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Cardi B releases ‘Be Careful’: ‘The karma for you,’ she warns, ‘is gon’ be who you end up with’

With her bodacious new single, the new star proves her authenticity — and love — are not to be taken for granted

I wanna get married / Like the Currys / Steph and Ayesha s–t / But we more like Belly / Tommy and Keisha s–t.

— Cardi B

Here’s the reality about potential they don’t tell you about — eventually you’re going to have to cash in on it. That, or be etched in history as just another person who couldn’t face up to it. For Cardi B, the feel-good hip-hop sensation who commandeered 2017 with her international smash “Bodak Yellow,” her time to cash in is now.

The release of her newest single, “Be Careful,” serves as a warning to a lover, presumably fiancé Offset, whose infidelity issues have become too much to ignore. The karma for you, she warns, is gon’ be who you end up with. The song sets in motion the most important week in the career of the Bronx, New York-born rapper. Her debut album, Invasion of Privacy, is set for release on April 6.

What “Careful” provides is insight on how Cardi B handles pressure. For an entire year, the narrative around Cardi B has been: She’s the people’s champ. She’s the social media, modern-day version of Biggie Smalls’ classic “from ashy to classy” line. A woman not only thriving but dominating in one of the most male-dominated industries in the world, the music business. Cardi B is a songwriter and performer who not only ruled Migos’ “Motorsport” alongside perceived rival Nicki Minaj but also gave Bruno Mars’ “Finesse” a steroid shot that propelled it to the upper echelon of Billboard‘s standings. Her appearance on G-Eazy’s “No Limit” is one of last year’s most fierce features. Cardi B is the lone Love & Hip-Hop star who actually used the studio time its other cast members claimed to use.

Potential is one of the world’s greatest blessings. Remember Kanye West’s searing question on 2007’s “I Wonder” (from his landmark Graduation)? You ever wonder what it all really mean, he asks. You wonder if you’ll ever find your dreams? It’s easy to pray for a blessing, a breakthrough or an awakening. It’s a completely different task to make it actually work for you.

Cardi is a songwriter and performer who not only ruled Migos’ “Motorsport” alongside perceived rival Nicki Minaj, but also gave Bruno Mars’ “Finesse” a steroid shot that propelled it to the upper echelon of Billboard‘s standings.

For months, several questions regarding Cardi B’s future have lingered. Where’s the album? Can she ever properly follow up “Bodak Yellow”? How much of an influence is Offset? And while it’s unfair to compare Cardi B to her women counterparts in hip-hop, it’s explicitly clear that while she isn’t the only woman with enough charisma and skills to command attention and respect (look no further than Rapsody), Cardi B is the one, at least right now, with the kind of wide appeal that puts her eye to eye with her male counterparts. But it can’t be ignored: Cardi B’s 2017-18 freshman season aligns with Nicki Minaj’s 2010, Remy Ma’s 2006, Lauryn Hill’s 1998, Missy Elliott, Lil Kim and Foxy Brown’s 1996, Queen Latifah’s 1989, MC Lyte’s 1988 and recent Netflix darling Roxanne Shante’s 1984. However stylistically, lyrically or commercially different, this is Cardi B’s foundation, and the shoulders she perches upon.

With so much talk surrounding whether Invasion of Privacy can overcome its tidal wave of expectation, there’s an angle that has become the elephant in the room. What if it actually exceed its promise? What if Cardi B is not a one-, or two-, or three-hit wonder? She’s comfortable pulling from and making magic of the controversies of her life: You want some random b—- up in your bed?/ She don’t even know your middle name/ Might steal your chain, she raps on “Careful.” This is authenticity, the stuff stars are made of.

“The key to staying on top of things is treat everything like it’s your first project, nah’m saying?” Biggie Smalls once said. “Like it’s your first day, like, back when you was an intern. That’s how you treat things. Just stay hungry.”

Cardi B seems hungry.

Justin Tinsley is a culture and sports writer for The Undefeated. He firmly believes “Cash Money Records takin’ ova for da ’99 and da 2000” is the single-most impactful statement of his generation.