Social media celebrity turned trap-rap queen, Cardi B, has been dominating internet hip-hop culture since the arrival of her smash hit “Bodak Yellow” last summer. However, until early this year, it was hard to judge whether Cardi had what it took to turn the monumental success of her breakout single into sustained relevance or if she would end up a minor footprint in rap’s current frontier. Invasion of Privacy sets out to erase any doubt in Cardi’s commercial viability, claiming her spot as a perennial rap star in the peak of the trap era.
Cardi’s rapid ascension to the top of the charts was no small feat. With “Bodak Yellow” she became the first solo female rapper to top the Billboard charts since Lauryn Hill in 1998. That stat alone deserves endless praise. Fast forward to Invasion of Privacy – over 250,000 first week album sales later and suddenly the thought of Cardi B being a one-hit wonder seems like a silly one to have had in the first place.
On her bold debut, Cardi wastes little time asserting her prowess as a queen MC. “Get Up 10,” the album’s aggressive opening track, features some of Cardi’s most convincing flows. “Started speaking my mind and tripled my views,” she raps fiercely over riveting sirens and 808s. She swaps motivational bars for braggadocio and slang on “Drip” and “Bickenhead,” the former of which is another redundant trap melody in the Migos canon of rap (although not entirely boring).
Invasion‘s production doesn’t stray far from Atlanta’s current music trends, but there’s no denying Cardi sounds most at home over rhythmic, uptempo trap beats. “Money Bag” and “Bartier Cardi” follow in that exact vein: amped and catchy choruses, tough and infectious adlibs. Her slick and abrasive melodies are complimented nicely by 21 Savage’s cold delivery on “Bartier.”
As confident and hungry as she sounds, there’s also admirable moments of vulnerability throughout the record to remind us of Cardi’s unique journey to the top. She documents her uncertainty in close relationships on “Be Careful,” also referencing her struggles as a stripper on “Best Life.”
An abundance of guest appearances make Invasion feel like the big commercial album it was written to be. While Migos and YG do little to add variety to the songs they appear on, Chance the Rapper and J Balvin bring enough stylistic variety to make their respective tracks enjoyable. Cardi also leans towards R&B tendencies on multiple occasions. The singing is not particularly bad – Kehlani has a great feature on “Ring” and Cardi holds her own on “Thru Your Phone” – but the message in both of these songs evokes an unappealing millennial pettiness.
SZA’s appearance on “I Do” also comes across as rather childish. Yet these themes of insecurity, social media drama and unabashed independence strike a major chord with younger audiences. It’s as much a calculated effort from Cardi’s camp as it is artistic ability, but it is a recipe for success nonetheless. Those efforts, after all, created “Bodak Yellow” – which when it shows up as the fourth track on the album, it sounds as menacing as ever.
Behind all the internet comotion surrounding Cardi B, Invasion of Privacy presents her as a genuine and motivated artist. She makes it known that her music (and money) means a lot to her, but she clearly doesn’t take herself too seriously, which may help her stick around in the long run. Her writers and producers have a great deal to do with the strength of her first album, but Cardi still deserves her own due. She is undoubtedly skilled at rapping and has overcome significant circumstances to become one of the most recognizable figures in the mainstream. 2018 will always remember Cardi B.