Invasion of Privacy
(Atlantic *** ½)
It's Cardi B.'s world we're living in.
The former stripper and Love & Hip-Hop star is ruling media new and old. The rapper with more than 20 million Instagram followers dominated social media feeds over the weekend after revealing her pregnancy on Saturday Night Live. This week, she guest hosts Jimmy Fallon's late night talk show on NBC.
The flurry of activity for the emcee, born Belcalis Almanzar, is happening because her debut album Invasion of Privacy arrived on Friday. She's finally coming with a full length official major label product — she's previously released multiple mixtapes – to take advantage of the massive success of her 2017 summer dominating single "Bodak Yellow."
In the standard flash in the pan narrative, this is supposed to be when Cardi B is exposed as a one (or two) hit wonder, last year's viral sensation's last gasp at relevancy.
But Invasion of Privacy demonstrates the opposite. The album opens with the sounds of sirens and the ominous battle rap "Get Up 10," an intense unrelenting statement of purpose that takes a page out of the playbook of "Dreams & Nightmares," the signature song by Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill (who Cardi B. toured with last year) that's become more popular than ever since the Philadelphia Eagles and 76ers adopted it.
"Get Up" immediately establishes that "Bodak" and its successor "Bartier Cardi" weren't flukes. It sets the table for a disciplined 13 song album that never grows flaccid or dull and always keeps the rapper's enormously engaging personality and flair for language on display, with rags to riches boasts such as: "Went from making tuna sandwiches to making the news / Started speaking my minds and tripled my views / Real b—, only thing fake is the boobs."
Privacy is packed with featured guests, and Cardi occasionally risks taking a back seat on her own album, particularly on "Drip," which features her fiance Kiari "Offset" Cephus, who she got engaged to at the Powerhouse concert at the Wells Fargo Center in October, as well as his fellow rappers in Georgia trio Migos.
The presence of multiple producers and stars-in-their-own right on Privacy, though, also allows Cardi to showcase her versatility, whether slowing the pace as she lets her man know she well aware of their transgressions in "Be Careful" and "Thru Your Phone," or extolling to power of positive thinking with Chance the Rapper on "Best Life."
As Privacy comes to a close, she exerts her independence on "I Do," a collaboration with SZA, the North Jersey alt-R&B songwriter who was another one of 2017 breakout acts. After announcing that she's "so good, I scream my own name during sex," the rapper has a last word for the haters who expected her time on center stage to be up by now: "They said that by now I'd be finished, hard to tell / My little 15 minutes lasting long as hell." Indeed they are, with no indication of stopping.