This is the opinion of a man concerning a woman's artistic expression, and therefore is inherently flawed, subjective, and incomplete.
So by now I have listened to Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy like a bajillion times. I have found every excuse to shuck my responsibilities and sneak away to listen to "Bicken Head", "Drip", "She Bad" and the rest of Cardi B's refreshingly flawed debut album. First, let me say that if Invasion of Privacy were released in the summer, it would be THAT summer album even in the company of new releases by Yeezy and Drake. It's that bangin'. At some point, I realized that the single "Be Careful" is the anchor, giving the album its soul, exposing a much needed rawness. What's more, is that I have come to believe that "Be Careful" is a hip hop masterpiece. Yeah, I said it. Before you OGs stone me to death with Eric B. and Rakim cassette tapes or shank me with a broken Mobb Deep CD case, just hear me out.
"I wanna get married, like the Currys, Steph and Ayesha shit
But we more like Belly—Tommy and Keisha shit
Gave you TLC, you wanna creep and shit
Poured out my whole heart to a piece of shit
Man, I thought you would've learned your lesson
'Bout likin' pictures, not returnin' texts
I guess it's fine, man, I get the message
You still stutter after certain questions
You keep in contact with certain exes
Do you, though, trust me, nigga, it's cool, though
Said that you was workin', but you out here chasin' culo
And putas, chillin' poolside, livin' two lives
The lyrics read like an open letter, and for many of us, this letter looks familiar. Cardi isn't the only person who has been taken for granted or dealt with a partner who has gotten too comfortable and feels irreplaceable. Where Beyonce takes a more rhetorical stance, flexing her power "I can have another you in a minute", Cardi is more revealing in her vulnerability, and more elaborate in expressing her power.
I could've did what you did to me to you a few times
But if I did decide to slide, find a nigga
Fuck him, suck his dick, you would've been pissed
But that's not my M.O., I'm not that type of bitch
And karma for you is gon' be who you end up with
You make me sick, nigga
What kills me is how smart, considerate, and real this record is. The lyrics in this second verse are mindblowingly thoughtful, accessible, and accurate.
I was here before all of this
Guess you actin' out now, you got an audience
Tell me where your mind is, drop a pin, what's the coordinates?
You might have a fortune, but you lose me, you still gon' be misfortunate, nigga
Tell me, this love's got you this fucked up in the head
You want some random bitch up in your bed?
She don't even know your middle name, watch her 'cause she might steal your chain
You don't want someone who loves you instead? I guess not though
It's blatant disrespect, you nothin' like the nigga I met
Talk to me crazy and you quick to forget
You even got me trippin', you got me lookin' in the mirror different
Thinkin' I'm flawed because you inconsistent
This is a letter that my mother could have written to her ex husband. These feelings are universal, even if women are especially encouraged to express them. Cardi got sample clearance from the legend Lauryn Hill, whose work on "Ex Factor" suggests that L knows exactly what Cardi is feeling. Now, Lauryn Hill and Cardi B are the only females in HISTORY to top the Hot 100 with a solo rap song.
The only man, baby, I adore
I gave you everything, what's mine is yours
I want you to live your life of course
But I hope you get what you dyin' for
Be careful with me, do you know what you doin'?
Whose feelings that you're hurtin' and bruisin'?
You gon' gain the whole world
But is it worth the girl that you're losin'?
Be careful with me
Yeah, it's not a threat, it's a warnin'
Be careful with me
Yeah, my heart is like a package with a fragile label on it
Be careful with me
As Cardi sings the chorus, it is clear that she and the production team understand and respect her vocal limitations. Cardi has a very firm understanding of who she is, and maybe who she is not. For "Be Careful", she opts for the confessional over the anthemic. The result is a song so relatable, I find myself singing it while picking out produce at the grocery story. And yes, I sing ALL the words out loud.
I mean, if this performance doesn't win you over, you have no heart. When asked about pressure from her label to not go through with her pregnancy she replied "Why can't I do both?"
Cardi B shows me how just being fearless and unapologetic about the way you move through life and express yourself can go to great lengths in helping to avoid falling into damaging tropes like the Kardashians, or coming off inauthentic like Taylor Swift, or just being plain wack, like J. Cole.
Some final facts from the album:
"I'm the trap Selena." -- True. I get the same feeling from Cardi. An unlikely Superstar that I feel like I grew up knowing. A superstar all along in the neighborhood, but atypical in hollywood.
"I think us bad bitches are a gift from god." -- FACTS
"How you gon' suck ya man's dick with my name in your mouth." -- WHOA
"Won MVP and i'm still a rookie." -- FACTS
"I don't want your punk ass man. I'm too tough." -- PREACH
Some final thoughts:
No remix necessary, no males necessary. However, if a male rapper were to be featured on a "Be Careful" remix, there are only an elite few who qualify: Big Pun, Biggie, Hov, Pac, 3000, and Kendrick.
On "Bicken Head" Cardi opens with "This for all my nasty hoes all across the globe." This reminds me of Trump's "Nasty Woman" indictment of Hilary Clinton, and all women who exercise their will in the same way men are allowed to.
I'm really excited by the fact that now strippers have the option of listening to the thoughts of a peer like Cardi instead of listening to a patron like Drake.
This may be blasphemy, but Cardi B reminds me of Notorious B.I.G. He taught me how to rap. I studied Biggie's flow and his presence like it was a truth that I couldn't get anywhere else. Someone said that Cardi sounds like she has peanut butter in her mouth when she raps. I always admired Biggie's thick tongued delivery, and I feel Cardi is similar in her delivery as well. Have you seen her tongue??? Cardi B comes from a long tradition of vastly talented women rappers / poets / songwriters. A few of my favorites come to mind: MC Lyte, Lil Kim, Lauryn Hill, Janelle Monae, Azealia Banks (No disrespect to Nicki. She is very skilled. She just makes awful music. And with all due respect, Nicki gave us like 5 different aliases and personalities, when some of us really just needed one genuine person we could feel. Enter Cardi B). While reminding us of rap ancestors, Cardi B is carving out a fresh and completely unabashed lane for herself, and I for one, am very grateful for her arrival.