Aggressive but celebratory, the beat doesn’t just drop. It rises in your spirit.
And when you hear Cardi B rap, “Look, I don't dance now, I make money moves,” a thing happens.
No matter where you are, you sing along. I reached peak joy at a Sunday brunch last summer. When “Bodak Yellow” came on, everyone joined the Choir of Cardi B. The restaurant, if only for a song, was the Church of Black Girl Joy.
That single, a five-time, multi-platinum banger, meant that her Atlantic Records debut album, "Invasion of Privacy" was already certified gold when it dropped on Friday. And it's produced by KCK's own Anthony "J. White Did It" White — who has three songs on the project. ("I Like It" is a winner.)
The brilliance of Cardi B delves beyond "Bodak Yellow." She dispelled the curse of the one-hit wonder earlier this year when she became the first woman with five of the top 10 hits on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in a single week.
We love Cardi because she's absolutely herself. There's no censoring or adhering to patriarchal rules of what it means to be a lady.
As she raps on her duet with Chance the Rapper, Cardi B really is living her "Best Life." And watching her is a meditation on self-love.
Her tongue-trilling interview with Jimmy Fallon scored over 16 million views on YouTube, and she'll return to be the first ever co-host of "The Tonight Show" with him Monday night.
She'll also perform on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend. I hope we get a skit, too. Her wholehearted honesty often leads to humor.
When she hit that Grammy red carpet in January, she told E! News' Giuliana Rancic how she really felt about her two nominations and performing on the big stage: "I feel nervous, overwhelmed, everything. ... I feel it all, whoo! Butterflies in my stomach and vagina!”
This 25-year-old is raw and unedited. Not everyone likes it. She's been criticized for not being black enough, for speaking out on the erasure of video vixens and strippers in the #MeToo movement and for being a former exotic dancer herself.
When the Bronx-born Afro-Latina raps about how she don’t dance now, she’s talking about her past as a stripper. When we sing along, we’re talking about the dance we, as black professionals, have to do to get by.
As black women, we have to code-switch. We are always mindful of mixed company and “acting right.” We are rarely allowed to make mistakes, take the mask off and still win.
But when we make it, too often the expectations only get higher. Oprah can’t even be inspiring and empowered without being expected to run for president.
Cardi, in all of her flaws and unapologetic swag, is a liberation. She’s learning as she goes. Like all of us. And she's turning the status quo on its head. In order to succeed, female rappers are often expected to go pop. Cardi is serving raps.
The name of her album is "Invasion of Privacy" for a reason. People are used to owning celebrities, especially ones with roots in reality television (VH1's "Love & Hip Hop). Everyone wants to know about her engagement to Migos member Offset and his infidelity. She's working things out with him. They want to know if she's pregnant. She's not answering. She's not just his fiancée. She's his musical peer.
So talk about the music. She's not worried about what we want. She is about maintaining control — professionally, personally and sexually. At one point on "I Do" with SZA, Cardi reveals that she says her own name during sex. Cheers to that. Cardi will not be owned.
People say we need more Michelle Obamas and fewer Cardi Bs. Why can’t we root for them all? Amara La Negra: Yaaaas. Tiffany Haddish: She ready. Just #Blackgirlmagic them all.
We can’t fix negative perceptions by policing our blackness. Free it. Nurture it.
Watching women win by being themselves, owning their brokenness and not allowing their blackness to be controlled? Yes ma’am.
Everyone depicts success as a corporate job or marriage or education or activism. But in so many ways, waking up in your blackness and living your truth is a resistance and a triumph.
Like yoga and the spa, black girl joy is self-care, too. So nah. We don’t dance now. We make freedom moves.