In a genre rife with Technicolor boasts, grounded brags can be the most powerful. Cardi B, best known as a lovably rambunctious social media personality and Love & Hip Hop castmate, used the first verse of her breakout single, “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves),” to reflect on the hard-won thrill of being able to afford some expensive dental work: “Got a bag and fixed my teeth/Hope you hoes know it ain’t cheap.” It’s a flex that appeals to aspirational women who have turned perceived flaws into a source of unrivalled power.
Cardi B capitalised on that energy source with the 2017 single, catapulting her from reality TV star-turned-rapper to instant hip-hop luminary.
Cardi B, on the other hand, had one more item on her burgeoning rap superstar checklist: a strong debut album. Invasion of Privacy, which was released five years ago today, was much more than that.
Cardi B’s debut album was an episodic win that turned into an extended victory lap, breaking Billboard records while establishing her as a pop culture force that has endured, even without the benefit of an extensive catalogue. Bardi’s combination of straightforward honesty, good looks, and outright charisma had already made her a somebody.
Invasion of Privacy established her as a rapper to be admired for her command of the mic and curatorial instincts—a self-contained institution to be stanned, streamed, and eventually immortalised.
Cardi taps into an array of emotions and sensations as varied as the soundscapes and stylistic avenues she chooses to distil them through on Invasion of Privacy, a flurry of quippy put-downs, self-mythology, and dynamic songwriting (a significant amount in collaboration with Pardison Fontaine). The tracklist is a portrait of chameleonic versatility, encompassing various eras and regions of hip-hop. “Get Up 10” is a ferocious motivational opener reminiscent of Meek Mill’s Dreams and Nightmares intro.
“Drip” feels like a Migos song that Cardi somehow made her own. It’s an exercise in breath control and effortless confidence. “Bickenhead” transforms a Project Pat banger into the theme song for a stylish hustler. With their swagger and technical prowess, the tracks emphasise a learned invincibility.
But she can also cause great pain. With “Be Careful,” Cardi evokes pain and betrayal. Her typically commanding vocals melt into a timid whimper for a hook that sounds like surrender but doubles as a warning: “Be careful with me, do you know what you’re doin’?/Whose feelings that you’re hurting and bruising?”
It also demonstrates a level of nuance and control that allows her to fully inhabit whatever emotion she is attempting to isolate.
The tracks, with their swagger and technical prowess, highlight a learned invincibility.
The artist’s refined, deliberate approach to songwriting extracts the best parts of the Bronx rhymer, combined with a propulsive voice that leaves no room to escape Cardi’s personality. It’s a symbiotic relationship that results in a fully realised persona, one that goes beyond empty come-up aphorisms and trite not-so-humblebrags. Her all-around control resulted in massive hits.
By the time Invasion of Privacy was released, ‘Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)’ had already become a massive hit, and her guest appearances on Migos’ ‘MotorSport’ and G-Eazy’s ‘No Limit’ only added to her momentum, as both songs charted in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Nonetheless, she outdid herself with the release of “I Like It.” The track includes a sample of Pete Rodriguez’s timeless “I Like It Like That (A Mi Me Gusta Asi),” as well as a feature from J Balvin and Bad Bunny, who were on the verge of global dominance at the time. The Latin trap single’s music video has received over 1.5 billion YouTube views, and the song itself was certified 10 times platinum nearly a year and a half ago.
Indeed, invasion of privacy has been pervasive in almost every sense of the word. “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)” and “I Like It” both reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and were certified platinum 11 times. The dominance of the album on which they were released has mirrored their success. The album was certified triple-platinum in April 2019, but given that artists are required to notify the RIAA of sales certification updates, it wouldn’t be surprising if she’d more than doubled that total in the four years since. After all, the project has been through a lot. About a year ago, the album became the first from a female rapper to chart on the Billboard 200.
Privacy Invasion accomplished almost everything. Symbolically, it’s a rare case where the end result outperforms the hype in every way. The album’s songs all charted on the Billboard Hot 100. Every track has received a platinum or higher certification. Invasion of Privacy earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album. Cardi B’s debut as a major label artist was akin to a first-year player winning Rookie of the Year, MVP, and a championship in basketball terms. She hit every shot she attempted. It was an arrival as well as a takeover.
Cardi B has put miles between herself and her former status as an underdog since the release of Invasion of Privacy. It’s been a while since she got the bag and fixed her teeth, and she’s got a lot more flashy things to brag about these days. Cardi took the time during her initial breakout moment to tell sceptics about her historic level up. There is no need for a reminder in the aftermath of Invasion of Privacy. On her debut album, she demonstrated a level of craft and overall power that no one can forget—even if they wanted to.