Moments like this—when the collective rap community gets to see someone’s meteoric rise culminate into that world-stopping drop of a debut album—are rare but they make being a fan worth all the trouble. There’s nothing like being a part of something so big, even if your role is nothing more than perusing the Twitter timeline and going back and forth with followers about your individual opinions. A lot of people didn’t think Cardi B would make it to this moment. Maybe some even hoped that she wouldn’t. The Bronx native made the most seamless transition from social media star, to reality TV star, to rap star in history. But the key word in all of those phases of her career is star. Cardi has a quality and an essence that can’t be confined to any singular path. She’s a natural entertainer and we’re all here to enjoy the ride. That’s why the stakes for her debut album Invasion of Privacy are some of the highest in recent rap history.
The question now is, is Invasion of Privacy actually good? We’d been witnesses to Cardi’s growth with her Gangsta Bitch Music mixtape series, as she worked through the growing pains of finding her sound. It’s where she flexed her muscles on songs like “Foreva” and “Lick,” slowly transforming into an artist who now dominates Billboard charts. Known for her transparency and her ability to be completely unhinged, we were privy to her personal life in ways that became even too much for her. Invasion of Privacy is an honest debut from a rapper who built a brand on being “regular,” even if she’s not so regular anymore.
Noisey staff writers Lawrence Burney and Kristin Corry break down Invasion of Privacy track-by-track upon first listen, and here were their first impressions.
“Get Up 10”
Lawrence: “Went from making tuna sandwiches to making the news” is a rags-to-riches analogy that I can fully conceptualize. This is a textbook way to start a career-defining rap album. Cardi spends a quarter of the song reliving the days she had to get through to make it to this moment before making a Tee Grizzley by-way-of Meek Milly shift in gears. If you’re going to make a statement, you have to plant your flag firmly into the ground and stand on those words. Whether you live up to them or not is irrelevant for that brief initiation, but Cardi sends a convincing warning.
Kristin: I’m totally here for the “Dreams & Nightmares” feel of it, I just worry that she’s going to end up sounding like everybody but Cardi. It’s a great way to start a debut, and we’ve seen that these introspective intros work well. Cardi adapts well to whatever flow she wants to adopt for the moment. She owned Kodak’s flow on “Bodak” and is damn near a fourth Migo on “Drip.” I want to hear Cardi sound like Cardi. It’s admirable that she wanted to tap into what made Meek’s intro so good, but also feels like she sort’ve does a disservice to herself by trying to emulate that sound so much. I’m completely a fan of when the beat switches it up toward the end though.
Kristin: This isn’t a bad song, but I think I would have appreciated this more on Culture II.
Lawrence: This may be one of my least favorite Cardi B songs. I’d actually like less songs of her with Migos on it. The album would have been just fine without this.
Kristin: Well Lawrence, you were right about the Project Pat sample. At a glance, I was hoping this was the track YG would be on. I’m sold on her flip of the song though. The best part about Cardi is her ability to redefine the labels society forces on her and make them her own. Now everybody’s Instagram caption is going to be “bickenhead,” which is dope because in 2001 that wasn’t the greatest thing for a woman to be called. The true test of a bop for me is if I spend more time singing it than I spend doing my makeup. This is going to pass with flying colors.
Lawrence: LONG LIVE TRIPLE 6 MAFIA. There’s really no way that Cardi could lose here by sampling Project Pat’s “Chickenhead” because what’s continuing to become abundantly clear is that anything produced by DJ Paul and Juicy J will defy generational barriers. I mean, Crunchy Black used to seem like a problem from time to time. But anyway, what Cardi is doing here is perfect because while she didn’t snag La Chat for this song like I wished, her list of ways to “pop the pussy” feels like an ode to another Chat classic in “Slob On My Cat.”
Kristin: We get it, Lawrence. Triple 6 til you die.
Lawrence: We all obviously love this song. “Bodak Yellow” dominated the summer. I remember seeing Cardi perform this at Moma PS1 and it was the most congested crowd I’ve ever been a part of. Like, if something would have popped off that day, a minimum of ten people would have gotten trampled. Hearing “Bodak Yellow” in that setting, with that kind of collective excitement is one of my favorite hip-hop moments of all time. Within the context of the album, I like that it comes after “Bickenhead” because it keeps the high energy going, then it immediately shifts gears with “Be Careful.” That shows Cardi’s range.
Kristin: Every time the beat drops, I ask myself “Am I over this song?” Like clockwork, it still catches me the same way as it did the first time I heard it. I was worried that it may not fit well with the rest of the album, but I think it’s the opposite. “Bodak” was really able to set the tone for what we should’ve expected for her debut album, and I think it’s safe to say she’s delivered.
Lawrence: When this track first dropped, there was a lot of chatter about how different it is than “Bodak Yellow” but I’m not sure where people developed the notion that Cardi B is only capable of one kind of song. While everyone’s been screaming about their bloody shoes she’s been rapping over New Jack Swing beats and singing in Spanish on dancehall tracks. What’s also good about the song is that it feels like it could have worked during any rap era of the past 25 years. Cardi’s shedding layers of herself to share details of her relationship but also warning that she might not stick around for repeated trauma. Those kinds of songs have been staples for some time.
Kristin: I honestly really love this song. People are saying she shouldn’t be singing on the hook and that she’s offbeat, but honestly that’s apart of what I love about Cardi. Her delivery has always been a little clumsy, which makes it all feel a lot more real for me personally. The same people talking shit are the same people who would praise it if her male counterparts put this song out. If we’re being honest, “Be Careful” is better than A Boogie’s “Get to You” which both borrow from Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor.” She had me at the Belly reference, but most importantly, it feels like New York in the summer. Real New York, not transplant New York.
My concern here though, is the talk about the reference track that was posted shortly after the single dropped. It’s no secret people have ghostwriters but I couldn’t help listen to the rest of the album wondering what she actually wrote. It’s probably also naive of me to think everyone writes everything, but it’s something to consider. Accusations of ghostwriters haven’t hurt Drake and shouldn’t hurt her either. The way her personal life has played out in front of us makes this song feel incredibly intimate, so if it’s true, hearing Pardison Fontaine on the reference track was a little disappointing. I want to believe Offset got her mad enough to the point where these are her words.
Kristin: I’m stoked she got a Chance feature, but it sounds like he didn't give his all on this hook. Have that same energy you had on Life of Pablo or any other project your attach your name to. The hook feels a little lazy coming from him, especially if we're comparing it to his verse, which is as chipper as you get with Chance. When he says, "I work magic, I work magic, I work magic in my life," I feel Pastor Chance coming back out, putting an anointing on me. If we're talking about living our best life, let's have higher energy.
Lawrence: I agree on Chance’s contribution on the hook. That’s especially apparent after the energy Cardi comes in with on her first verse. But, I do enjoy Chance's verse a lot. Cardi's tuna-to-TV analogy for "making it" was great but Chance came in with "'Member my hands had ash like Pompeii," and changed the game. This song’s value lies in Cardi’s openness about how being in the public eye has affected her. From the self-consciousness about her teeth before getting them fixed, to how meeting Beyonce is a marker of really arriving. Rappers open up about these struggles often but what makes it resonate more here is that we’ve been able to see Cardi take many of the steps that she’s mentioning.
Kristin: I agree. Listening to her say, “I never had a problem showing y’all the real me/Hair when it’s fucked up, crib when it’s filthy.” I can literally pinpoint the moments she looked like she rolled out of bed chatting to her fans, with no fucks given. It’s that transparency that make people really root for her. She’s the antithesis to the perfectly packaged persona people post on socials. We literally watched her grow from a local sensation to BARDI. I love this “Binderella” reference and sort’ve wish that was her album title.
“I Like It”
Kristin: Haha, Cardi really does search her name on Twitter. She definitely ran that “Yup, they call me Cardi B, I run this shit like cardio” tweet on here. And this is exactly what I meant on the Chance song, J Balvin and Bad Bunny came with energy! Treat it like it’s your song, don’t just give some leftover melodies.
Lawrence: This will be blasted at every party in New York City this summer and I cannot wait.
Kristin: Practicing my bachata as we speak.
Kristin: I just find it funny that people criticized her for singing her own hook on “Be Careful,” suggesting that Kehlani or SZA should’ve did the honor instead… Kehlani is on the hook of this and it’s not nearly as strong of a song. Now what?
Lawrence: This one is fine and I’ve accepted that I will probably be hearing it on the radio all the time.
Kristin: I’m not into it. If we’re going with the ghostwriter theory, I think this is the official “Offset song” but “Be Careful” was the smarter and catchier choice to capitalize on the drama. This is all speculation though.
Kristin: This is definitely the closest she’s gotten to something that’s felt similar to “Bodak.” If I had a dollar for every time I’ll see “I said babe, issa snack/He say it’s an entree” on Instagram this summer, my loans would be forgiven. Nodding to Plies and Beyonce in a hook is pretty much the perfect way to make sure the song is a hit on social media, and she knows that. All of her eccentric confessionals on Love & Hip Hop have been preparing us for this moment. She really stretches her voice for that it’s worth here. It’s the perfect amount of extra. Also, money bags in general is always a big mood. OKURR!
Lawrence: When the song first started, I thought I’d be skipping it within the first 30 seconds. But then Cardi hit a gear that took the song to a new level. Like you said, in flow, it does follow the footsteps of “Bodak Yellow” at points. But the range that Cardi spans in energy here pushes it further.
Lawrence: I enjoy how ferocious Cardi gets with the flow on this song. It’s always felt like with this one, she had a point to prove and it worked. 21’s tone of voice alone is why his verse isn’t a complete wash but he didn’t bring his best to this one at all.
Kristin: I still enjoy this song and I think it does a good job of keeping the momentum of what could now be considered Cardi’s sound. I actually like 21 on here, regardless of the questionable things he says he does with hot sauce.
Kristin: YG you were supposed to be on “Bickenhead!” I personally would’ve preferred Yo Gotti on this hook. Cardi’s definitely in her bag here and throwing some subliminals. So I expect this one to be making its rounds with speculation on who they’re aimed for. Of course they could be empty insults, but we know for women in hip-hop it doesn’t work like that. I’m crying at YG’s “Only Birkin, not Dooney & Burke” line. A few people listening just pushed their Dooney collection all the way to the back of their closet.
Lawrence: This is another one out of Three 6 Mafia’s book of flows. Like the majority of songs that came before it, “She Bad” has the potential to be a smash hit—if anything, it will be another mainstay at parties and clubs for the rest of this year. YG has an uncanny ability to make effective hooks while not saying very much. That gift, joined with the production’s tempo and Cardi’s flow make this one worth revisiting.
“Thru Your Phone”
Kristin: This hook is...interesting. Lana Del Rey vibes? But damn, this song is petty as hell. Did she really just say, “I’ma make a bowl of cereal with a teaspoon of bleach/Serve it to you like, here you go nigga bon appetit.” Okay, Eminem. This is the song I want to see a visual for the most. Show me Cardi cutting the tongues out of sneakers and smashing televisions.
Offset, watch your back bruh.
Lawrence: The lesson here is very, extremely clear. Guys: do not cheat. Unless you want bleach cereal.
Kristin: Two queens talking shit. I stan. It’s also cool as hell that we watched this collaboration materialize. The definition of “Twitter, do ya thing.” I sort’ve wish there was more to the album after this, considering “Bodak Yellow” and “Bardier Carti” were played to death. Disclaimer: If your text goes unanswered it’s because SZA and Cardi told me to do it.
Lawrence: I love this song (SZA, sing over more trap please!), but its energy begs for it to be somewhere in the middle of the album. Invasion of Privacy ending on this note makes it feel incomplete. I’m so amped that I’m ready to come down a bit before I dip out. But, in consideration of the album’s title, Cardi delivered. Historically, she’s given us a lot of access into her life on social media. And by her sharing her experiences in the kind of detail that she does, I’m left to interpret it as: “Y’all are already in my business, making speculations, so I might as well just be the one to bare it all. Here is my truth.” Isn’t that what we want from all of our artists? At least, the ones we want to remember? We want an invitation into their innermost feelings—no matter how that may eat away at them—in order for us to be able to feel connected to them.
This article originally appeared on Noisey US.