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Cardi B – Invasion Of Privacy Review

April 10, 2018 | Posted by David Hayter
Cardi B
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Cardi B – Invasion Of Privacy Review  

1. Get Up 10
2. Drip (feat. Migos)
3. Bickenhead
4. Bodak Yellow
5. Be Careful
6. Best Life
7. I Like It
8. Ring
9. Money Bag
10. Bartier Cardi (feat. 21 Savage)
11. She Bad
12. Thru Your Phone
13. I Do

The moment of truth has arrived and, it turns out, Cardi B is exactly who she always appeared to be: the man snatching, no fucks giving, steel eyed scrapper, who rose from rank outsider to history making rapper in the blink of an eye. And yet, as confounding as it may seem, Invasion Of Privacy is a wily record that subverts expectation at every turn.

This clever inversion is perfectly demonstrated on two pivotal tracks: “Be Careful” (a pre-album teaser) and “Thru Your Phone” (the track that gives the album its title). The latter shows that the “Invasion Of Privacy” in question is not a Drake-like whinge about how the weight of celebrity makes life too tough to bear – no, Cardi is the one violating her lover’s trust as she reads catches him cheating on Instagram by reading through his private messages. Her response is both swift and merciless (“Imma make a bowl of cereal with a teaspoon of BLEACH! Serve it to like “here you go”, nigga bona appetite!”). Despite the venom she remains vulnerable (“I went through your phone last night, it’s killing me”) and the same is true of “Be Careful”. Cardi is a wrecking machine as she threatens to ruin her cheating partner’s life, but the subtext is not – be careful, cause she’ll stab you, but be wary of her feelings, she might put up an unflinching front, but the pain of betrayal is crippling.

In short, Cardi has her cake and eats it too. She is the brazen man-eater who screams, “real bitch, the only thing fake is boobs” and “pussy so good I say my own name during sex”, but also a virtuous wife who values monogamous commitment even if she could cheat at any time. Yes, she makes it abundantly clear that she really could and would sleep with all of your best friends, were you to mistreat her.

Still, if Invasion Of Privacy successfully establishes Cardi B as an authentic “boss bitch” and a vulnerable human being simultaneously, it never quite establishes her music credentials. The album is neither a technical tour de force nor a hit parade. It’s not quite clear what Cardi is trying to achieve as the album lurches from heartless brag raps (“Drip”, “She Bad”) and gropes for commercial success (“I Like It”) to genuine attempts at narrative rich wordplay (“Get Up 10”, “Best Life”) and romantic defencelessness (“Ring”).

Likewise, Cardi’s rapping ranges from tight and impactful (“Get Up 10”) to utterly amateurish (“Be Careful”, “Bartier Cardi”). Cardi seems aware of her weaknesses and many of her most disappointing verses are buttressed by great guest performances. The highs and lows are encapsulated perfectly on “Best Life” and “Ring”, respectively. Both are crucial attempts to credential Cardi as a serious rapper alongside heavyweight guests.

The former, featuring the always-effervescent Chance The Rapper, is a feel good story about rising from the gutter to the stars. The chorus is all smiles and sunshine, but Cardi offers a lunk headed and aggressive verse loaded with painfully arrogant shots at her haters (“Nigga you a pussy and a rat, you like Tom and Jerry”). Chance, by way of comparison, might be on auto-pilot, but his verse is full of warmth as he addresses detractors in a gracious manner in keeping with the tenor of the track while simultaneously balancing a heady, syllable packed rhyme scheme (“But she trapping and she had to make it happen for her life/Don’t be mad because she having shit you hadn’t your whole life”).

“Ring” flips the script. Cardi B is perfect. Her verse is all about self-respect: counter balancing her own pride (she cannot put up with a cheating man) and her own insatiable lust (she wants him all the same). From this starting point, Cardi tells her partner that she will not stand any disrespect. She wants his time and a lasting commitment. It builds to a killer crescendo, “The ring on my phone, the ring on my finger, you’re acting like you ain’t tryna do either…here goes my heart, put it on speaker”. At that point, guest vocalist Kehlani needs to uncork a showstopping stadium sized chorus, but she falls short. The hook tries to play it cool and misses both its targets: it’s neither sleek enough for the clubs or big enough for crowds of 20,000. In fairness to Kehlani, her own verse is beautifully slung and tonally perfect, but it’s too little, too late.

Well if the attempts at complexity proffer decidedly mixed results, then Cardi’s brag raps are simply imperious. “Money Bag” is a head held high banger, full of fun adlibs, trappism and plenty of quotable one-liners (“he can tell from the front that I got ass behind me”, for example). Album opener, “Get Up 10” is even better still. Cardi tells her tale with such authority that the idea of her ever failing or faltering appears utterly laughable in hindsight. The opening salvo, which plays over a portentous piano line, ranks among the best and most strident introductions in rap history: “Look, they gave a bitch two options: stripping or lose/Used to dance in the club right across from my school/I said dance, not fuck, because bitches love to assume”.

The little details of her struggle serve to justify her rock star braggadocio and, when Cardi finally drops the veneer of humbleness and truly tears into the track, it feels damn near heroic. “Just because I been on the road don’t mean I’m on the run/And your gonna have to learn to hold your tongue or hold the gun/And we all know you ain’t that type/I’ll smack you and the bitch you act like”. Good God damn Cardi B!

Cardi tries on a host of historic flows throughout the album (her own “Bodak Yellow” cadence appears twice and there are at least four different eras of Kanye rhyme schemes on display), but she feels most at home when she’s in full brag rap mode. On the killer closer “I Do”, Cardi mimics Yeezy and Migos as she enjoys a shameless victory lap, full of laugh of out loud putdowns. And, if the opening lines of this album were jaw dropping, then final flurry is a straight knockout:

“Spend what I want, ain’t no limit/Say what I want, I ain’t never been timid. Only real shit come out my mouth and only real niggas go in it. Leave his text on red/leave his balls on blue/Put it on airplane mode so none of them calls come through. Here’s a word to all my ladies, don’t you give these niggas none, if they can make you richer, then they can make you cum.”

SZA’s excellent chorus is a highlight, but is almost entirely unnecessary: Cardi killed it, unassisted.

Sadly, there are some straight duds that scupper any burgeoning momentum and the album is routinely dragged down. “Bickenhead” is sexual explicit onslaught that feels tame in the wake of CupCakke’s ungodly filthy Euphoria. Mercifully, it’s miles better than the god awful “She Bad”: a track that has no redeeming qualities and completely wastes a YG guest spot on a pathetic concept that’d make Iggy Azealia roll her eyes. It should have been left on the cutting room floor. The Latin themed “I Like It” is better and may be a hit, but its Pitbull-esque party flavor is limp and dated. The verses meander and the whole affair has the stench of a novelty dance single you’d expect to hear at a cheesy wedding disco.

Nevertheless, despite some missteps and some frustrating inconsistency, Invasion Of Privacy is a fearsome and surefooted debut. Intimidated by neither expectation nor occasion, Cardi B supplies oodles of attitude, an endless supply of salacious one-liners and enough narrative depth to suggest a long career and an intriguing evolution lay in wait.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Brash, boisterous and laugh out loud funny, Cardi B’s debut is an uneven, but headstrong riot of a record that showcases more potential than pitfalls. Invasion of Privacy isn’t a classic, but there’s more here than meets the eye.

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Cardi B, David Hayter