- 04 Jul 19
As the countdown to Longitude gathers pace, Ed Power looks at the unlikely rise, and controversial celebrity adventures, of the remarkable Cardi B.
Longitude has never seen a headliner quite like Cardi B before. The stripper-turned-reality-TV-star-turned-chart topping rapper is more than simply a force to be reckoned with. She’s an extraordinary powerhouse, who refuses to follow any rules other than her own. That was clear from the moment she broke through with her June 2017 chart-topper ‘Bodak Yellow’. The song was catchy to an almost unseemly degree. It was also historic, becoming the first single by a female artist to hit No.1 in the US since Lauryn Hill achieved the feat in 1998. It turned out that Cardi B was just getting started. Twelve months later, she floored us with long-play debut Invasion Of Privacy. The record brimmed with single-mindedness and confidence – remarkable considering she had assembled it while having a baby with Migos’s Offset (they would later separate, and then get back together).
Since then, Cardi B has continued to notch up one success after another, even as she found time to feud with Nicki Minaj (the beef allegedly prompted by an offensive third party tweet that Minaj had ‘liked’). Her crowning moment came recently when she waltzed away with the Album Of The Year gong at the Black Entertainment Television awards (for Invasion Of Privacy, natch). That followed on from the Grammy she won for Best Rap LP, beating out an otherwise all-male line-up of Mac Millar, Nipsey Hussle, Travis Scott and Pusha T.
“I feel like my life is a fairytale and I’m a princess – rags to riches, people trying to sabotage,” Cardi B told Harper’s Bazaar earlier this year. In the accompanying photo-shoot she posed in a black dress on the back of a rearing stallion. The image encapsulates her in many ways: she’s over the top, but knows how to maintain her poise in an environment where others might wobble. Cardi B’s real name is Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar. She was born in the Bronx in 1992. Her father is a cab driver from the Dominican Republic; her mother, from Trinidad, worked as a cashier. Growing up, her parents were strict, so Cardi found creative ways of rebelling.She joined a gang and, then, to pay for her course at Borough of Manhattan Community College, took a job at the Amish Market in Tribeca (a trendy food joint that has absolutely nothing to do with old-timey types in wide-brim hats talking like Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln).
One day a manager mentioned she’d make more at the gentlemen’s club across the street. She was intrigued. She checked out the action and decided to work as a stripper. In 2013, while still working at the club, she appeared on the VH1 reality series Love And Hip Hop. That she has star quality was never in doubt. She quickly became a cult TV and social media star. Two years later, she joined the series as a full-time cast-member. She really was off to the races. Love And Hip Hop led reggae luminary Shaggy to offer a cameo on the remix of his single ‘Boom Boom’. And then, suddenly, there she was: a music industry contender. In 2017, having signed to Atlantic, ‘Bodak Yellow’ arrived and promptly dislodged Taylor Swift from the Billboard Hot 100. A star was born. “I thought I’d get a certain number of YouTube views, make money off that, whatever,” is how she assessed her early adventures in music when interviewed by The Guardian.
Only later – with ‘Bodak Yellow’, really – did it dawn on her that she was in this for the long haul. “I want to be an artist, a real artist,” she commented. “I don’t just want to do this for temporary money.” No chance of that now, as fans will see at Longitude. She arrives as the woman of the hour.