We’re back again with another installment of 5 Chances To Convince Me, where a fan delivers five pieces of content to a skeptic about an artist to — hopefully — change their outlook, or at the very least inspire a second chance. This time we’re flipping it on you with Jeff Dring representing the fan, while Riley Wallace dons the skeptic hat.
This time, we’ll be looking at the lady of the hour — Miss Cardi B.
Jeff: Cardi B makes me feel good. Her energy is contagious. Her songs, especially “Bodak Yellow,” ring in your head and her numbers don’t lie. Sure, she hasn’t had a string of hits yet, but what she has done is take her brand of Bronx brashness to the next level and the top of the Billboard charts. Her fans are rabid, and unlike her female contemporaries, she couldn’t care less about beef. This chick is about her bread, and who can fault her for that?
Before “Bodak Yellow” became the summer’s clear runaway smash, she was lighting up YouTube with freestyles like “Red Barz” and “Lick” with her guy Offset.
Her realness is hard to ignore. She oozes attitude, and while that might put some people off, it’s the backbone of Hip Hop. Swagger is necessary and Cardi’s cup runneth over.
Riley, why are you so afraid to hop on the Cardi bandwagon?
Riley: One thing you can’t fake is charisma. Cardi B is so charismatic and entertaining that you just can’t help but feel drawn to her. She feels like that one girl we all had in our class back in high school. She is an underdog story and has made a career off of proving people wrong.
Nothing but respect for her.
That being said, “Bodak Yellow” is a great song, but it’s just that — one song. Her catalog is filled with an abundance of tired clichés and trash emoticons. Be honest, “Bodak” isn’t a lyrical masterpiece — or anything that could be remotely considered original. She admittedly bit the flow, which makes me wonder if you could just copy/paste anyone on this monster beat and have it be as dope. I do concede Cardi’s personality ultimately sells it.
Her song is clicking, and it’s fun to write “since Lauryn Hill” in headlines when describing her recent Billboard spot. But want to know another woman who topped the Billboard Hot 100 (albeit with a feature billed on the track)? Iggy Azalea with her 7x-platinum single “Fancy.”
Numbers didn’t lie there, either.
There’s a familiar narrative that I have to love her music because she’s a woman who came up, but there are plenty of super talented women that I love who don’t get that shot.
If we’re arguing Cardi as a person, then let’s high five and walk away. She’s awesome, and if she made The Cardi B Reality Show, I’d watch it.
I’m just not sold on her music. “Bodak” is a good song, but she’s going to have to release a substantial body of quality work and display a lot of growth and maintain longevity before we can give her this crown that everyone seems so eager to award her.
The game is fickle, and it’s only a matter of time before 14-year-old Bhad Bhabie — who has already cracked Billboard twice with only seven songs to her credit — will make her way to the top.
Topping the Billboard Hot 100 is impressive, but let’s see her scale the Billboard 200 album chart for all the right reasons.
I’m not afraid to hop on the bandwagon. I would just rather see where it’s headed first.
Everyone Loves A Rags To Riches Story
Jeff: Cardi’s story makes it hard to root against her. She’s a kid from the Bronx with a cashier mom and a cab-driving dad. She stacked money stripping for five years while fine-tuning her craft in the booth.
Admittedly, she’s not the most versatile MC (yet), but few drop a debut record full of gems unless their name is Nasir Jones, and Nas she ain’t. What she is, though, is a star on the rise, nowhere near her peak with nothing but money on her mind and the star power to make it happen.
Her most significant business move was joining the cast of Love & Hip Hop. Reality TV is a drug, and Americans can’t get enough. Cardi’s stint on the show propelled her larger-than-life personality and simultaneously allowed her to market her brand. She’s been savvy from the jump, and who are we to knock that hustle? She’s building an empire from absolutely nothing, and that’s what this country has always been about.
Riley: Everybody LOVES rags to riches stories, indeed. The American Dream is something all rappers aspire to achieve — and our genre has been on a paper chase since the day Hip Hop became commercially viable.
It’s why we all became fans of 50 Cent too.
But her story — like her actual music — isn’t the most original thing we’ve seen; there have been plenty of artists who have struggled their way up from the bottom. I mean, Eve and Trina were also strippers at one point in their lives. Azealia Banks too.
I’ll once again state that nobody can knock her hustle. I mean, she just won Hustler of the Year at the BET Hip Hop Awards. Also, you’re right; Love & Hip Hop allowed her to use her charismatic presence to her advantage, but none of that makes her music great. With the success of “Bodak Yellow” and her track record, it’s very unlikely that her debut will stray too far from that formula.
Although she noted at a recent show that she could and will continue to bite and body everyone’s flows, there’s a high probability of a ‘meh’ final product. I’m sure it will still do big numbers regardless of originality.
“Bodak Yellow” Is A Monster Hit
Jeff: While “Bodak Yellow” might be considered lyrically lackluster if you hop on Genius and break down the bars, it’s PERFECT for 2017. It’s a concise, hook-heavy energy blast, and anyone with an ear toward the game understands that high-energy singles pay the bills. Kids want to turn up. Clubs want to turn up. Ladies want to turn up. And “Bodak Yellow” delivers on all fronts.
One-hit-wonders used to be a dime a dozen. Today, even weaker artists — artists who may seem to cool off after a hot single — have greater mass appeal and instant access to their fanbase thanks to social media. This blind devotion translates to gold in the world of streaming platforms and YouTube plays. Twitter and Instagram go hard for Cardi B (she has 1.25 million and 11.2 million followers on the platforms, respectively) making it virtually impossible for her to fade away after this summer’s wild exposure.
Even if the rest of Cardi’s debut falls short (and remember we haven’t heard any of it yet), she’s got rabid fans that will champion another single into the spotlight. Cardi’s gang is strong — so strong they propelled her to the top of Billboard, dethroning Taylor Swift along the way. While her staying power has yet to be seen (or heard), the buzz here is undeniable, setting Cardi up for a longer reign than you might think. Don’t fight it, Riley, just ride the wave.
Riley: Is “Bodak Yellow” a smash hit? Yes. There’s no way to argue against that.
If riding the wave means liking the song, then yes, I’ve surfed the wave all the way back to shore a few times now. However, summer is over, and — in my mind — the song is starting to become stale and overplayed. It’s starting to become that girl who went on a Caribbean vacation last month who refuses to take her braids out.
I have zero idea what she has in the cannon, and her people are swearing up and down that they have a record even bigger than “Bodak” ready to go, so who knows what the future holds.
I agree, her following is strong to the point that she may be able to drop just about anything and have it chart. That doesn’t mean it’s good, though. I mean, Iggy Azalea also has a rabid fan base — shit, Tyga has 12.4 million followers on IG alone.
Do I think she’s going anywhere? Probably not — which is fine! Again, I find her entertaining. I just take a hard pass at having to hear her rap for extended periods of time.
Cardi’s Positivity Is Contagious
Jeff: While we wait for her album to drop, let’s talk about her brimming positivity. She is 100% comfortable in her skin, allowing her to be Cardi B all the time. There isn’t another female rapper (dare I say ANY other rapper) who keeps it as real.
It’s hard to imagine her flipping a switch when the camera’s on. If you’re following her on IG, you know the camera is ALWAYS on. Rap is full of bullshit personas, but Cardi’s genuine approach is refreshing.
I love how shame isn’t in her vernacular. From her IG posts without makeup and wigs to her willingness to talk about her stripping past, Cardi has ascended by simply being herself. Dancing paid for her breasts and butt augmentation. How do I know that? Cardi told me. Thankfully, she pulls no punches.
Cardi isn’t trying to be a role model. She’s trying to get money. By doing it her way, she’s empowering a new generation of ladies to challenge the norms as she did. It just so happens that her unabashed hustle is the most impressive we’ve seen since Lil Kim came through and eventually outshined Junior M.A.F.I.A.
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Riley: Off the rip, let’s just acknowledge that she didn’t really “challenge the norms” in any way. Using reality TV as a springboard, being active on IG, borrowing flows and making music that simply fits into the general discourse of what’s popular at the moment is hardly unique.
She does little to push the envelope in any way.
That being said, we can agree that she doesn’t care at all what anyone thinks of her. She’s an open book and that’s what her ride-or-die fans find so endearing.
I ain't forcing no one to fwm, that is truth, you can stick with me thru it or be gone, regardless ima get what i gotta get done
— Cardi B (@lmCardiB) October 4, 2017
any bitch that thinks im worried about her is a dumb bitch that's over thinking
— Cardi B (@lmCardiB) October 5, 2017
I do admire that about her personality, and it’s a philosophy that I — as a father — would hope my own daughters inherit.
Jeff: Cardi doesn’t care who you call the Queen of Hip Hop as long as her name is ringing bells and the numbers stay up. People have been itching for her to call another female rapper out, but it hasn’t happened yet.
The perfectly predictable Hip Hop narrative would have Cardi coming at Nicki Minaj on some radio show freestyle. Don’t hold your breath. Rather than beef, Cardi remains relevant next to her female contemporaries rather than fighting to top them.
When asked about beef, Cardi kept it moving by stating, “I don’t have time to look at other women and what they’re doing. I’m myself.”
While that seems like a simple statement, it’s deeper than you think. Cardi’s desire to hover above the beef points at the larger issue. She wants to see more than one female top the charts, which challenges the age-old belief that there’s only room for one Queen of Hip Hop at a time.
Riley: Jeff, let’s just be 100%. In a bar-for-bar spat, there’s a high probability that Nicki Minaj would wash Cardi. In fact, there is a long line-up of female artists who could probably do the same. That being said, you’re right, she doesn’t seem to want any smoke. Most of the beef talk was strummed up by Nicki fanatics who may feel threatened by Cardi’s sudden rise to notoriety.
Based on her musical output, I’d say that the statement, “I don’t have time to look at other women and what they’re doing … I’m myself,” is only 100% factual if we’re talking about her personality alone.
But bottom line, she doesn’t seem to be using her platform to shit on anyone in particular (in the industry), but is rather spinning the context of the beef talk so that she is the rational one taking the high road, which is well played.
But, can we acknowledge how awkward she got when asked about Nicki on The Breakfast Club?
Jeff: The former Bronx stripper with the knockout body, brash attitude and quick wit wins every time.
We love a sassy, unpredictable star and Cardi fits the mold. Hell, she’s helping to carve a new mold. Women like her and Amber Rose aren’t ashamed to be sexy and promote a healthy sexual lifestyle. It’s going to shock some and trigger the “slut” talk, but it also initiates the opposing argument, one that celebrates and accepts women for being who they are.
Lil Kim has made a career of talking dirty. Card, whose body of work to this point is largely unproven, will have to bust her plastic butt to reach those heights. But all signs are trending in a positive direction for the rising star. She’s one or two more hits away. It’s no longer a discussion of “if” for Cardi B, but simply a matter of “when” that mega-stardom title will come.
Riley: You’re not going to get an argument from me, Jeff. She’s gotten further than a lot of people thought she would, which has made the vicarious journey especially sweet for her day ones.
Sex does indeed sell: Kim, Foxy, Trina and a host of others have made fruitful careers being comfortable with their sexuality. However, these artists all have a track record of creating hits.
I want to be clear again that my criticisms of Cardi have nothing to do with her personality, her sex or her extremely extroverted sexuality. Based on my listening habits, that would be pretty hypocritical. I just don’t think she’s musically in a position to be compared to artists like Nicki or Kim. But you know what? People had their doubts about both of those artists at one point, and they’ve gone on to make bonafide classics in the genre.
Back in 2016, after DX crowned her Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1 as the worst album of the year, we asked her to “step it up or step off.” In true Cardi fashion, she kept it moving and responded with a huge hit. Can she do it again?
We’ll know very soon, but I wish her nothing but the best.