By naming her debut album Invasion of Privacy, the implication is that Cardi B wishes to avoid the spotlight, yet it’s hard to think of another rapper who has chased fame so aggressively in recent years. Between her candid Instagram videos and a two season tenure on Love & Hip Hop, the star otherwise known as Belcalis Almanzar has been an open book to the fans who helped her knock Taylor Swift off the charts last year with “Bodak Yellow”, which remains her most popular song to date. Because of this openness, detractors were quick to label Cardi B as a one-hit wonder and contest her authenticity as a rapper.
Almanzar didn’t help matters by telling Rolling Stone that “It’s not as fun to do music,” while also admitting that she initially pursued rap to monetize her fame as a reality TV star. While her undeniable authenticity in real life enamored Cardi B to her fans, the widening gap between the release of “Bodak Yellow” and an actual album could have been a huge cause for concern, despite the success of features with Migos and Bruno Mars. Fortunately, Invasion of Privacy has cemented Cardi B’s position as “the people’s diva,” winning critics over with tracks like “Be Careful” and “Bartier Cardi” which are simultaneously vulnerable and fierce in a way that few others can match right now.
First impressions are key though, something which rival rapper Nicki Minaj knew all too well when she opened her debut record Pink Friday with a track simply titled “I’m the Best”. Whether this still remains true or not, Cardi B also understands the power of making a statement from the onset, and it’s here in opening track “Get Up 10” that Invasion of Privacy connects with listeners most. She might not be the first to rap about stripping or a star’s rise from poverty – and even the structure of the song is deliberately reminiscent of Meek Mill’s “Dreams & Nightmares”. Nonetheless, “Get Up 10” is a calling card, one that establishes Cardi B as more than just a former reality star – and it might even be her best song yet.
“I ain’t tellin’ y’all to do it, I’m just tellin’ my story”
From its very first line, “Get Up 10” is Cardi B at her most unfiltered, and that’s surely saying something for a star who has become defined by her relentlessly honest approach to social media. Every word drips with aggressive intent, yet Cardi’s flow is precise in its focus. Impeccable lines like “Went from makin’ tuna sandwiches to makin’ the news” and “I was covered in dollars, now I’m drippin’ in jewels” tackle subjects we’ve heard countless times before, but they’ve never felt fresher coming from Cardi B’s mouth.
The raw passion of Cardi B’s delivery on “Get Up 10” is matched only by the music itself, which flows and contorts as the song builds up momentum. Produced by DJ SwanQo and Sean Allen , the track opens with haunting piano notes that gradually coalesce into something harder that matches the intensity of Almanzar’s rhymes. At one point, Cardi B tells haters that “You gon’ have to learn to hold your tongue or hold the gun,” yet every line in “Get Up 10” combines to create the battle cry that Cardi B needed to silence her critics once and for all. In recent interviews, Almanzar maintains that the beef between her and Nicki Minaj is manufactured, although rivals would do well to sit up and take notice too or risk her putting a Loubotin where their “neck at.”
Endlessly quotable and brutally honest, the opening to Invasion of Privacy is a message of intent for what’s to follow, and contains far more layers than one might expect from someone who started out on the show Love & Hip Hop. However, Cardi B didn’t intend to record tracks like “Get Up 10” at first, something which she even mentions on the song itself.
Initially focused solely on creating “bangers,” Almanzar expressed doubts about writing socially conscious lyrics to Rolling Stone last fall, explaining that “A bitch like me, it might not work out for me, so I’m going to stick to trapping.” Clearly though, that didn’t stick for long. Cardi B might not be explicitly political in the same way as rappers like Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole, but Invasion of Privacy is still a powerful statement and its message is best encapsulated in the album’s first 3 minutes and 51 seconds.
“Real bitch, only thing fake is the boobs”
Although typical rap tropes like stripping are themes that Cardi B returns to on the album time and time again, her music isn’t defined by her previous life as a dancer. In fact, the very first line on “Get Up 10”, and therefore the entire record, sums up why Almanzar stripped in the first place – “Look, they gave a bitch two options: strippin’ or lose,” – and it’s not long before she clarifies what that really entailed: “I said ‘dance’ not ‘fuck,’ don’t get it confused.”
In an industry where women are often reduced to mere sex objects on a pole, Cardi B takes full ownership of this trope and humanizes it here to the point where it’s impossible for men to ignore her agency and power. Sure, there’s still sex appeal, but the self proclaimed “strip-club Mariah Carey” refuses to conform, helping to reshape feminism through a hip-hop lens, and nowhere does she do this better than on “Get Up 10”.
For the most part, female rappers like Lil’ Kim, Azealia Banks and even Nicki Minaj have been forced to battle their label’s misogynistic ideals to get to the top. And when stars like M.I.A. refuse to toe the line, they’re usually punished for their honesty. Cardi B is less controversial in some ways, despite her outrageous personality, but in this post #MeToo world, her refusal to play by the rules is more important than ever. As she says herself on “Get Up 10”, speaking her mind “tripled her views,” and there’s something remarkably empowering about the way that Cardi B remains unfiltered in a world where female musicians rarely possess this same kind of freedom.
The authenticity of songs like “Bodak Yellow” and “Bartier Cardi” have helped make Cardi B a global superstar and in the coming months, future cuts from Invasion of Privacy will cement this further. However, it’s the lyrical prowess and Cinderella-story behind “Get Up 10” that defines Almanzar best. More than just an introduction to her album, “Get Up 10” is an introduction to Cardi B as a real artist, and in years to come, the industry will look back at the release of this track as a watershed moment in her career, one where she finally transcended her origins as a reality star and became a true contender. Don’t agree? You can knock her down nine times, but Cardi B will always “get up ten,” and it’s this drive which ensures that she’s always “gon’ win.”
Read our full album review of Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy.
- Words: David Opie
- Photography:Christopher Polk/Getty Images