Yeah Baby, I Like It Like That
Changing the Narrative of the Sexual Empowerment of Female Hip Hop Artist: Part 2
by Tamara D. Hill, PhD
Cardi B is known for her "shmoney" quotes, being a former stripper and having appeared on Love and Hip Hop New York for two seasons from 2015 to 2017. Then, according to Andrea Wurzburger from People Magazine, she was a "regular, degula, schmegula girl from the Bronx." Born "Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar, her stage moniker is a derivative of the alcoholic drink known as Bacardi rum: Cardi B literally took the letters from the alcoholic drink and reversed their position because she was aware that no one would be able to pronounce her birth name correctly. Moreover, her ethnic heritage is both Dominican and Trinidadian, which by definition makes Cardi B, a woman of color like many other Dominican female rappers that are popular at this moment in time such as La Materialista, Melymel, Ice Spice, Tokischa and DaniLeigh.
To further explain Cardi's ethnic lineage, Nancie L. Gonzalez and Howard J. Wiarda, editors from Encyclopedia Britannica write, "Throughout the colonial period the population of European colonists and African slaves grew slowly, and their mulatto (mixed African and European) descendants now predominate in most regions of the country. However, the southeastern coastline itself is increasingly inhabited by Blacks from Haiti and West Indian nations who have gone there to work on the plantations, in the mills, or on the docks; most are temporary or seasonal workers." Whereas, her Trinidadian heritage is a combination that descends from enslaved Africans and East Indians or Indo Trinidadians. Ergo, we have a "regular" Dominican and Trinidadian Bronx, New York born native woman that has become this phenomenal female rapper since 2015 who utilizes her sexual agency to her full advantage.
Conversely, the predecessor to all Dominican female rappers is Trina, who is customarily known as the "baddest bitch" in the Rap game and Trick Daddy's counterpart. Trina is characterized as being a Dominican woman because her father which puts in her the same category as her female emcee counterparts. What is more, her memorable verses appear on Trick Daddy's single "Nann Nigga"(1998), a hood anthem classic from the Dominican female perspective where she spits:You don't know nann ho, uh-uhCertainly, Trina is one of the best Dominican female rappers in the industry but Cardi B has definitely become a force to be reckoned with as a leading rap lyricist, bolstered her exceptional record sales. According to Rashad from That Grape Juice.net, "As of October 10, 2022 only three female Rap songs in history owned a Diamond certification at the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales of 10 million in the United States - Nicki Minaj's 'Super Bass' as well as Cardi B's Hot 100 #1 hits 'I Like It' and 'Bodak Yellow.' By doing so, she not only becomes the first female rapper to own a plaque with as high of a certification but she also breaks a two-way tie with Minaj for the highest-certified song by a female rapper." Seemingly, it appears as if Cardi B became a megastar rapper overnight but that is not the case.
Don' been the places I been
Who can spend the grands that I spend
Fuck 'bout five or six best friends
And you don't know nann ho, uh-uh
That's off the chain like me
That'll floss the thang like me
On a awful thang like me
When Cardi B emerged as a female rapper on Love and Hip Hop New York, I can remember her telling DJ Shelf aka Gwinnin' to "put her on" and that she had what it took to be in the Rap game. Equally, before her appearance on Love and Hip Hop New York, she was still making her presence known and voice heard in the entertainment field. The official Cardi B.com website shares the details of her rise to fame: "In 2013, Cardi B began to gain publicity due to several of her videos going viral on social media, on Vine and her official Instagram page." Of course, those of us remember how this scenario played out on national television because DJ Shelf did not listen to her nor would he play her music at the radio station. But with Cardi B's hustle and faith, she eventually released Gangsta Bitch Music, Volume 1 which was her debut mixtape, released on March 7, 2016. The cover art was even more controversial than her music, because Cardi B was receiving cunnilingus from a black-haired Adonis with tattoos all over his sculpted body while she casually sips a bottle of Corona beer, all while looking unbothered. This is her first knife piercing to the mass public because she is making a statement even though she is not uttering one word. More importantly, there were no words needed when people saw the album cover with Cardi B's spread eagle legs with his head buried deep between her thighs said it all.
While Little Kim aka "Queen B" was a legendary rap artist had tons of album covers that exemplified her female sexual agency, such as her N.O.T.O.R.I.O.U.S KIM (2000) album where she covers her breast with her hands while the rest of her body is exposed with a tattoo on her stomach saying 'N.O.T.O.R.I.O.U.S. KIM,' with her jeans that are turned halfway down. To contrast, Cardi was explicitly utilizing her own sexual agency by telling the world, "yeah, I like my man to cleanse his palate between my legs and so what?" It was from this same mixtape that she began to introduce herself and telling us what she was about in her single hit banger, On "Fleek," (2016) she spits:I'm Cardi exotic, my ice retardedSlowly but most certainly, she infiltrated the mainstream Rap scene with music that was inundated aggressive ad sexual lyrics were being played on a continuous cycle on various streams.
I walk in the party get started
Murder scene he want all this
Your bitch I demolish on fleek is what you call it
This not a game, fuck is you saying
Bullshit is something I don't entertain
Come correct if gon' call out my name
Not talking money I'm switching these lanes, like swerve
Now watch me, now watch me, swag surf
Boy you better respect the curve
I'm on my bullshit, fuck what you heard
Oh you ain't know, well you gon' learn
By comparison, the iconic cover of the Snoop Dog album Doggystyle that was "created by the artist Joe Cool and represents the themes covered in the album," according to Capital Extra, has an explicit scene with one female dog on her knees who is completely nude and one can assume that she is giving fellatio to a male dog in the doghouse with her ass in the air because even though we do not see her face, her sexual position is not hard to figure out. Then there is a White male in the back who is utterly shocked at her position but who has a net ready to scoop her up. The dog that is on top of the doghouse is supposed to be Snoop Dog because he has long permed hair, brown sneakers and blue flannel shirt, attempting to snatch her of the doghouse by her ass. The cover was not only applauded but heralded as one of the best album covers that ever came out featuring Snoop Dog, but it received little to no criticism for its depiction of a female being aligned to a dog unlike Cardi B's mixtape cover. It is also interesting to recognize how women can be depicted on album covers in various positions where they are being subjected to the sexual whims of men but when the reverse is done by female rape artists or other women in the music industry that want to utilize and or express sexual agency, there is an uproar of criticism and the "clutching of pearls."
As a forerunner or megastar in the rap industry, we have observed Cardi B transform from this edgy, street smart girl from the Bronx into a full blown fashionista female rapper with a blunt and sarcastic personality whose charisma is infectious to all she encounters. Long before I began to write about her for this piece, I was already a fan of hers on Instagram and Love and Hip Hop New York. She was autoschediastic but had a lyricist light in her that refused to be dimmed when it came to being a rapper because she was truthful about her experiences and people gravitated towards her unique style and sexual aggressiveness. She is her authentic Dominican self and does not apologize for who she is and it is what we hear in her music. Cardi B has also spoken candidly about her time on Love and Hip Hop, how she has evolved as an artist and woman, down to her getting a "bag" (secured money) and fixing her teeth. Then again, it is her sexually fierce lyrics that she wields like a knife that can either make you brave enough to embrace them or have you wondering if you could be that empowered.
By April 6, 2018, Cardi B released her first studio album titled, Invasion of Privacy. On her album cover, she has swimming yellow curls that are reminiscent of the 1920s hairstyle and is dressed in black and white, with deep purple lips in a half smile snarl while wearing white sunglasses. While it debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200, she equally received critical acclaim for her work. From that album, there was five number one singles: "Bodak Yellow," "I Like It" with Bad Bunny and J. Balvin, "Ring" featuring Kehlani, "Be Careful" and "Bartier Cardi" with 21 Savage. Musical scholars note that same year, she was the first and the only woman that had ever received a Grammy for the Best Album of the Year and she had only the second female rap album that was even nominated in that category. On top of that, it was the song "I Like It" with Bad Bunny and J. Balvin that gave her the status of having multiple number-one hits on the Hot 100.
"I Like It," received the MTV Music Award for the Best Song of the Summer and Billboard Music Award for Top Rap Song. Most people have heard the sample that was utilized for this banger but may not be familiar with the artist who originally wrote it. Authors Tia Hill, Jer Paulin, Lisa Brown and Jacques Morel Jr. in their article titled, "The rapper flips "I Like It Like That" with some help from Bad Bunny & J Balvin," emphasize, "Fans may have noticed that it samples the classic 1967 song "I Like It Like That" by Pete Rodriguez. The sample kicks off Cardi's track on the intro, incorporating lyrics from the throwback song:Yeah babyIn turn, Cardi B comes over the classic Latin track with her detailed lyrics exclaiming what she likes in terms of "shmoney" and how her exes are texting her begging for a second chance:
I like it like that
You gotta believe me when I tell you
I said I like it like that.Now I like dollars, I like diamonds, I like stunting, I like shiningShe emphasizes how her body is something that men desire by calling it a "hot tamale," and that is even hotter than the deserts of Somali. Conventionally, the Dominican Republic is known to be sexually liberated place because they are not as prudish as Americans are when it comes to matter of sex and they have no restraints on how to communicate it either. In contrast, Dominican women range in skin tone of the Black spectrum and some of them identify themselves as "Black Dominican" or "Afro-Latina" but it literally is a personal choice based on their individual cultural mores, language, spirituality and emotional perspectives. Like most women of color, Dominican women are not any different in embracing their feminine traits and their sexuality and even though Cardi B was not born there but raised in the Bronx, it could explain why she may feel as though these particular lyrics are a testament to her heritage. In addition to the lyrics, the storyboard in the video pays a nod to her ethnic heritage in the manner to which she dresses from the bright yellow high-low skirt with the colorful turban to her long red dress with the high slits and jewel-toned head wrap.
I like million dollar deals, where's my pen, bitch I'm signin' (Signin')
I like those Balenciagas (Those), the ones that look like socks
I like going to the jeweler, I put rocks all in my watch (Cha-ching)
I like texts from my exes, when they want a second chance (What?)
I like proving niggas wrong, I do what they say I can't (She can't)
They call me Cardi Bardi, banging body, spicy mami, hot tamale
Hotter than a Somali, fur coat, Ferrari
By 2020, Cardi B was immensely popular and her sexuality was evident everywhere she went, whether it was an awards show or performing on stage. Nonetheless, there was one specific single from her second studio album that utilized a throwback beat from Frank Ski aka Frank Rodriguez who was a former DJ that sent our synapses into oblivion as the airways played a steady, rhythmic drumbeat that true Hip Hop heads knew when the first beat dropped. "A noted pioneer of Hip-Hop music in the early years, Ski has remained a major influence and contributor to the music industry as a DJ and producer," according to Frankski.com. He is currently the radio host for KISS 104.1in Atlanta, Georgia. Correspondingly, in 1993, Frank Ski dropped a single titled, "Whores in this House," but he sampled the backdrop Nicolette's song, "O Si Nene" which she released in 1992. Had it not been for Frank Ski's innovation from utilizing "O Si Nene" from Nicolette, we may have never experienced "WAP" (2020) from Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, which became a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100.
While people make jokingly say that "WAP" stands for "Worship and Praise," we all know better. "WAP" actually stands for "Wet Ass Pussy" and when it hit the airwaves, some people were appalled while others embraced her incisive lyrics and female agency that was obviously free and unbothered as she declares herself to be a "freak" right after the hook. The unforgettable lyrics go just like this:Whores in this house
There's some whores in this house
There's some whores in this house
There's some whores in this house (hol' up)
I said certified freak, seven days a week
Wet ass pussy, make that pullout game weak, woo! (Ah)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, you fucking with some wet ass pussy
Bring a bucket and a mop for this wet ass pussy
Give me everything you got for this wet ass pussy
Beat it up, nigga, catch a charge
Extra large, and extra hard
Put this pussy right in yo' face
Swipe your nose like a credit card
Hop on top, I want a ride
I do a kegel while it's inside
Spit in my mouth, look at my eyes
This pussy is wet, come take a dive
Tie me up like I'm surprised
Let's role-play, I wear a disguise
I want you to park that big Mack truck right in this little garage
Make it cream, make me scream
Out in public, make a scene
I don't cook, I don't clean
But let me tell you, I got this ring (ayy, ayy)
While the hook is Frank Ski's innovation of the original composition by Nicolette, the rest is Cardi B's featuring Megan Thee Stallion's larger-than-life portrayal of the sexual description of their dripping wet anatomy and euphoric lyrics which ultimately represent their female empowerment and free sexual agency. As a whole, they exemplify why it was a protest of women's desires and one that the mass public could not stop listening to. In response to this Cardi's B's "WAP" being a smash hit in 2020, Nick Levine in his article titled, "The Best Albums and Songs of 2020" strongly asserts:This year's most talked-about single is an X-rated celebration of female sexual agency. Half-a-billion streams later, "WAP" continues to pack a massive punch because rap superstars Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion outline their desires in a way that's not just unapologetic, but also staggeringly graphic. "WAP"'s naggingly catchy hook already sounds built to last, so let's hope its chart-topping success creates space for many more female artists to write unselfconsciously about what they want.Which to Levine's point, has limited women in Hip Hop and especially those of color who are and want to articulate their sexual agency in their music. But now the difference is that the current women of color in Hip Hop including Cardi B, Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion do not fear the backlash and or "being canceled" for emphatically stating what or whom they want to do sexually in the bedroom, car or any other location. Or is the problem that women in the Hip Hop industry like Cardi B are "writing and spitting lyrics unselfconsciously" about their sexual desires and the mass public does not want to hear about them? Either way, that is not the current trend in Hip Hop with female lyricist such as Latto, City Girls, Saweetie, Steflon Don and GloRilla, just to name a few, who are sexually aggressive and feminine at the same time with their "unapologetic flows" and sick beats.
As follows, Cardi B's sexualizing her lyrics in addition to her performances in videos or live on stage should never be questioned or judged when male Hip Hop artists have done exactly the same thing with little to no retribution or fear of being "canceled" as artists. "WAP" catapulted its listeners into a frenzy about how explicit a woman's vagina could be and the end result of a sexual rendezvous, if a man was ever so lucky to experience it. As an example, Cardi aggressively and bluntly spits:Hop on top, I want a rideFrom a medical perspective, women are informed to do Kegels by their obstetrician/gynecologists in order to tighten their vaginal walls after giving birth or to strengthen their muscles inside the vagina. However, if a woman does this exercise while a man is erect during sex, it is said to "drive them crazy" because of the tightening sensation on their member. The University of Colorado explains the sexual pleasure of a woman doing kegels by explaining:
I do a kegel while it's inside
Spit in my mouth, look at my eyes
This pussy is wet, come take a diveKegels can also improve a woman's sexual experiences. Research shows they can improve orgasms and sexual arousal. They can help some women relax their pelvic muscles during intercourse, making sex more pleasurable. A woman can also do Kegels during sex, which can be pleasurable for her partner.The mere fact that Cardi B describes how to weaponize kegels during sex speaks to the fact that she is aware of this tightening pleasure on her man's member in the bedroom and that other women know this as well. Perhaps other women of color were not as brazen as Cardi B to state this fact out loud about the control a woman can wield when doing Kegels during sex but they can still acknowledge that what she spits in the song about them is the absolute truth.
Yes, there is passion and raunchy lyrics in "WAP" but it is the unadulterated idea of Cardi B vehemently stating that she had "it" aka "wet pussy that caused the women who listened to her then characterize their female anatomy in the same manner. In fact, there were critics who confirmed that her song was not only necessary but that her sharp lyrics gave us all something to think about as we listened to her anthem. Alyssa Rosenberg, author of "'WAP' is completely filthy. We Could Use a Lot More Pop Culture Like It," ascertains, "When rappers Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion released the song and music video for "WAP" - an ode to female sexual pleasure not merely unquotable but impossible to describe in a family newspaper - they didn't just give us a catchy summer anthem; they gave us a throwback controversy." Along with the accompanying controversies (maybe in part because of it), her stunning lyrics that opened up our minds and exposed our sexual desires with a beat that was unforgiving and a video depiction featuring Megan Thee Stallion that was contagious.
"WAP" was not only a "banger" on the airwaves but there was a notable line that acknowledged her stance when it came to the traditional roles of women like, "I don't cook, I don't clean, but let me tell you I got this ring."
Any historians of Western culture will confirm that women have been coached to believe that if they have these aforementioned domestic qualities of being able to "cook and clean" then they will get a ring and eventually be married. But with WAP, Cardi is espousing just the opposite and verifying that it was her "lady parts" that gave her the ring. Oddly enough, her husband Offset, in poking fun about this specific line, filmed her on his Instagram "cleaning" the house they lived in soon after the song was released.
Given the significant number of hits that Cardi B has produced so far, we will always see her "spitting" her truth in her lyrics with an authentic Dominican essence that keeps her fans coming back for more as she continues to develop as an artist. While there may be a disparity in how female lyricists of color have been perceived by the general public and especially Cardi B's uncompromising lyrics, the Hip Hop industry needs to be supportive of these women expressing their sexual agency. To provide a parity in the Hip Hop industry, all Hip Hop artists both male and female need to work together to develop a strategy to embrace the discrimination that the women have had to encompass for producing and writing the same sexually raunchy music that the men have for the last 50 years. To illuminate, no one has stopped partying or listening to the legendary Rick James' "Superfreak" (1981) or Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" (1982) where in their lyrics, both male artists are talking about women and their sexual prowess- the same can be said for Cardi B's streak of hits.
Even though it is important that Cardi B and other Hip Hop female artists of color remain visible, one must comprehend that their lyrics and sexual aggressiveness will characterize them both as artists and as individual women. Consequently, we have continued to see Cardi B's singles become even more sexually explicit from "Press" (May 2019) where she is completely nude with only a black trench coat hanging over her shoulders with full voluminous hair as she is being escorted by the cops for murder to her release of "Hot Shit" (2022), featuring Kanye West and Lil Durk, where she is wearing a gold metal bra and 6-inch and slaying silver stiletto heels with matching gold wraparound sunglasses leaving viewers to guess whether or not she even has on any underwear. If that wasn't enough, her infamous detailed peacock feather tattoo is covering the majority of her thigh as she has her lifted up in the air.
What will she think of next to articulate her sexual agency and lyrics that are unabashed and blunt? We will just have to wait and see, and how they will be embraced and I feel as though she will never disappoint her fans with her fierce lyrics and being a "regular, schmegulal" girl from the Bronx.
Cardi B's charismatic persona, b;lunt lyrics have told the world that "she did not come to play" but instead will remain a sexual and prolific female rapper with a voice that will not be silenced nor ignored.
"Cardi B - On Fleek." YouTube, uploaded by OnikaLyrics, 13 March 2016. https://youtu.be/NheOp95wQeQ. Accessed February 13, 2023
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. "WAP."
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Cardi B website bio https://www.cardibofficial.com/bio. Accessed February 12, 2023.
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Hill, Tia., Paulin, Jer., Morel, Jacques Jr. and Brown, Lisa. Cardi B's Latin Crossover "I Like It Samples Peter Rodriguez 60's Hit.The rapper flips "I Like It Like That" with some help from Bad Bunny & J Balvin. April 6, 2018. Genius. Accessed 12 February 2023.
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Nicolette -Now is Early. "O Si Nene." YouTube. Uploaded by mlammin on May 20, 2007. https://youtu.be/bLI3n6SUsoE. Accessed March 5, 2023.
Rashad. RIAA: Cardi B Breaks Tie With Nicki Minaj for All-Time Highest Certified Female Rap Song. 12th October 2022. https://thatgrapejuice.net/2022/10/riaa-cardi-breaks-tie-with-nicki-minaj-for-time-highest-certified-female-rap-song/ Accessed February 23, 2023.
Rosenberg, Alyssa. "WAP' is completely filthy. We could use a lot more pop culture like it." August 18, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/08/18/wap-is-completely-filthy-we-could-use-lot-more-pop-culture-like-it/ Accessed March 3, 2022.
Ski, Frank. "Whores In This House (Remix)." YouTube. Uploaded by College Hill. Frank Ski Club Track Volume 3. "Whores in the House Remix." Side A on August 11, 2020. https://youtu.be/MO776mIAfas. Accessed March 5, 2023.
Trick Daddy. "Nann." www.thug.com. Slip-N-Slide/Warlock Records, 1998. Transcript of lyrics. Accessed February 12, 2023.
University of Colorado. "How and Why to Do Kegels." https://urogyn.coloradowomenshealth.com/tips/kegel-corner/teach-me-how-to-kegel.html#:~:text=. Accessed 6 March 2023.
Wurzburger, Andrea. "From Regula, Degula to Superstardom: A Timeline of Cardi B's Meteoric Rise to Fame." People Magazine. https://people.com/music/cardi-b-meteoric-rise-fame-timeline/#:~:text=2015. Accessed 12 February 12 2023.
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