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Rapper Cardi B Expands Her Musical Range On 'Invasion Of Privacy'


This is FRESH AIR. Cardi B is a rapper in her mid-20s who is one of the most popular recording artists around. With her breakthrough song "Bodak Yellow," she became the first female rapper to have a No. 1 hit single in 20 years. Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of Cardi B's debut album, "Invasion Of Privacy."


CARDI B: (Rapping) I'm like Big Pop mixed with 2Pac. I'm like Makaveli. Need some Little Caesar's pizza. I be hot and ready. You a [expletive] and a rat. You like "Tom And Jerry." You ain't balling. You just talking. That's that commentary. I was in the field, man. I slaved for this. Had to talk to God, dropped down and prayed for this. To my surprise, he replied, said, you made for this. I seen the car I wanted. Then I went and paid for it - cash, cash. Hit the Tay-K...

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: Cardi B has worked hard to get to where she is now. A former gang member and stripper, she found her initial fame as part of the TV reality show "Love & Hip Hop: New York." As a reality star, she was a real character, hyperassertive. As a rapper, she tells her truth with both anger and a great sense of profane humor. Listen to the way she both refers to her past and declares a triumphant present and future in the song "Drip."


CARDI B: (Rapping) I gotta work on my anger, might kill a [expletive] with my fingers. I gotta stay outta Gucci. I'm finna run out of hangers. Is she a stripper, a rapper, a singer? I'm busting bucks in a Bentley Bentayga. Ride through your hood like, [expletive], I'm the mayor. You not my [expletive], then, [expletive], you in danger. Came through drippin'.

OFFSET: (Rapping) Drip, drip.

CARDI B: (Rapping) Came through drippin'.

OFFSET: (Rapping) Drip, drip.

CARDI B: (Rapping) Came through drippin'.

OFFSET: (Rapping) Drip, drip.

CARDI B: (Rapping) Diamonds on my wrist - they drippin'.

OFFSET: (Rapping) Ice. Came through drippin'. Drip, drip.

TUCKER: Her stint on "Love & Hip Hop" proved that Cardi is a natural TV star. Television brings out Cardi's gift for the absurd and the silly. And talk shows have been eager to exploit this. The week her album was released, Jimmy Fallon had her co-host an entire show with him, something that had never been done on the Tonight Show before. Fallon tried to use her as a human punchline to connect her to an older era of female guests who were invited on to be simultaneously sexy and wacky. The reference point for baby boomers would be, remember Charo, the so-called cuchi-cuchi girl? But Cardi ultimately took control. She always does.


CARDI B: (Rapping) Slim waist, [expletive] fat. My [expletive] is caked up. My bad [expletive] at the bake without no makeup. This that collard greens, cornbread, neck bone, back fat. Get it from my mama, and you don't know where your daddy at. Knick-knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone. Put it on him, then your [expletive] never coming home. I'ma flex like a roid. I'ma ten. She a droid. Stupid [expletive] - unimportant, unattractive, unemployed. Get some guap, guap. Get some chicken.

TUCKER: This debut album "Invasion Of Privacy" does a lot to expand Cardi B's musical range. Her instinctive pose is that of a tough realist, a self-proclaimed feminist who goes after what she wants. But "Invasion Of Privacy" allows for a few more vulnerable moments, such as "Be Careful," in which Cardi sings longingly for a lover who'll be tender and respectful.


CARDI B: (Rapping) Care for me. Care for me. Look. I want to get married like the Currys, Steph and Ayesha [expletive]. But we more like "Belly" - Tommy and Keisha [expletive]. Gave you TLC. You want to creep and [expletive]. Poured out my whole heart to a piece of [expletive]. Man, I thought you would've learned your lesson 'bout likin' pictures, not returnin' texts. I guess it's fine, man. I get the message. You still stutter after certain questions. You keep in contact with certain exes. Do you, though, trust me? It's cool, though. Said that you was workin', but you out here chasin' who knows. But you lies, chillin' poolside, livin' two lives. I could've did what you did to me to you a few times. But if I decide to slide, find somebody, let him hit, you would've been pissed. But that's not my M.O. I'm not that type of [expletive]. And karma for you is gonna be who you end up with. You make me sick.

TUCKER: One of the best tracks on this album connects with Cardi B's roots. Her mother is from Trinidad. Her father is from the Dominican Republic. She said that this background informs some of her music, such as the rhythm of "I Like It," which samples the hook from Pete Rodriguez's 1967 hit "I Like It Like That."


PETE RODRIGUEZ: (Singing) You gotta believe me when I tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) I said I like it like that.

RODRIGUEZ: (Singing) You gotta believe me when I tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) I said I like it like...

CARDI B: (Rapping) Now, I like dollars. I like diamonds. I like stuntin'. I like shinin'. I like million-dollar deals. Where's my pen? [Expletive], I'm signin'. I like those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks. I like going to the jeweler. I put rocks all in my watch. I like texts from my exes when they want a second chance. I like proving [expletive] wrong. I do what they say I can't. They call me Cardi Bardi, bangin' body, spicy mami, hot tamale, hotter than a Somali, fur coat, Ferrari. Hop out the stu, jump in the coup. They trippin' on top of the roof. Flexin' on [expletive] as hard as I can, eating halal, driving the Lam. Told that [expletive] I'm sorry, though. 'Bout my coins like Mario. Yeah, they call me Cardi B. I run this [expletive] like cardio. Diamond district in the jag.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: I said I like it like that.

CARDI B: (Rapping) Certified, you know I'm...

TUCKER: Much of the most popular hip-hop right now comes from the South, where some rappers intentionally slur and blur their rhymes and rhythms. Cardi B, however, hails from the Bronx. And she makes sure you hear every word, every joke, every pun, every stinging insult. "Invasion Of Privacy" is, among other things, a statement of principles, an assertion of pure will. Or as she phrases it, I'm my own competition. I'm competing with myself.

BIANCULLI: Ken Tucker is critic-at-large for Yahoo! TV. He reviewed Cardi B's debut album, "Invasion Of Privacy." On Monday's show, the life and death of Robin Williams. We talk with New York Times culture reporter David Itzkoff, who's written a new biography of the comic and actor. He spoke with Williams' family, friends and colleagues. Itzkoff had also interviewed and written about Williams when the comedian was performing and wrote his New York Times obituary. Hope you can join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our senior producer today is Sam Briger. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham, with additional engineering support from Joyce Lieberman and Julian Herzfeld. Our associate producer for digital media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROGER KELLAWAY'S "SAME OLD, SAME OLD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.