By Angel Mindanao
With over 9.4 million Instagram followers, 24-year-old Cardi B, a Bronx native and rapper on the rise, released the single “Bodak Yellow” in June, which is currently No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on R&B/Hip Hop chart. A former stripper and cast member of VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop New York,” Cardi B now performs with top artists such as Drake, Migos, and 21 Savage. Her mixtapes, “GBM Volume 1,” peaked at No. 27 and “GBM Volume 2” peaked at No. 25 on the Independent album charts. Her major label debut mixtape on Atlantic Records is due to drop in October.
As Cardi B makes her mark on the entertainment industry, many Bronxites see her as empowering women while challenging gender roles and stereotypes. But while the artist has captured the hearts of many Lehman students who share her culture with her self-made and widely recognized brand image, not everyone has been won over.
Lehman senior Anabel Ventura expressed great support for the artist. “Cardi B represents the Bronx in a positive way--loud and unapologetic; friendly and hilarious. She’s happy because she’s comfortable with her appearance.” Ventura was drawn to Cardi B’s charisma. “I just vibe with her music,” she said. “She appeals to everybody just by being herself.” Indeed, Cardi B was the star of the MTV Video Music Awards pre-show, wearing a sparkling bodysuit and matching $10,000 Yves Saint Laurent boots.
Other students, however, are more ambivalent about the entertainer, and some are downright disapproving. Jesse Mercado, a senior majoring in environmental science and minoring in music, questioned her choice of style. “I feel like a lot of women are fighting for equality, and they don’t have to be oversexualized in order to reach the top in Hollywood,” he said. “Adele is one of the most prominent singers and she doesn’t show skin.”
Students were similarly divided over her music, which they find both provocative and entertaining. On the one hand, reflected Ashley Apparbal, senior and history major, “She gives us that relaxation on the weekends or during study breaks.” On the other hand, Apparbal said, “although her music and persona is interesting, she still has the ability to speak on sensitive topics in a rather insensitive way. ‘I don't dance now, I make money moves.’ It allows for a certain amount of hype and excitement that underscores the idea of being destined for greatness.”
In “Bodak Yellow,” for instance, Cardi B raps about being busy working and able to pay her mother’s bills, while declaring that her haters’ baby fathers want her.
Apparbal also pointed out her provocative mannerisms. She stated, “I’m still understanding that she is a little rough around the edges, so occasionally she may say some outlandish things.”
“She’s in the process of learning, just like the rest of us. You have to respect her grind.”
- Lehman senior, Anabel Ventura
Ventura defended the artist’s persona, saying, “People say she’s problematic, but that’s because she’s in the process of learning, just like the rest of us. You have to respect her grind. She once said that when she was a dancer, she invested a lot of money on clothes, makeup, etc.”
Apparbal seconded this defense. “Cardi B represents womanhood in total,” she said. “Womanhood is not limited to the remarkable and upper echelon; it extends to every shape and size and skin tone.”
Meanwhile, as the debate surrounding her continues, the rapper embraces the hate and the fame, re-branding her struggles as a woman of color with diamonds and designer clothes.