Cardi B has written a holy text for self-assurance, and its name is Invasion of Privacy.
The rapper started gaining attention in 2015 as an internet celebrity and cast member of “Love & Hip Hop: New York.” Since then, she has signed with Atlantic Records and released two complete mixtapes, Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1 and Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 2, in the span of less than a year. She was bold; she was brash; she was explicit and unapologetic about it. Then “Bodak Yellow” came out — her debut single — and when it captured the nation’s attention, it didn’t just show us exactly who Cardi B was going to be. It showed us who she already was: independent, brave and packing talent in every single word.
Invasion of Privacy does not disappoint. From the curtain-drawing opener, “Get Up 10,” all the way through the final epilogue, “I Do,” Cardi B’s debut studio album is an explosion of bravado, irresistible beats and lyrical mastery. There isn’t a single track that does not demand the attention of the listener. Cardi sings about money and sex, she disses her enemies and references her relationship with Offset of Migos, and every step of the way, she has something to flaunt. Maybe this is part of why she has registered so much with the public as an agent of empowerment: She’s an expert, and listening to her music, you can’t help but want to be an expert, too.
The album makes use of its many featuring tracks, pairing Cardi with well-known artists like Migos, Chance The Rapper, Kehlani, 21 Savage and SZA. In all of these cases, the artists’ talents are well matched. However, the real appeal of the album comes from Cardi herself, who fills in every track with the same insistent rhythms that made singles like “Bodak Yellow” and “Bartier Cardi” so popular. She repeats herself with new intonations, using hypnotic beats as her backdrops, making each line even more impactful than the one before it.
The lyrics are nothing to underestimate, either. Cardi slides from one line into the next with words so deftly chosen, it’s necessary to listen to each song more than once in order to fully appreciate the lexical complexity. “Only time that I’m a lady’s when I lay these hoes to rest,” from “I Do,” has to be the freshest pun of the entire year so far. And then there’s the title of the song, which sets up expectations that the song will have something to do with marriage, only to knock them down with the chorus: “I do / What I like, I do, I do.” From “I got enough bras, y’all ain’t gotta support me” in “Get Up 10” to Chance The Rapper’s line about “(turning) all my L’s into lessons” in “Best Life,” the wordplay that spans the entire album is artful and sharp.
As unafraid as Cardi B is of baring her confrontational side, she also doesn’t shy away from the more personal. In “Best Life,” she calls out her haters: “‘Cardi B is so problematic’ is the hashtag / I can’t believe they wanna see me lose that bad.” But “Be Careful” is probably her best example of vulnerability, a tender track in which Cardi warns her lover, “My heart is like a package with a fragile label on it, be careful with me.” With questions like, “Do you know what you doin’? / Whose feelings that you’re hurtin’ and bruisin’? / You gon’ gain the whole world / But is it worth the girl that you’re losin’?” and promises that the song is “not a threat, it’s a warning,” “Be Careful” is where Cardi proves that she can draw just as much strength from vulnerability as she can from anywhere else.
Just like Cardi, Invasion of Privacy is impossible to shake out of one’s mind. She’s soft on “Be Careful,” imperious and explosive on “Bickenhead” and unstoppable all the way through. The album makes full use of her talents and her almost unrivaled personality and bravery. One could say that now that Cardi B is famous, her talent isn’t going anywhere, but in a sense, that would be wrong: It’s going straight up, with no sign of stopping.