by Stephanie L. Carlin
I KNOW. I KNOW. HEAR ME OUT!
Yes, a majority of musicians like myself are a little surprised by Cardi B’s giant spike in popularity. This rapper came out of nowhere with a surprise hit, “Bodak Yellow,” last summer along with recent collaborations beside artists such as Bruno Mars and Migos. Within almost one year of being in the musical spotlight, she has worked with mainstream artists and even received a Grammy nomination. Cardi has released what music critics have been calling the most anticipated album of the year with its streams shattering Taylor Swift on Apple Music.
You know what, why not? If this artist has the potential to become bigger than pop stars that have dominated streaming sites for years, why shouldn’t we take her legitimately? I’m not saying we shouldn’t take the underrated rappers and artists that aren’t streamed as much less seriously, but I also don’t see in the point of denying this artist’s success. For the record, in addition to Apple Music, you can also listen to the whole album on Soundcloud if you’re like me and are too broke to have Apple Music.
Let’s start with the production of the album, because I must say, after hearing the production on “Bodak Yellow,” the idea of an entire album scared me a bit. It wasn’t like Jermaine White did a poor, job but I don’t think her sound was really defined at that point. There were a lot of opportunities to make the track really layered and I think he slightly missed the mark, possibly due to a time crunch. With Cardi’s popularity skyrocketing so quickly, I thought that it would become a theme in the album to have everything rushed and inconsistent.
Turns out, there was a total turn around. While it’s no Coloring Book or To Pimp a Butterfly, it’s perfectly substantial, and every song of the album has something new to admire. “Get Up 10,” for me, is a great intro because a debut album is supposed to tell you how an artist arrived at their present state of being. I know some critics may disagree because the main lyric for the chorus is “Knock me down nine times but I get up ten,” and the verse is so long that it feels as if it crossed the Red Sea and came back, but I give her a break because of amount of storytelling in one verse. “I Like It” features a catchy Latin beat and artists Bad Bunny and J Balvin, who are crushing the Latin and Tropical charts at the moment. “Be Careful” and “Ring” talk about the trials of her current love and how Cardi always feels as though she has to be defensive towards her partner, moments of rare vulnerability on the project.
There were tracks that I felt like were a little more “Gucci Gang” than they needed to be. “Drip” is okay, and the metaphor with jewelry is nice, but it’s a topic broached enough throughout the album, and doesn’t need its own song. I get that “She Bad,” but I don’t need to hear that for a solid 30 seconds to get the point. These songs don’t necessarily deteriorate the quality of the project. I’m just glad that they didn’t start the album.
In terms of Cardi’s sound, there’s still a ways to go. This is not going to be her defining album or her best album in the same way Got to Be There wasn’t for Michael Jackson. Undeniably, her debut has managed to put her in the realm of today’s top artists with a style that is unlike no other.