Announcing herself as a major player in hip-hop, Invasion of Privacy is exactly what we wanted from Cardi B's debut.
Cardi B proved something of a revelation in 2017. With hit single ‘Bodak Yellow’, she transformed herself from a reality TV and social media celebrity into a promising hip-hop star. One of the songs of the summer, ‘Bodak Yellow’ topped the US Billboard Hot 100 for three consecutive weeks (making Cardi the first female rapper to achieve a US No. 1 since Lauryn Hill in 1998). It was followed up by the equally catchy ‘Bartier Cardi’ in December, and it seemed as though the Bronx-born artist was here to stay. Both singles feature on her debut studio album Invasion of Privacy, yet thankfully the record doesn’t rely on their familiarity to prop itself up. It’s an impressive debut from Cardi B, with only a few forgettable blips, cementing her status as far more than a one-hit wonder.
Invasion of Privacy starts strong with ‘Get Up 10’, a contemplative track that highlights Cardi’s strengths: her outspoken personality and ceaseless ability to jump on heavy trap beats coalescing to produce unrelenting rhymes, with a confidence that you wouldn’t expect from a rapper with only a few mixtapes under her belt. It is Cardi’s self-assertion that goes some way towards explaining how she has stood out in a hip-hop landscape lacking in female representation. She is a provocateur of sorts, her lyrics often straying into the farcically pornographic. On ‘She Bad’, an otherwise throwaway track with an irritating YG hook, she expresses a desire to have a threesome with Rihanna and Chrissy Teigen. Closing song ‘I Do’, a fitting curtain call with the brilliant SZA present, sees her rap “Pussy so good/I say my own name during sex”. The record’s title is remarkably apt, but Cardi seems to revel in the invasion of her own private life rather than shy away from it.
Though her cocksure manner is a huge part of her appeal, Cardi does get personal on a more emotional level on a number of tracks. Her past career as a stripper and tempestuous relationship with fellow trap artist Offset proves fruitful subject matter, especially in ‘Be Careful’ and ‘Thru Your Phone’. Cardi’s singing voice isn’t necessarily the strongest, but these fables of infidelity are revealing of a more vulnerable side to her – one that proves a captivating juxtaposition with the more brash aspects of her persona.
The album peaks in the middle with ‘Best Life’ and ‘I Like It’, a consecutive one-two punch of exhilarating collaborations. Chance The Rapper takes the lead on ‘Best Life’, his own playfulness as an artist affording a breezy quality to Cardi’s bars. In truth, it feels like a Chance record with a Cardi B feature, not vice versa. But that’s okay, as Cardi herself shines brightly on the remainder of tracks, and it gives Invasion of Privacy a sense of variation in its production (which, for the most part, is simply serviceable). The most interesting sound comes on ‘I Like It’, which follows the example of Migos‘ ‘Narcos’ in embracing a Latin American influence. The track samples Pete Rodriguez’s ‘I Like It Like That’ (which should be familiar to British listeners from the old Odeon adverts) and has guest features from Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny and Colombian reggaetón singer J Balvin. It’s most certainly another consequence of the success of Luis Fonsi‘s ‘Despacito’, but that doesn’t stop it from being a super-fun track.
There are a few stumbles; both ‘Money Bag’ and ‘She Bad’ feel stale and derivative. However, on a 13-track album, a couple of mediocre tracks doesn’t mean a bad return. Cardi has avoided the criticism levelled at some of her peers, namely Migos and their latest release Culture II, by keeping things concise with a 48-minute runtime. She had already shown herself to be an exciting artist to collaborate with, particularly with features on Bruno Mars‘ ‘Finesse (Remix)’ and Migos’ ‘Motorsport’. With Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B has shown that ‘Bodak Yellow’ wasn’t a fluke. The new Queen of Rap? She just might be.
Invasion of Privacy is available now via Atlantic Records