Cardi B is a 25 year old Trinidadian and Dominican Bronx based rapper. Her no filter persona and spotty past could easily categorize her as ratchet. For those of you foreign to the term, ratchet is a term coined by the Xennial's, basically it means tacky. As you have seen in many of my posts, I have adopted and recreated the word in a multitude of forms to color behavioral descriptions. My personal definition: a willing decision to act in a way knowingly inappropriate or unacceptable given the norms and expectations of a situation. For example, dancing at wedding, normal. Really drunk dancing at a wedding, still normal. P-popping on a handstand at said wedding, ratchet. (For my more seasoned readers, feel free to look that term up.) Cardi B shines a light on the fact that, though thin, there is a line between ratchet and real.
I’d heard of her because of her song Bodak Yellow which became a cross cultural smash hit. I watched the video because I wanted to see what all the hype was about. The song was essentially about how she was more the shit than everyone else, nothing different than every other popular rap song. Though set in Dubai, she still made sure you knew she was a gangster ass chick about her money. Off that alone I was on the anti-Cardi train because the whole hood persona just isn’t appealing to me, though the song really was kinda hot. I love-hate popular rap music today, paradoxical I know. I love the energy it evokes while hating the message (or lack thereof) it conveys. So guiltily, I listen and love it while feeling like I am rocking out to the antithesis of my own message. That being said, I just lumped her in with the rest of the music makers of whom I could simultaneously hear, enjoy, and not necessarily respect.
I randomly turned on Jimmy Fallon one night and she was on the show. So with all of the eye-rolls, hard sighs, and disdain charged head shakes prepped and ready I decided to stay tuned. She comes out in a beautiful green dress, says hey to Jimmy, sits down, and then she speaks. What can I say, Cardi B comes off like a sketch comedy character portraying a drastically embellished stereotyped girl from the hood. Her verbiage and mannerisms were SO over-the-top it was almost unbelievable....until you realize this is just really who she is. It took a good minute to process what I was taking in because this level of raw and pure personality from celebrity is so rarely seen; like almost unheard of. I don’t know if I was looking for her to try to be “likable” geared towards the shows demographic or go the extreme opposite direction and be offensively brash and call it ‘keeping it real.’ She wasn’t trying to be anything, she was just Belcalis (her actual name, don’t ask me how to pronounce it).
Reporters whose whole schtick is being the unfiltered asshole. Rappers with their whole neighborhood on stage mimicking gunshot noises while they bust caps with their finger pistols at the sky as they accept an award. The debutant-esque actress whose posture is perfect with every word deliberately placed. The sexy dude singer whose swag is on 100% with his unnecessary lip licks and undersized shirt selection. I just have a hard time believing this is who these people are when they’re at the house cooling with the people they love and trust...but this is who they want the world to believe the are. Cardi B is her at-home-with-friends self everywhere but on stage.
When I looked at her Instagram and YouTube videos (doing research), it was this weird thing where I couldn’t really relate to what she was saying or doing but I was in awe of the way she did it. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first but as soon as I mentioned my budding intrigue with her, the overwhelming universal response was, “She’s just so real!” That was it! She’s silly, she’s vulnerable, she’s honest, she’s hood as hell but funny as hell too. She owns every bit of her shitty past and that’s why she can fully revel in the good fortune that is her life now. That’s why I’m so captivated by her. Celebrity and authentic aren’t commonly coupled words. Celebrity in today’s society is founded in what I’ve deemed the 3 L’s (y’all know I love alliteration): People want to be Like them, people Loathe them, or people Laugh at them. Cardi’s draw for me (and what I assume most others) isn’t that I want to suck my teeth in between my sentences, have exaggerated hand gestures when I talk (I kinda already do), or make that weird bird noise she makes when she’s excited. What I’m drawn to is the endless self acceptance she oozes. Like, it’s not that she’s saying 'screw what other people think of me'; it’s like what people think of her doesn’t even cross her mind to say screw it to. How freeing is that?!
Realizing this is turning into a real blog, I should probably wrap this puppy up (sorry). Why is it that I am completely characteristically smitten with Cardi B? While she is rising to international stardom she is still sprawling her unedited true self out on a silver platter of judgement. She does this knowing her social verdict determines whether she continues the ascension of reality personality turned very popular rapper and beyond or she stays a stripper peaking at instagram fad. I acted like it was the hardest thing in the world to own the fact that I was a parent for fear of judgement within my rinky dink town. For 17 years I chose to be fake having so little to lose. She’s being real despite having tremendously more to lose, and the direct result of her authenticity is a nation saying “She’s just so real.”
To make this a semi-actual post and not just my Cardi B character catharsis I’ll leave you with this:
“Some people are going to like you, some people are going to love you, some people are not going to like you at all, and some people may even despise you. You might as well be yourself. That way, at least you will know that the people who like you, like you for who you truly are.”
~Matthew Kelly (The Rhythm of Life: Celebrating Your Unique Self)