Cardi B’s song of the summer, the bold “Bodak Yellow,” is No. 1 in the country
The former grocery clerk and reality show star makes history on the pop charts
UPDATE — Cardi B has topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart with the bold and beautiful “Bodak Yellow.” The Dominican/Trinidadian millennial from the Bronx who started posting hilariously realistic clips of her life and her loves on Instagram, who quit her job at a grocery store to dance in strip clubs, who became the unexpected breakout star of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop and who recently stunned with her star-shine at New York Fashion Week has bumped Taylor Swift from the coveted top spot. Cardi’s “Bodak” is the first No. 1 pop song by a woman rapper since Iggy Azalea’s 2014 “Fancy” (featuring Charli XCX). And in terms of songs from women rappers (with no features), there has only ever been Fergie’s 2006 “London Bride” and Lauryn Hill’s eternal 1998 “Doo Wop (That Thing).” Nicki Minaj has come very close, both with 2014’s No. 2 “Anaconda” and 2011’s No. 3 “Super Bass.” We spoke to Cardi B when we launched, right about when she was starting to take over the world.
Cardi B is a rapper, a songwriter, a reality show star and a social star. And the former grocery store cashier will tell you she never had plans to become even slightly famous. But much like rising entrepreneur Blac Chyna, Cardi, 23, whose given name is Belcalis Almanzar, wasn’t looking to work in strip clubs for too long — she wanted to become a rap artist. During her standout stint on Love & Hip Hop: New York Season 6 (the season was one of the top-rated cable shows in the coveted 18-49 demographic), she held back no parts of her rambunctious self.
And as Cardi rose from supporting character to fan favorite, her Instagram followers weren’t shocked. Her addictive Instagram videos are filled with raw life and love advice — along with rants directed at haters in her comments section. She’ll have her hair in a towel, or she might be putting on makeup, and she’s just talking about relationships, sex, or just how she’s feeling on any given day. People relate, and share with friends. This is Cardi’s true brilliance: She leverages her wit and her vulnerability and people relate to it. Now, she’s using her star power to help support her family, travel, perform and invest in the career she really wants. At an Italian restaurant on New York City’s Upper East Side, Cardi talks about the Boston Red Sox, Their Eyes Were Watching God and the making of her pretty excellent and fairly feminist mixtape, Gangsta B—- Vol. 1.
What is your most frequently used emoji?
The heart face one, or the one with the rolling eyes.
Your favorite team?
I’m not really into sports, however, I do love the Boston Red Sox because my family are big fans. My father’s side of the family is Dominican, and Dominicans love the Boston Red Sox.
Fave meme of all time?
The Kermit the Frog one. A lot of people do memes about my face and I think that’s funny.
What about your last Google search?
Most of the time I google animals. Right now, I’m obsessed with the grizzly bear. They’re savages — like they could really, really kill you. But [my searching] was more the New York City Department of Corrections. My man is in jail so I wanted to see when he’s coming out. He told me a certain date but I wanted to know if he was lying. He wasn’t lying.
What is your favorite platform?
I always like Instagram. That’s the one that started me, but right now I hate it because I can’t express my feelings the way I want to. When I do, it’s supposedly inappropriate. Instagram doesn’t approve, and they want to delete my page. That’s why right now I’m kind of liking Twitter, because I can say whatever the f— I want. I can curse, I can say how I feel, I can express how I feel. I feel like I’m in Instagram jail all the time. I don’t feel like I’m being inappropriate. I’m not showing no a–, no t——. I’m just talking they way I talk and it’s feels like sometimes people report and report and report my Instagram. I never get too comfortable.
Why did you start recording Instagram videos?
I had like 5,000 followers — I just wanted to make them laugh. I started doing videos on the things I talk about with my friends. And out of nowhere they just start reposting and … it just blew up. I never would’ve thought I’d be famous. Should I call myself famous? I never thought I would become that. It was never my plan in life.
So, you’ve finally gotten to the point where you could make a mixtape. Where did you record it?
My manager has a studio in Queens, [New York]. Every single time I would go, I would write, I would record and then we said we need another producer. I needed a producer that had time for me, and had the same hard-life story as me. I wanted to keep my music as ‘hood as myself. I wanted music that portrays my past. I don’t try to take out the fact that I used to be a dancer. I’m not tryna take out the fact of my ‘hood ways, and I’m not tryna take [out of] my music that the underdog is me. I’ve always been the underdog, always been underestimated.
What type of music are you listening to right now?
I’m very, very versatile. For example, it took me three hours to see my dude in Albany, [New York] right, and throughout the entire ride, I listened to straight ’80s music. And then I could go to listening to reggae, then I could go to listening to soca. Or Spanish rap. Or I could listen to Spanish music from the ’70s. I can listen to up-north hip-hop, or down-south hip-hop. It depends. The last thing I was listening to was Junior Kelly.
Do you have a favorite book?
What do you like to read about?
Ever since I was in middle school, I like to read about actual facts. There was a time I was infatuated with presidents and only presidents, until I got into high school and saw that presidents don’t have as much power now as they used to before. But everything that has to do with war, I’m into it. Everything that has to do with the development of a country I’m into it.
What do you think about the presidential election right now?
It’s ridiculous — the most ridiculous election that I think I’ve ever been alive to witness.
Do you have a trend right now that you really like?
One thing I’m really passionate about is that I’ve always braided my hair. When I used to be a dancer, I felt like I didn’t make money when I had my hair straight because I looked like everybody else. I always did two braids, or a lot of cornrows. I think when people think of me they think about Cardi with the braids. Like, that’s what they think. So when I do see the braid trend right now I can’t help but to laugh.
What was the last panel that you were a part of?
Women on the Move at NYU [New York University].
You told me that you never thought you’d be getting this kind of recognition. Do you feel like you’re handling it well?
Forty percent well. I wonder … when is it gonna get easier? Sometimes I think to myself, maybe in three or four months I’ll get adjusted. But every three or four months, I just keep getting more popular, and it just gets even harder.
Where does your courage come from?
My courage? It comes from the streets. You will never get your point across, you will never feel satisfied, if you never say what you feel.
What will you always be the champion of?
I’ll be the champion of being the realest. I really feel like I’m the realest. Everybody’s always saying they wanna be like this person, or that person. I want to be like my own god damned self. A lot of people say, ‘I don’t like Cardi, but her music is pretty good.’ And that is the goal. A lot of people ask me how far do I want my music career to go? And it’s like, ‘Obviously, b—- I want it to go to the top.’ I wanna be the best of the best, but if I don’t, I want people to be at least like, ‘Yo, her music was great.’ That’s the goal.