Atwood Magazine’s writers discuss their reactions to Cardi B’s chart-topping debut album Invasion of Privacy.
Featured here are Jimmy Crowley, Sara Santora, Josh Weiner, Alex Killian, Luke Pettican, and Nicole Almeida.
Does Invasion of Privacy make you look at Cardi B any differently as an artist than when she’d just released “Bodak Yellow” and her first two mixtapes? How do you think it presents her as an artist?
Jimmy: Not really. This album seemed like the logical progression from where she began. I am shocked that “Bodak Yellow” and “Bartier Cardi” were both on the album, which seemed like an odd choice, since they seemed like they were successful singles on their own. The songs here seem more well thought out than her Gangsta Bitch Music mixtapes, which is nice even though I loved Vol. 2. She’s really set herself up as a female MC equivalent of rappers like Jay-Z or Kendrick. She seems more influenced and involved in that world than say Lil Uzi Vert or Lil Xan.
Sara: Not at all. This album is everything I was expecting to hear from Cardi B. It was obvious after hearing “Bodak Yellow” and “Bartier Cardi” that she had found her sound, and there was nothing on this album that was at all surprising. I think the only thing this album does is solidify her as a female voice to be reckoned with within the rap community. I think she has proven that women can rap, too, and not only can they do it well, but that they can be successful and be what the people want.
Josh: I’d had limited exposure to Cardi B’s music before listening to this album, but as best I can tell, it stays relatively true to the “new girl on the block, with an attitude” persona she’s displayed thus far. I think that’s fine– this is still the opening phase of her career, and she’s done a fine job of establishing an introductory image of herself for her listeners. We’ll see how that evolves as the years pass and the albums keep coming.
Alex: Having only really heard her singles and not much from her mixtapes, I think this album speaks to Cardi B’s range as an artist and rapper. She flaunts her signature flow over a variety of beats and also shows diversity in her feature choices; I was personally surprised but glad to see Chance the Rapper, Bad Bunny and J Balvin on the tracklist. I guess it makes me think of her differently in the sense that it shows more versatility than I’ve seen from her previously and than I may have expected.
Luke: I have to agree with most of the others and say not really. A lot of the songs on the album feel inescapably familiar to Bodak Yellow, especially her track ‘Money Bag’. Although this album is full of collaborations (including artists like Chance The Rapper and SZA) and that felt sort of unexpected to me, given the defiant individualistic style of Bodak Yellow. In these tracks, Cardi B really lets her collaborators make their mark in a refreshingly impactful way that’s not commonly seen on debut albums.
Nicole: I have to be honest and say that I only found out about Cardi B last summer and hadn’t really listened to her music until a few months ago. I don’t generally gravitate towards rap when I’m listening to music, and so when I realised I was actively seeking out Cardi’s music I realised she’d probably be an artist who would change my perception of – and how much I liked – rap. I absolutely loved “Bodak Yellow” and “Be Careful” when they were released (“Bartier Cardi” has grown on me in the context of the album but I’m not the biggest fan of 21 Savage’s verse on it) but I don’t think these two songs can do Cardi justice as an artist after listening to her record. What we get on Invasion of Privacy is so diverse and innovative, it’s like once you realise she will surprise you, you don’t know what to expect at all from the record, and she delivers a really diverse palette of sounds on the record. I think the album was the last thing Cardi needed to prove to people that she’s actually freaking great at what she’s doing, and that there’s absolutely no stopping her.
What are you favorite and least favorite songs off Invasion of Privacy, and why?
Jimmy: I really loved “Be Careful” and “Thru Your Phone.” Both are love songs but at opposite ends of a relationship. “Be Careful” is sort of vulnerable, a way of saying “I really like you, but I’m scared about trusting you.” It also has this sweet beat, and Cardi seems more reserved in her flow. She still can be rough and put her guard up, but it takes a little bit of subtext. “Thru Your Phone” is great, because Cardi embraces the fact that she went through some dude’s phone and found some stuff she didn’t like. It’s absolutely brutal. Nothing really stuck out as a particular worst song, but I felt like the inclusion of “Bodak Yellow”-a song I love-was sort of pandering. It really took me out of the album.
Sara: I’m with James in my love for “Be Careful.” I think that it’s great seeing Cardi embrace a vulnerability while simultaneously maintaining her tough exterior. She openly admits her fragility, and I think that it’s a song to which most women can relate. As a fan of Cardi’s personality and “I don’t give a f*ck” attitude, it was nice seeing this side of her. It made me feel as though I could still be strong, even when I’m feeling like the opposite. As far as my least favorite, I’m sad to say “Drip.” It pains me to say this because I wanted to love her collab with Migos, but I can’t get into it. It’s somewhat repetitive and I miss Cardi a lot while listening to the song.
Alex: “Be Careful” is the standout for sure, and such a smart single choice to hype the album since it’s so different from what we’re used to hearing from Cardi. I think the last verse on it is one of the strongest I’ve heard from her to date and I love it. Also dig “Thru Your Phone” for similar reasons. “Get Up 10” is another favorite because I think Cardi B is at her best when she’s wearing her heart on her sleeve and really owning and speaking on her come up and grind. Least favorite is far and away “She Bad” because I just can’t get into YG’s part on it and the beat doesn’t seem to click with the flow for me. I like “Drip” but I think Sara’s right in that we seem to lose Cardi with all the Migos verses on it.
Luke: I really like the album’s closing track “I Do,” which is a collaboration with the incredible SZA. Its’ synths make it one of the most sonically exciting tracks on the album. The lyrics also seem to summarize a lot of the messages conveyed throughout the album in an impassioned and intrepid way. For my least favourite song, I have to agree with James and say “Bodak Yellow.” In some ways, its’ inclusion ruins my enjoyment of the following track “Be Careful” which is one the strongest tracks on the album.
Nicole: I can’t get over “Get Up 10.” I literally hit play on the record and this incredible, empowering song starts and I was just floored by it. The lyrics, the instrumentals, the message behind, it all really got me excited for the rest of the album and made me feel powerful, like I was channelling Cardi or something (it’s cliché, but this song resonated with me so much). Other favourites are “Best Life,” “I Do,” and “Be Careful.” The song I like the least is “Drip,” even though it’s somewhat grown on me since the album’s release. I just don’t get Migos or the song, if anyone feels like explaining it to me please feel free, I’d love that.
How does the celebrity figure of Cardi B play into her music – does it change the way you see her music?
Jimmy: I think since Cardi is just now beginning to be massively famous outside of her music (SNL, Co-hosting Fallon), I didn’t listen to this thinking about celebrity. It works to Cardi’s advantage, because she always rapped about being massively popular. It seems like that old Lady Gaga quote about how fame is more just a state of mind, and you can will your way into celebrity.
Sara: I feel as though Cardi as a celebrity and Cardi as a rapper are almost the same. She operates with such transparency and all this album did was give more detail into her life she talks about.
Josh: Only so many MC’s have the privilege of being famous before their first LP is released. I suppose this gives Cardi B the right to a bit more braggadocio, a trait which definitely comes across well in this album.
Alex: It can be hard for me to separate the art from the artist, especially when it comes to sensitive issues like transphobia, and Cardi B is no exception. I think she as a person is very “no holds barred” and I know for damn sure she doesn’t give a fuck about what anyone has to say. I respect that a lot especially with her remaining such a strong and unwavering woman in the industry. I wish she would show a bit more regard for such serious issues and own up to / learn from her mistakes in a more direct way, but overall I’m happy Cardi B is winning. To come from nothing to an internet sensation onto a reality star to a chart-topping rapper is something I would never take lightly or lack respect for, and I think that resonates with a lot of her fans as well.
Nicole: I’m not a connoisseur of all things Cardi but the more profiles I read on her, the more I like her. It’s very difficult not to respect an unapologetic, strong woman who fought her way to the top and is not ashamed to talk about all her struggles and what she went through. For women, I think she’s an important figure because she shows us that it doesn’t matter where you come from or who you once were, you can be outspoken and real and don’t have to hide anything about your background, and you can still make it. She’s very unique in that sense, especially in being absolutely transparent and telling people what she thinks, and I consider that of extreme importance. I do know she’s made some controversial comments in the past, like Alex said, and that saddens me, but I still think that she represents something very significant for women.
One review of Invasion of Privacy called it the best debut album of the millennium – Do you agree or disagree?
Josh: Better than The College Dropout? Get Rich or Die Tryin’? Section 80? Channel Orange? I don’t think so. But it is an entertaining listen and a solid effort by an artist who had a lot to prove on her first LP after a slew of other celebrity activity.
Jimmy: No, for two reasons: 1. This is a great album, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It’s reflective of a style of hip hop that’s starting to recede to artists like Lil Uzi Vert. This has more in common with more traditional MCs. It’s great, but it’s not revolutionary. 2. A millennium is a long time. I’d hesitate to call anything the album of the millennium.
Sara: I would have to disagree. Again, I agree with James in that this doesn’t bring anything new. While it’s nice to hear a woman play into a genre that’s mostly male, the style of rap she’s working with isn’t fresh. It’s also worth mentioning that Cardi B’s two singles helped launch her into this fame, and her role as a celebrity figure no doubt helped the success of this album. The success is earned and I don’t want her leaving the spotlight anytime soon, but there’s a lot more at play here that helps the album than just the album itself.
Alex: It’s a no from me, dawg. I’ve been a somewhat reluctant listener of Cardi B’s from the start and I’ll admit this album changed my perspective on her for the better. But, as James said, a millennium is a long time and I don’t think there’s an objective way to truly decide on such a thing. I will say this album is another triumph for women in rap and I have no doubt it’s going to be big. Respect to Cardi.
Nicole: That’s definitely a huge statement. I can’t agree with it. She was destined for the #1 spot after the success of her singles, which does not mean her album doesn’t deserve to be there – it does, because it’s fantastic and diverse. Best of millennium is a bit too much. But I will say that this album made me actively, and happily, listen to and enjoy rap for the first time so it was probably a game changer for me in the way I listen to music.
📸 © Jora Frantzis