Back when I was an editor at a Hip-Hop site, my co-worker came sauntering up the stairs itching to tell me about someone named Cardi B. Him: “This shit slaps!!” Me, an intellectual: “Yes, good sir, but what does that mean for rap?”
I say all that to say that I was part of the problem. I didn’t get the appeal of the Bronx native. I never saw Love & Hip Hop, or the Instagram videos of her whiling for jokes. I never made the connection that she was a star in the making because she was genuinely funny and cool in a spider web of gorgeous, seemingly heartbroken women and crookedly mangled men. The way I saw it, Cardi’s shtick was an angle with diminishing returns. Sooner or later the star-dust of her celebrity would run out; the mask would slip and it would be over. In effect, I thought Cardi B was a caricature. She was pretending, as were they all, right?
Then the blaring out of car windows in L.A like she was Kendrick Lamar; in New York, like she was 50 Cent.
But over never came. Every hilarious, precarious step up the golden road, she’s proved she was made for this. There was The Fader cover, then Blac Chyna clutching Versace sheets to “Bodak Yellow.” Then the blaring out of car windows in L.A like she was Kendrick Lamar; in New York, like she was 50 Cent. And just when you thought she’d run out of that glistening woo woo, she was back with “Bartier Cardi.” She would call herself a “regular, degular, schmegular” girl from the Bronx in only the way kids in between languages and in between classes can. In that place, English is a malleable thing. It can be whatever you want it to, bottled like tinctures from your favorite auntie or let out the house completely, like a ghost. I’d been won over. That accent was real. That talk was real. Cardi was really, really real. Of course, an accent can also betray you; it can carry within it a certain doom. Especially in New York, when, in certain company, you’re right back in the 1920s and everyone — I mean everyone — is a God damned aristocrat.
And so it was with Cardi B’s first real interview outside the aerie of the hip-hop world. Out there on a limb with GQ, where the final cut ended up being — bizarrely — about her fake ass and her love of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. All this while she was licking her spare-rib-coated fingers in a place she only knew because of Drake. All this while she freaked out because she thought she saw Taylor Swift needle by.
We know what was in the piece by now. Ahem, could you pass the loudspeaker? Thank you: “With the aid of cutting-edge Millennium science, in the form of orbicular breast implants and illegal buttocks injections, America’s sudden favorite rapper, Cardi B, has built her body for optimal viewing at medium-to-long-distance range,” wrote the magazine.
Really, this is a treat because I haven’t read the word buttocks in years. But also because Ms. B has an entire album titled Invasion of Privacy out and it is missing from the interview nearly completely. It is only mentioned once. We don’t get to know what her musical influences are, despite Cardi’s love for Afro-futurist imagery. What about those videos? All clad with lapped up, nearly naked men— isn’t that a hip-hop reversal of fortune? We don’t know because, unless it was cut, dear Lord, we don’t know anything about her process. And we don’t know these things because we are to find it charming that she knows her presidents.
Cardi B: “He was the 15th president,” she says, and her tone is as neutral as if she were reciting types of weather. “Buchanan is the only president that was a bachelor.”
I mean, James Buchanan, our 15th president, is considered the worst president ever. No, really. There’s a book by James Strauss called (forgive the name) Worst. President. Ever: James Buchanan, The POTUS Rating Game, And The Legacy Of The Least Of The Lesser Presidents. And he was the worst president in the history of the United States because of the Dred Scott decision. It turns out, as it were, that good old Bucky rigged the Supreme Court ruling that forbade any Black (free or slave) from becoming a U.S citizen, ever. And, in the words of Chief Justice Robert B. Taney in his majority opinion, slaves “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it.” Which, Strauss points out, nearly brought economic ruin to the North because what do you do when your competition has debased themselves to the point that they would destroy human lives for profit?
There is a point, though, where things seem to calm down. After the ass thing, where we find out her basement doctor had someone die on her table, and after the gang stuff and the Offset stuff, where she gets back to speaking about Cardi. The writer’s just meeting her for the first time and Cardi is asleep backstage. Assistants have her in a corset, “supine,” but Cardi is laid out. Then, right before her entrance, she awakens, blinks twice, and goes out and rocks the mic. From zero to 100 she’s flirting with the crowd and performing. And we don’t know if the stripping was practice, you know?
I would have really liked to.