All The Way Up
Despite the haters, Cardi B continues to rise and prove that she’s one of the most dominant and important female rappers in music history.
Interview: Vanessa Satten
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Described on its website as “the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere,” New York’s Edge at 30 Hudson Yards offers stunning 360-degree, panoramic views of New York City and New Jersey at 1,100 feet in the air. The impressive location was used in Jennifer Lopez and Maluma’s 2020 “Pa’ Ti + Lonely” video, which inspired Cardi B to want to use it for a photo shoot.
At 4 a.m. on a frigid mid-March morning, a small team of photographers, crew, glam, editors and a publicist huddle outside on Edge’s observation deck in 34-degree temperatures as Cardi poses for pictures. Despite the frigid weather and strong winds, the rapper, born Belcalis Almanzar, is focused on getting the perfect shot. Her team is lined up on the side with blankets to warm her up. Cardi’s freezing, but she keeps pushing to get the right shot. She fought to use this location and wants to make the most of it. Cardi B is no quitter. That’s the overall sense one gets when talking to the 28-year-old Bronx-born artist. She’s a fighter in every sense of the word and wants any opportunity to prove people wrong, to show she already has—or wants to learn to have—what it takes to master what’s required.
Cardi is bold, brash, controversial and caring. She’s been this way publicly since she broke onto the music scene in 2016, after appearing as a regular cast member on Love & Hip Hop: New York. It was Cardi’s wild social networking antics that first got her attention. She then eventually evolved into a reality show personality. But, it was the success of her 2017 single “Bodak Yellow” that blew her up. In March, the record went diamond, becoming the highest-certified single by a female rapper. Cardi’s debut album, Invasion of Privacy, also made history when it won Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammy Awards. It was the first time a solo female hip-hop artist achieved the honor. All of this helped catapult Cardi—wife to Migos member Offset and mom to Kulture, 2—to superstar heights, garnering impressive musical opportunities and brand partnerships along the way.
Cardi’s interests have also expanded outside of music. The raptress acted in the 2019 movie Hustlers. She also served as a judge on the Netflix reality competition show Rhythm + Flow. Additionally, Cardi expanded her voice, politically, often speaking publicly about the 2020 presidential election. A die-hard Bernie Sanders fan, Cardi chopped it up on video with the Vermont senator during his run and also with now-president Joe Biden before his win.
It’s been three years since Invasion of Privacy dropped and fans are itching for a new album. But, Cardi’s not ready to release one just yet. She promises she will deliver it later this year and has whet hip-hop’s appetite with two smash-hit records: “WAP” featuring Megan Thee Stallion and “Up.” Both songs landed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, giving Cardi her fourth and fifth No. 1 records, the most of any female rapper, ever. The video for “WAP” also caused a stir with its sexualized imagery and lyrics, but Cardi was unfazed and followed with a wild video for “Up.”
On the night of the 2021 Grammys, which featured a pre-recorded “WAP” performance from Cardi and Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi sits in a suite at the 1 Hotel Central Park. With wind burns on her face from the photo shoot earlier that morning, one of the most powerful and successful women in hip-hop history reflects on her journey.
XXL: Your photo shoot for this story was at a very cool location that you personally requested. How do you think it all came together? Were you happy with how it all came out?
Cardi B: I’ve been doing so much magazines and now magazines have trusted me into giving me control [with shoots]. Even huge fashion magazines, they’re trusting me more now into giving control of how I want my editorial looks and what I think looks amazing. And, that’s what I like to show. I like to show people that I could do it really great. That’s what I’ve been learning. And it’s like, even if it was freezing fucking cold, like my face got burned. Freeze burns and everything.
But you do it because it’s for the greater good, right?
Yeah, like, I cannot quit. Fuck I look like telling [the crew], “I can’t do this. I’m sorry, y’all. I’m sorry that y’all outside at 4 in the morning. This was a dumb idea for me. I know. It was my idea. But, yeah, I can’t do it. I’m dying.” No. It’s not gonna happen. I gotta do it. I like to show that I could do it.
So why was the shoot at Edge?
This is like, a new building everybody talks… I saw it on a JLo video. I was like, Oh, this spot looks dope. And I’ve been staying in L.A. for months ’cause I’m out there working.
You live in Atlanta, right?
I go to Atlanta. Like, I don’t stay for too long. If I go to Atlanta, it’s just to work and to handle home business. ’Cause I have a home. And, sometimes shit be happening and I gotta see it for myself, making sure that people are doing the work at the house. But all the work is in L.A. And it’s more convenient to be there. So, I’ve been doing a lot of photo shoots there. But, I just feel like everybody’s doing the same shit out there because there’s not a lot of locations. Like, everybody’s doing pictures on the desert. Everybody’s doing pictures around the palm trees. Everybody’s doing pictures with backgrounds and shit. I wanted to do something different. And I was like, I want to do like the business. And it’s like, no better place to look like a business than home, than New York.
One thing for sure that I’m doing a lot now this year is music and making sure my business is straight. Not just signing things and not just making sure that I get new deals and everything. That my money is getting handled great. That I got good lawyers that’s handling my shit. Because that’s one thing that is really hard. When it comes to these new celebrities, they start learning their business more, four or five years, shit, maybe eight years in.
After the losses. After the hardships.
After the losses. And after you see like, Damn, I could’ve been done this shit.
After the tax problem.
Yeah, after the tax.
To learn how to avoid it beforehand.
One thing I told my business manager, don’t even pay my business little by little. Take it all out. I don’t want to feel like I owe nothing.
It feels good to be debt-free, right?
It’s good to be debt-free, but either way, I feel like I’ve been on deals before that like, yeah, I got paid, but I feel like I deserved more. And I made sure this year that I get everything I deserve. Not just on music deals but on everything.
Did you not get what you deserved because you weren’t paying attention or because you’re a woman and women get less? It makes sense to rectify the situation, but where do you think it was coming from?
It comes from the people that’s handling your deals. It also comes because you gotta do more research on shit. For example, sometimes I feel like a company might see, you know, a girl like me, a colored girl like me. I’m a colored girl and I’m from the ’hood and shit. And they might be like, “Oh, we could offer her a $2 million advance.” And the company is gonna make out of you, probably fucking $50 million, $100 million. And you settle for $2 million because they think that you’re so thirsty for that money that they just gonna give you the $2 million.
I hate making everything about race because race do exist. Race is real. But I hate when sometimes people just want to make everything about race. It’s just like, sometimes you do see that race really matters and shit because I’ve been seeing some influencers, that are not, you know, like me. Caucasian influencers. And they’re getting paid big money. I’m a whole artist. And there is other artists that I know how much they’re getting paid. I’ve been doing my research now, heavy. And it’s like, Damn, muthafuckas is getting ripped the fuck off. And that’s why I’m like, Nah, I’m gonna get everything that I deserve.
What made you say, “I gotta get my business together?” What made you do that research? Did anything happen or did you just want to learn more?
I just feel like if you want to keep hiring me, I figured that you’re making a lot of money out of me. I just feel like that little 2 million, that little 3 million, I mean, sometimes even a little five million, ’cause I get 5 [million], $10 million deals. I just feel like, you gotta be making triple. The reason why my money keeps going bigger and bigger because they’re looking at the numbers that I used to bring other companies and they see, “Oh, she bring this amount of money. I’m gonna give her some more. But it’s like, what is the number? ’Cause I want to be part of that big number.
You don’t just want to be the expense that they’re paying for on the side. Partner me. Make me bigger. Invest in me on a much bigger scale.
Yes. Exactly. So, that’s one thing. Making sure that the people that are representing me are really good gamblers. Like, really step on necks. Ask for the highest bid. Like, that’s just how I am.
Was your money going up an adjustment for you because you’re talking about, “I make 5 million, I make 10 million.” How did that adjustment period go for you to even talk about these numbers and realize this is what I’m dealing with in life right now instead of being kinda struck by it and then being eager to take the 2 million?
Just knowing my worth. And then, my husband, he’s really fucking smart with numbers. I don’t pay him. I don’t pay him nothing. So, it’s just like, when he’s super direct and when he tells me the truth and when he be like, “You deserve this. You need this. You need that,” it’s just like, he’s not telling me this because he’s gonna benefit something from it. There’s nothing to benefit. He just want to see me win. So, it’s just like, “You’re right.” And I feel like I’m such a nice person, and he’s like…
Well, you need both sides, right?
And, you know, I’m not perfect. But, I’m getting better and better, and I’m being more alert.
Do you get tired of being called a female rapper and not just a rapper? Always being classified by your gender and getting separated into a category?
I mean, at the end of the day, I just keep feeling like I don’t care because I am a female. It’s just like, I don’t mind if you don’t put me in a category. Like, even let’s say a billionaire, right? Like, I’d rather be the first billionaire female than just, “Oh, she’s a billionaire.”
So, being called the female whatever over and over in a description doesn’t turn you off? You like that identification?
I do like the identification. Like, I don’t mind it. I’m really one of those people that I love being a woman. Like, even…alright, so I love war, right? I love war history.
Which wars are we talking about? Are you reading Civil War history? World War history? What are you doing?
Civil Wars. I like World Wars. And like, let me tell you something. So, this is so silly, but I always have this in my mind. So, the Russians, the Soviet Union, right, they had women soldiers. And the Germans were so confused when they used to see them, like, “What the fuck?” And then, like, they used to be so confused that, that distract them and next thing you know, you’re getting shot.
So, one of the things that it was so important on the Soviet fight with women, right, because when they were having their wait-outs, when they were hiding behind buildings, like, they were saying that men are so impatient and women were not, that they would wait and wait for hours, and men will start peaking. And then, that’s when the woman shoot you. So, I feel like it’s so amazing to be a woman. I don’t give a fuck if somebody call me a female rapper. A female entrepreneur. A female this. That’s what I am.
Like, I’m a whole female and I’m winning awards on niggas. And I’m making numbers on you niggas. I have a song on my album and I’d say, “Y’all niggas ain’t doing the numbers that my last shit did.” And I really could’ve said, “Y’all bitches ain’t doing the numbers that my last shit did.” But it was like, not even y’all muthafuckas is doing my numbers. So, it’s just like, I don’t give a fuck. Yes, I am a girl. With a pussy. With titties. And it’s just like, “Oh my God, she’s so pretty, but she’s so smart. She’s such a killa.” I just feel so powerful being a girl that I don’t give a damn if you call me a female rapper or a female…Yes, I am a girl.
You have publicly supported a bunch of newer female rappers by plugging them on social or putting them in your music videos. Do you feel like you have to cosign or endorse a new crop of female rappers?
No, I don’t. If I like you, I’m gonna endorse you. If I like your music, I’m gonna tell you that I like your music. I’m not in no catty shit, but it’s like at the end of the day, it is what it is. Like, this could get a little bit catty. So, it’s like, I don’t want to feel like I have a responsibility to look out for the girls and cuddle the girls and this and that. I feel like nobody did it for me, so it’s like, I don’t have to do it for you.
However, if you show me love, I’m going to show you love, and I’m gonna show you respect. Like, if you compliment me, I’ma compliment you. If you show love to my projects, I’m gonna show love to your projects. If sometimes, I see that you’re getting dragged on social media, like, I will want to give you an advice like, “Girl, just don’t say nothing. Don’t worry about it. Shit’s gonna pass. Yo, you know what? Do this so people could stop saying that about you.” I’m a person that likes to give advice, but I’m not gonna give advice to just anybody because they’re a female. Like, at the end of the day, I came from a female industry. I came from the strip club. And I’m from New York. The women are just crazy two-faced.
I don’t have to look out for you just because you’re a woman. I’m going to respect you. As long as you show me respect. And if you ever ask me for an advice, if you ever ask anything from me, I’m gonna give it to you. I’m gonna talk to you like a sister. When I met the City Girls, I didn’t know them at all. I told them like, “Y’all gotta keep working. Y’all gotta keep doing this. Y’all gotta keep doing that.” And that’s exactly what they did. And they big artists. They’re really popular. That’s just advice that I would tell any woman. However, I don’t feel like I gotta embrace everybody ’cause you might embrace a bitch, and then next thing you know, you find out the bitch don’t even fucking like you.
I don’t gotta have beef with somebody ’cause I’m not into beef. I hate beef. I’m not a petty person. I’m not a person that could go back and forth. I’m not none of that, ’cause I like to fight.
Meaning, you want to fight and get it over with. You don’t want to beef and have it go on and on.
Yes. We throw the hands and that’s it. I just hate how some people just be like, “Oh, I haven’t seen Cardi with this person. I haven’t seen this and that with this girl.” And it’s like, yo, I don’t even hang out with different people in real life, so what makes you think that because somebody else is a female rapper, I gotta hang out with them? Or I got a thing. Doesn’t mean that I don’t like them. I just don’t know them.
And, to your credit or your defense, you’re not everywhere around where you’re going to be meeting young talent and coming across them as you might have when you were newer. Plus, there’s been COVID.
Exactly. And it’s just, I like when things happen naturally. You know, when Megan [Thee Stallion] came out, people for a whole year was like, “I never seen Cardi and Megan together. I know they don’t fucking like each other.” I feel like people kept putting me against her and everything. I was like, Damn. That sucks. Because I like her music. But I don’t know her. So, it’s just like what could people…
Just because we both rap, doesn’t mean we automatically know each other. We’re not all just hanging out together.
Yes. Exactly. And then, like, when I met her, you know, it was just dope, and it was a very natural, smooth [meeting]. We did a song, and it went so smoothly and it went so well. Even with this “WAP” performance [for the Grammys], it went so smoothly. It went so well. And sometimes I get on social media, and I do good, and she randomly congratulates me. And, I will congratulate her as well. I’m gonna always show her love. Like, it’s just a super respect thing. But we don’t be hanging out. ’Cause I don’t hang out. I’m like a home potato…couch potato, you know what I’m saying? I just want to be home, have sex and be with my kid. That’s what I want to do.
But you earned that, right? You earned the right to decide whatever I want to do, I’m going to do it. And I juggle my business.
Yeah. But I always been like that, though. I always been a person that…I don’t hang out with a lot of people. ’Cause I’m from the Bronx. Why is the Bronx like that? Because I feel like when you stay out of the way, in the Bronx, you’re not in nothing. You’re not in no problem. You’re not in no issues. You don’t see nothing. You don’t hear nothing.
But I love [Megan]. I love her. I like her a lot. Doja Cat was showing me love. And I’m always showing her love, too.
Shifting to your upcoming album. It’s been three years and you are getting ready to release your second album. You’ve had some time between projects. Have you liked that? Have you been frustrated by that? Do you think the album should’ve been out sooner, or is this the timeline that you wanted? You created?
I feel like at this point, it’s like a timeline that I created. Because last year, I was like, I gotta put out my album this year. But, then I just stopped working on my album out of nowhere because I feel like the whole COVID thing discouraged me to put out my album. Because I want to put out an album, and I want to tour.
That seems to be what happened with most big hip-hop artists during the COVID pandemic. They didn’t drop any albums or projects or try to take advantage of this weird year. It feels like most artists seem to be holding all of their music for when they can go out on tour.
Yes. We want to tour with the album. And I feel when I did Invasion of Privacy, I did a really big interview with [radio host] Ebro [Darden]. And to this day, I see people posting the interview.
I don’t feel like if I do like, an album promo run and everything, like, there’s no feelings to it, me doing interviews with people through a computer. I want to meet up with people. I want to have a conversation. It’s a better vibe. I love album release parties. I would love an album release party in New York. I could have one in Atlanta, but I want one also at home. And I want to see people. I shouldn’t fly out 50 of my friends just so they could be there in Atlanta and then somebody might catch COVID. No. So, it’s just something that I stopped, but then now that I keep putting out my singles, I keep saying like, “Damn. I have no choice but to put out my album this year.”
It’s hard if you keep putting singles out and don’t put the album out, because then it looks like you’re not confident in the singles you are dropping.
Yes. And like, this was one of the biggest things that I had to do, this cover. I got like, a week of making sure I handle all my business, making sure everything is good, go to meetings. And then, I’m going away for a very long time to finish my album.
So, what is the timeline for you this year if it was your way?
It’s difficult. Because it’s like, even after I finish the album, I gotta make sure I do two epic music videos. And, it takes me a while to do a music video. It takes like, a whole month ’cause I suck at dancing, so I’ve gotta learn choreography. “WAP” was very difficult, getting clothes because most of our clothes came from France. And they had like, a whole three-week holdup.
It’s a bit of a tired conversation but to touch on it a bit, were you surprised by the response to the “WAP” video? The complaints of it being oversexualized mixed with the woman empowerment conversation. Were you waiting for “WAP” to be controversial or were you not expecting it?
I was really surprised by it because I’m like, I don’t understand what’s the uproar about it. I grew up listening to Trina and Khia and fucking Lil’ Kim. Like, Lil’ Kim says some real nasty shit. Foxy [Brown] says some nasty shit.
But, so do male rappers.
Yeah, so do male rappers. So, I was just so confused. Like, why is this such a fucking uproar? Is it because I’m a really big Democratic advocate or something? So, now the Republicans are just trying to find anything?
Oh, interesting. A backlash from being vocal and supporting Bernie Sanders and the Democrats in general.
It’s just like, Hmm. Y’all know how I got famous, right? I got famous by talking nasty on fucking social media. So, I just didn’t understand the uproar. And like, weeks later and months later, I’m starting to see like, Damn, this was a real feminist record. I didn’t even know that it was going to be. It was such a cause of conversation. In the beginning, it was on Fox News, these fucking… They were eating it up.
And then, these last couple of weeks it was trending again because there were some books of Dr. Seuss that got pulled out ’cause they got racial content in it. People was just like, “Oh, ‘WAP’ could be the greatest song, ever and ‘WAP’ could play everywhere, but we’re gonna pull Dr. Seuss books out ’cause of what?” And I’m like, I don���t understand. Why is my song getting involved in something that has to do with racism? I cannot believe that this song is just such a conversation.
But you’ve created yourself to be a person who makes those conversations now. Right?
I guess. But, I really didn’t thought that it was gonna be such a conversation. Because, to me, I feel like the conversation was gonna be the music video—it’s so amazing. I didn’t thought that people was gonna be like, “Oh, this is such a nasty song.” Because it’s not the nastiest song I ever heard. This is nothing compared to like, “My neck, my back, lick my pussy and my crack.” It doesn’t even compare.
You brought up your political side. How important is it for that to be a visible part of who you are to the public?
I hate when people be trying to say that I stand up for people for clout. Because I have videos of me with fucked up teeth, in Harlem marching for police brutality. I have videos of me with braids and fucking pimples all over my face while stripping, talking about this shit. In 2016, I was telling people why is it so important not to vote for [Donald] Trump. Like, this is natural to me because it’s like, something that I love. It’s my passion. I love politics. I love government. I love, like I said, wars. I love history. I love to learn about different countries. Now, when it comes to math and business and shit like that…Like business, I can’t tell you like, “Oh, that’s something that I’ve been knew about.” I told you, I’m just learning.
Isn’t that the most important thing? Just to learn? To have an interest? To care enough to find out?
Yes. But like, when it comes to shit that happens socially, like, that’s in me. That’s what I love to do.
As a celebrity, one of powers you have on a larger scale is the ability to really take advantage of the position you are in, right? You have a voice. Do you have a responsibility?
I don’t feel like it’s like, a responsibility because I don’t have to do it. I just feel like it’s something that I love to do. I love to give advice. And I love to talk about what’s on my mind. I said that’s how I got famous, by saying what’s on my mind when it came to broke men and blah, blah, blah.
But when it comes to things that’s going on in the environment and government, I like to say what’s on my mind. And, sometimes I hate it because I’m not saying it to get attention. I always feel like if God gave you a voice, use it. And people who say that I’m doing it for attention, it’s like, attention my ass. I really like to get to the bottom of shit. I don’t need attention.
And you could get attention other quicker ways…
Right. ’Cause I could literally get on social media with a thong on, and I’m gonna get 5 million likes. Actually, I don’t get as much likes or as much views when I say things political or things about government. People don’t give a fuck. So, it’s like, when people say that, it’s like, what do I have to gain? I don’t gain nothing. When I met with Bernie [Sanders], when I met with Joe [Biden], I didn’t get paid. I had to fucking take my own money and fly to fucking Detroit [to meet with Sanders] the day after I had a show. I did that.
Were you at home watching the news and the debates a lot? Is CNN or MSNBC on in your house a lot?
Yeah. It plays in the house a lot. Right now, it’s not because I feel like I’m getting tricked. That’s the thing about the news, right? You get informed. But then a person like me, I start wondering, like, Is this a lie? Like, I don’t trust nobody. At the end of the day, I endorse people, but I’m still gonna think because I have always believed it’s the people against government. And that’s how it’s always going to be. And that’s how forever it’s gonna be.
The government isn’t for all the people. We’ve seen that with the minimum wage, how unfairly people get treated and with the criminal justice system.
Yes. We see it with everything. So, it’s just like, it’s something that we have to live by ’cause at the end of the day, you do need ruling. There has to be…
Do’s and don’ts?
Yeah, do’s and don’ts. However, I’m gonna always feel like, for example, I know I’m very liberal, but I do believe in the Second Amendment a lot, like, the right to bear arms because you just never know when you have to go, which I highly doubt, but, due to history, you never know when you gotta go against…
Zombieland? Something you would never expect? An apocalypse? You never know what’s gonna hit anymore after COVID.
Yes. And then you know, like I said, COVID and everybody and all these freaking politicians having different views on everything, it just confused my mind so much that I stopped watching the news. And, I just be telling myself, “We just gotta let shit flow.”
Because there’s certain states that [are] completely open, but the COVID rates is going higher. And then, some states are fully open and the cases are still low. It’s just like, something is tricky about that. That means that they’re not reporting it. All of that drives me crazy.
Well, then it gets into a thing of how deep into conspiracy can you get?
Yes. How conspiracy can I get. And, I just sometimes need a break from it ’cause I’m a person that I will get stuck on thinking on something.
And trying to dig deeper into it. Trump being out of office helps us take a break from some of the news a bit.
Yeah. And people cannot front, it has gotten more peaceful. Like, the problems haven’t been solved… It was just getting so intense and so ridiculous. I honestly feel like he has started, not a physical [war], but a lot of race-baiting. And that’s just race war. And it’s like, against everybody: Whites, Black, Hispanics. People just debating and showing how they hate each other. I don’t know. I feel like I didn’t grow up like that. I didn’t grow up hating anybody. And all of these things are going on right now. It’s so weird. It makes me feel like, uncomfortable. So, I just feel like we have a little break from that ever since he’s not in office. It has been more peaceful. It has been.
You have mentioned social networking and your power there. It feels like you have a great relationship with your fans, but sometimes you can get frustrated with them. A huge part of building you up to this point was the way you handled social media. Has your relationship with your fans changed at all? Do you get tired of it now? Do you feel like it’s too judgmental?
Well, it’s very judgmental. When it comes to my fans, though, like, I know I be arguing with my fans a lot. But it’s nothing ever serious. I’m really close with my fans.
Are there two communities? It’s fans, and then there’s a more judgmental music community or a judgmental celebrity community that exists?
Yeah. And that’s why sometimes I get it twisted because I be feeling if you my die-hard fan, you should know me, so you should feel like you know what I don’t like or you know what will get me upset. But then I be forgetting, not everybody is like, super die-hard. Not everybody super knows me. And that’s ’cause I talk so much to my fans that I just be expecting all of them to be the same. But it’s not. To me, my fans is almost like a family. It’s like, I argue with my family and I will argue with people that I work with every single day. As long as we’re not saying no evil, cut, mean things. It’s like, OK, we got into an argument today. What’s up tomorrow?
Do you have fans you know by name? They’re head of fan clubs? You’re used to them and familiar?
I feel like I’m familiar with a lot of them. And, there’s some that I probably would talk to and I don’t even know how they look.
You just know their handle.
Yeah. I just know their handle. And, that’s just, I guess how it works or something. I feel like I know them, but I really don’t know them. That is so weird that you feel like you know somebody but you don’t even know how the fuck they look. It’s dope, though. I feel like they understand me. On social media, I’m one of those artists that people just don’t like too much or people are just too hard on. And that has pushed me away to stop expressing myself. That has pushed me away from going on live. That has pushed me away from doing so much things that I want. But, it will never push me away to quit because I feel like that is their goal. Their goal is to bully and pick on me and take away all the hard work that I have done and try to discredit my artistry. Try to discredit everything I do. They do that because they just want me to quit and to stop. I might not go on social media like I used to, or express myself how I want to, but you will never make me quit.
I’ll be damned if I fucking tell my daughter, “I stopped doing music because I just felt like everybody just kept bullying me. Like, no, Kulture, you don’t understand. Everything that I was putting out, people were saying that they hated it. Even though I was doing great numbers. I just didn’t understand why people hated me so much. I just felt like I had to quit.”
I’d feel like a fucking loser if I said that shit to my kid, so I don’t give a fuck what anybody would tell me. I will cry. I will be mad about it, but I will never fucking quit. It actually would make me mad. These are the people that know me. They know that I will be mad for one day, and then the next day be like, “Here’s the plan ’cause I’m about to fucking kill shit again and again and again.”
A lot of female rappers have had children, but you were the first one we watched become a mom while you were on your way to becoming a rap star. A lot of people questioned what it would do to your career. How did that feel to you at the time? Did you feel that you had a lot of people that were questioning your decision about having a child so early on in your career? And how have you felt you’ve navigated being a mom and a music star at the same time?
I’m not gonna lie, I was very, very, very scared. Everybody was very, very scared. And even like, the people on my label, they was like, “No, it’s gonna be OK.” I could tell that they were scared. Everybody was scared, you know what I’m saying? Like, even the people that do my makeup, my hair, the publicist, everybody was really scared. But, just like yesterday when I showed you I didn’t quit because it got cold…it’s just like, I’m not gonna quit because I’m uncomfortable and I’m pregnant.
I had a couple of songs like “Get Up 10,” “Ring” and “Money Bag” already made the year before. But like, around March [of 2018], not even March, like even before that, I locked myself in, in Atlanta and Miami, and I finished my album. And I was getting cold. I used to get really sleepy while I was pregnant. I would wake up, throw up, and then I would be like, Alright, I’m gonna brush my teeth and I’m gonna go in the booth. Because I was on a time limit. I knew that I couldn’t pass April ’cause my stomach was getting big, and I wouldn’t be able to do music videos.
But even after I completed that, the album came out and I was still pregnant. And I was like, Damn, I can’t perform in these shows. I don’t know if my career’s gonna be the same after I give birth. I was just like, Oh my gosh.
You were just scared.
I was scared. I kept telling people like, “Just take any deals. I don’t give a fuck. Take ’em. Take ’em. Take ’em. I’ll take ’em right now. I just need to make money.” And it worked out. I’m thankful and I’m grateful.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy just won a Grammy tonight. Would you want Kulture to win a Grammy one day? Would you want her to go into the entertainment business?
I want so much things for her that I don’t even know what I want. I just want her to be very smart and very business savvy. Like, that’s one thing that I want. I want her to be business savvy. Like, know this shit. Be very confident. One day she’s going to be reading the comments. And I just want her to know that, that doesn’t matter. I want her to feel like she’s just unstoppable. I want her to be humble.
But those sound, from the outside looking in, the way you could describe yourself.
I want her to be like me, but I don’t want her to have like, the bad things of me, you know what I’m saying? Like, I want nothing to bother her. I want her to be like, “Nothing that nobody says bothers me.” And one trait of me that I want her to have, I want her to be ambitious. A lot of people have so much things that I be like, Yo, why are they not further in their life? And, the reason is because they’re not ambitious. I want my daughter to be ambitious. I don’t want you to feel like you gotta get it from somebody else.
Or to settle for less.
Or to settle for less. I want her to be something. I want her to be a somebody.
Do you feel like you got that when you were raised? That was the energy that you got, or that’s something you had to create yourself?
That’s just how I’ve always been. I always been like, onto the money, onto the money, onto the money, onto the money. What do I have to do? And when I do something, I want to learn and be good at it. Like, everything. Even when I was a cashier, I wanted to be really fast at fucking checking people.
I want to be the fastest worker.
I want to be the fastest worker. And the strip club…not only am I a good stripper, but I want to learn how to do all the pole tricks. And, I want to learn the gift of gab to make guys give you more money. And then, with the musician, I want to learn how to be a great rapper. Like, I just don’t want to make shit rhyme. I want everything good. I want to learn everything. I want to learn every, every, everything. And within the business thing, like I said, I want to learn this shit.
Bringing it back directly to hip-hop and the next album, what can we expect sound-wise? It’s not Cardi 2.0 because there’s no new version of you, but you keep pushing. How’s that challenge for you, and what’s going on with you in hip-hop at this very moment?
I’m not even gonna lie, it’s a little bit challenging because it’s like, I’m young and I like trap. When I started rapping, if you listen to my mixtape, I like drill. My thing was always like, drill. I like drill Chicago music a lot. So that was my thing. I’m more of a trap, I’m more of a new era-type of rapper. But for some reason, I don’t understand how there are so many male rappers that could do new era rapping, the trapping, and when it comes to female rappers, it’s like, Where’s your bars? Where’s your this? And, they constantly have to compare me to other rappers. And it’s like, why can’t I just be this type of artist? Like, I want to be this type of artist. Like, why can’t I be it? Like, stop.
That’s one thing that it’s like, yo, they do not be comparing these young men. They don’t compare them to other rappers like Jay-Z or Kanye West and everything. But female rappers, it’s like, people gotta always compare me to the last one. And I hate that.
Do you feel like the goal is for everyone to pit the women against each other?
Not only is just pitting, but it’s just like, I hate that because… I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t want to go with another bitch formula. I want to go with my formula. So, it’s like why do y’all want me to rap like this girl or have like, bars like this girl or have these flows. A hundred flows like this girl? I’m going with my flow. My flow makes me money. My flow is what I like to hear. My flow, it’s just me.
And it’s like, I hate when they do that because I do not like… I hate bringing in the strip club, but I have to bring in the strip club. If I go in the club, and I fucking see that another bitch is making money and shit, she got money on the floor, then that is distracting me. Like, Oh, damn, why that bitch making money today? What the fuck?
So, you’re incredibly competitive.
It’s not that I’m competitive, I just don’t like to be on pace with somebody else. I like running on my own time. I like doing things on my own time and my way. So, I really hate when people pit me against each other, because it just makes me feel like I gotta move like them. And I don’t like moving like nobody else. Even last year, everybody was putting music out, all the females. Nicki Minaj. Doja Cat. Megan Thee Stallion. And people was just saying, “Oh, Cardi is over. Cardi’s over.”
You’re right. That’s 100 percent right.
Yeah. Everybody was like, “Cardi’s over. Ah, we told you. She’s not no real artist. She’s this and that. Oh, yeah, we got women back.” Everything that I accomplished, people was trying to erase it just because new females were out. And that shit made me feel like, Damn, I gotta rush, rush, rush, rush, so I could be in the lineup with these girls. And you know what? I said, “No.” And I kept recording. I kept writing down ideas of how my next single rollout was gonna come out ’cause I ain’t put out music in six, seven months. And when I do things in my time, in my pace because I’m not watching other bitches, I do great.
Like “WAP.” I do great. I had that song for months. Could’ve been put it out. And no, I’m not gonna put out a song because other bitches is doing good or they’re doing great. That’s them. What they eat don’t make me shit. And then, it’s just like, it was a really weird moment for me because I hate working because of other people pace. Because other people is doing something. Alright, they doing good, then that’s good for them. But just ’cause they doing good doesn’t mean that I’m gonna be out here rushing my life. Or like, rushing to be in line with them. When it’s my moment, it’s my moment.
Well, that takes the control away from you, right? It’s not on your time. It’s not on your schedule. It’s on someone else’s. And now you’re cramped. You’re rushing. Maybe not making the right decisions, if you’re forced that way.
And I hate that shit. And a lot of people do that shit on social media. That’s so fucking annoying. And I hate when I accomplish, people get upset because it’s like, “Oh, well, you accomplished something and this person didn’t.” And it’s like, bro, when somebody else accomplish something, I don’t give a fuck. Like I said, what they eat don’t make me shit. It doesn’t take away from my success. And it doesn’t take away from their success, neither. So, stop doing that. Because that shit throws off the artist’s mind.
There’s too much women right now. Everybody’s records are gonna be broken. There’s gonna be new records. New history. New moments that are gonna be made. It’s not gonna be by me. It’s gonna be by so many different women. One day, this bitch is getting praise, the other bitch is getting praise. I’m getting praise.
But you did just get the first diamond plaque for a female rapper’s single for “Bodak Yellow”? So, you got that one under your belt. That’s quite an accomplishment.
Yes. And it was amazing, but yet some other people were upset at that. “Oh, just ’cause Cardi got a diamond single doesn’t mean she’s the greatest rapper, ever.” I never said that made me the greatest rapper.
That was like the hate on winning the Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammys, right?
Yes. And it’s like, that doesn’t make me or I’m not saying that this makes me the best female rapper, ever. However, this is my moment. Let me enjoy it. Because when another bitch get this moment, I’m not gonna be mad at it. It’s her moment. Let me have my moment, bro.
And what did I do to you that you won’t let me have it?
Yes. Any of my success that I do, whether I go No. 1, whether I get a diamond record, whether I get a Grammy, it doesn’t diminish nobody else’s success… Today, there’s so many female rappers nominated in these Grammys, somebody might win three, two Grammys today.
Yeah, Megan won a few tonight. That doesn’t take away from what you’ve achieved.
That doesn’t take from me. That doesn’t take away from nothing that I’ve fucking broken. So, why is it that every time I win it’s like, it’s something bad? Like, that takes away from somebody else’s shit? It’s annoying and I hate that. It’s like, people want to make me feel guilty for winning.
If you were going to be the most braggadocios person you could be right now and flex about everything you’ve accomplished. What would you say about yourself?
Bitch be selling. I sell. And I make good music. Just that.
See Cardi B’s Photo Shoot in XXL Magazine’s Spring 2021 Issue