27 September

Who is Cardi B, the ex-stripper topping the charts?

 

Aged just 24, this sparkling mix of Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj has released one of the biggest hits of 2017. Cardi B is only the second female rapper to get to the top of the Hot 100 Billboard after Lauryn Hill and her famous Doo-Wop in 1998. Portrait of an ex-stripper and social network star adored by Beyoncé and Alexander Wang.

By Violaine Schütz

Cardi B (Instagram)

Queen of the Charts

 

Even if rap is gradually getting less macho (thank-you Drake and Frank Ocean), making it as a woman in that genre remains a serious challenge. But Cardi B is succeeding hands down even though she only joined the game two years ago. Her aggressively percussive hit tune Bodak Yellow which refers to her past as a lap-dancer, got to number 1 in the Billboard Hot 100. And it’s the best-selling female rap track since Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda released in 2014. The last time a girl rapper hit the number 1 spot was Iggy Azalea in 2014 (for Fancy). And this year the only rap artist to climb the first step of the podium was Kendrick Lamar with Humble. The very cinematic video for Bodak Yellow, involving a leopard, a desert, fire, latex and a neon green djellaba has already racked up 170 million views on YouTube. As the chorus belts out, “I don’t dance, I make money moves”.

 

A cartoon character

 

Like a sort of hybrid of Lil Kim, Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj, Cardi B (Belcalis Almanzar is her real name) has invented herself as a highly colourful character who changes her hairstyle, tinted glasses, Louboutin heels and printed mini dresses as often as her Twitter status. At New York Fashion Week, she was a cause celebre wherever she went, posing for a photo with Beyoncé and performing for Alexander Wang. Incredibly active on the social networks, the young woman first came to light in 2011 as she humorously recounted her life as an ex-stripper in videos she posted on the net. Once established as a digital star, she then appeared in the real TV show Love & Hip Hop on VH1 where her filthy punchlines about drugs, sex and feminism became cult. In 2015, she used her art of formulation and flow to become a rapper. A year later she released her second mixtape, the perfectly named Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1, which was an instant success

Cardi B - Bodak Yellow

A difficult past

 

Cardi grew up in the Bronx with her Afro-American and Dominican parents. She dreamt of becoming famous and buying them a house. Too young, she moved in with her boyfriend who lived with his mother, sisters and their pit bull terriers, all of whom treated her like a punching bag. They stole her weed and the money she earnt working in a supermarket in Lower Manhattan. But worse than that her boyfriend beat her up and her visits to ER were frequent. She quit college to start stripping at the Private Eyes club, desperate to escape her domestic situation. Earning 300 dollars a night she started having cosmetic surgery (she now regrets the butt implants). Declaring herself a feminist today, she encourages girls to rap rather than lap-dance. “Strippers are treated like public enemy number 1, we’re seen as gold-diggers and husband-stealers. But in reality, we earn more than your husbands, we got our men at home, often poorer and who we keep from A to Z.” It will be even harder now for Cardi B to find someone who weighs more in gold than her…

Cardi B - Foreva

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