A confident and compelling debut from the Bronx rapper
From stripper to chart-topper via reality TV stardom, Cardi B‘s story is enthralling and she knows it. “This some real-life fairytale Binderella shit,” she informs us on ‘Best Life’. It would be impossible to divorce her story from this debut album, because in a way, the story is the album. The Bronx rapper’s incredible ascent fuels every fabulously braggadocious bar.
After her breakthrough single ‘Bodak Yellow’ dethroned Taylor Swift from the Billboard Hot 100 summit in September, the woman born Belcalis Almanzar could presumably have opted for a pop pivot. But though she guested on Bruno Mars‘ recent R&B hit ‘Finesse’, she’s kept ‘Invasion Of Privacy’ hip-hop. It’s filled with taut, trap-influenced midtempo beats over which Cardi celebrates the trappings of her hard-earned lifestyle and generally asserts her superiority. “You in the club just to party,” she sneers on ‘Bodak Yellow’. “I’m there, I get paid a fee.” There are more melodic moments, such as ‘I Like It’, whose sample from ’60s boogaloo hit ‘I Like It Like That’ salutes her Latin heritage, and ‘Ring’, a dreamy collaboration with Kehlani. But mostly this album succeeds on attrition and attitude, much like ‘Bodak Yellow’ did.
Cardi B’s rapping may not be as elastic as some of her peers’, but she’s endlessly daring, comparing her breasts to Beyoncé‘s twins on ‘Money Bag’ and asking Rihanna and Chrissy Teigen for a threesome on ‘She Bad’. She also matches the randiest male rapper with her sexual agency. When she raps “Give him some vag’, I’m gettin’ a bag” on ‘Bickenhead’, it’s one of several ‘Wow, she really went there’ moments. But this doesn’t mean ‘Invasion Of Privacy’ becomes one-note. The way she flips from righteous fury to plaintive desperation on ‘Thru Your Phone’, a track about her partner’s infidelity, is thrilling and palpably emotional.
Sure, she name-drops Fendi so often that she’d better get a discount next time she’s on Fifth Avenue. But overall, this is a remarkably confident and compelling debut from a superstar who’s put in the graft. “My little 15 minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” she boasts nonchalantly on final track ‘I Do’. On this evidence, it’s going to last a lot longer yet.