She’s the self-proclaimed Trap Selena, and the first solo female rap artist since Lauryn Hill to get a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Belcalis Almanzar, better known as Cardi B, was born and raised in the Bronx. She is of Trinidadian and Dominican descent. There are not many women in popular culture of Afro-Latina backgrounds like Cardi. Student Sonny Romano explained how Cardi has potential to change the future of Afro-Latinas in pop culture. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a Latina represented in mainstream media who hasn’t looked like Shakira or JLo… I’m really excited to see what happens for Afro-Latinas in the future because of people like Cardi B who are able to pave the way for her.” Romano is “really happy to see somebody from a similar background succeed.”
After entering a toxic relationship at 18, Cardi decided to start stripping so she could earn enough money to move out. Although Cardi has received backlash for her former occupation as a stripper, she has maintained that she feels no shame and refuses to apologize for it. In her interview with The Guardian, she explains, “People want me to be so full of shame that I used to dance. I would never be ashamed of it. I made a lot of money, I had a good time and it showed me a lot – it made me open my eyes about how people are, how men are, about hunger and passion and ambition.”
Junior Lorina Morton supported Cardi’s stance. “I don’t think it’s a negative thing for girls. I think it’s showing girls and women that sex is not something that you should be ashamed of and having that kind of control over your body and making decisions like that is not something you should be ashamed of because it’s not something that’s wrong.”
After receiving attention for her comedy videos, Cardi said, “You know what, if I’m so popular and have a fanbase, why not invest it in my music?” Cardi began performing in her music is nightclubs and released two mixtapes: “Gangsta Bitch Vol 1” and “Gangsta Bitch Vol 2”.
In June of 2017, Cardi B released her most popular song, “Bodak Yellow”. The song soared up the Billboard Hot 100 charts and landed at number one. With the success of her follow up singles, Cardi has managed to make Billboard history. Not only is she the first solo female rapper to earn a number one song on the Hot 100 chart in nineteen years, she is also the third artist in history to have their first three Billboard entries place in the top ten simultaneously.
Cardi’s rise to the top did not come without controversy. Cardi has faced backlash over statements that were deemed insensitive to the transgender and LGBTQ community, as well as to sexual assault victims.
Cardi responded to the backlash by claiming that she was unaware the language she used was transphobic. In an interview with Dazed Digital, she told the story of her trip to Trinidad with a transgender friend where she witnessed people saying rude things about her friend’s identity and giving them mean stares. “I wanted to fight them. That’s the real definition of transphobic. Those are the people you need to educate. I’m not tryna be the one, you know when people say, ‘I’m not racist, I have black friends.’ I’m not tryna be like that. But I’m comfortable around [LGBTQ] people and a lot of people are not, and those are the people who need to be educated and understand we’re all human beings.” She goes on to explain that she is fine with being corrected for her use of transphobic language, but will not tolerate anyone claiming that she is transphobic.
Cardi’s actions have sparked discussions surrounding the extent to which celebrities should be held accountable for their insensitive remarks. Romano responded to Cardi’s comments by explaining that “you have to accept the fact that you did something wrong and apologize for it rather than avoid the problem entirely, and I really hope that I get to see her do that.” Both Romano and Morton believe that Cardi is redeemable as long as she acknowledges and learns from her actions.
Despite the controversy, Cardi B has managed to become a beloved personality in popular culture. Her fans constantly praise her for being “real”, honest and unapologetic. Cardi has made it clear that she intends to remain in the spotlight for a long time.