native’s versatility, skill and finesse over a perfect length of 13 songs.
The intro, “Get Up 10,” is a “Dreams and Nightmares”-style anthem, where Cardi slowly winds up from lone, weary piano keys and air horns, framing her anecdotes of rags, to a shark-like, heavy-hitting flow about her riches, over almost as heavy Southside-produced drums. Much like a shark, Cardi is hungry for blood, and her knack for trash talk is thrilling: “The thing on my hip whip bitches into shape/ that’s what I call a fuckin’ waist trainer.” On “Best Life”: “N—-, you a pussy and a rat, you like Tom and Jerry.” On “I Do”: “I’m a gangsta in a dress, I’m a bully in the bed/ Only time that I’m a lady is when I lay these hoes to rest.”
When it comes to female empowerment, threatening other women may seem counterintuitive, but Invasion of Privacy perfectly encapsulates this concept at its core: Do what you want, ladies. She flips Project Pat’s “Chickenhead” (replacing the “ch” with a “b”) from its back-and-forth format of Pat deriding a woman for chasing after his money and sex, to a call to go and get money (“guap guap, get some money/ guap guap get some bread”) and sex while keeping the ball in your court.
Cardi runs a marathon with her varied styles and flows. Her radio singles (“Drip,” “Bodak Yellow,” “Bartier Cardi”) are more choppy, packing her charisma into short and sweet deliveries. She’s more easygoing on the Latin-infused, J Balvin- and Bad Bunny-featured “I Like It,” which samples Pete Rodriguez’ 1967 hit “I Like it Like That.”
“Be Careful” and the Kehlani-assisted “Ring” are a relationship-centric sequence of events, rooted in resentment on the former and pride on the latter. It’s a softer side of Cardi. But this builds to sheer anger on “Thru Your Phone,” a humorous, yet vivid picture of revenge. “Bon appetit!” she screams after saying she’d put a teaspoon of bleach into her man’s bowl of cereal. There’s even a nod to Beyoncé’s Lemonade. So the last track “I Do” (which pleasantly inaugurates trap SZA) is an emancipating conclusion to insecurity.
Perhaps the best testimony of Cardi’s growth is halfway through on “Best Life.” It’s a ray of light, featuring the always-effervescent Chance the Rapper, where she trades confrontation for acceptance of the highs and lows that come her way. It’s hard not to cheer her on when hearing, “Knock me down nine times, but I get up 10.”