Crime Mob’s “Knuck If You Buck” is a rowdy rap masterpiece. The Lil Scrappy-assisted Atlanta classic takes Lil Jon’s crunk adrenaline and amplifies the energy to a level that could incite riots and inspire war cries. Fourteen years after its release, the rambunctious single still causes listeners to react like the stampeding wildebeest that crushed the bones of Mufasa. Princess―one of Mob's six members―has the most impressive performance. On a song overflowing with testosterone, it’s the voice of a woman that motivates the ground to shake.
During Cardi B’s history-making rise, I thought of Princess and how the Bronx rapper was the human embodiment of that legendary “Knuck If You Buck” verse. Her entrance was that explosive: unapologetic spunk, tenacious raps, passionate bravado, and unbreakable confidence. In the male-dominated trap era, her voice silenced all the noise and caused everyone to stare in awe. You had to see her, you had to hear her.
Hip-hop didn’t predict the former reality star would cross into mainstream consciousness with the velocity of being shot out of a cannon, but she did. With an array of big hits already under her belt, Cardi is getting cozy.
Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B’s full-length debut album, is an album I didn’t think would ever arrive. Not because of Atlantic Records, her label home, but due to the success that she saw with the release of each single. “Bodak Yellow” made history, “Bartier Cardi” was a strong follow-up, and her undeniable star power gave every feature appearance a jolt of electricity.
Everything around Cardi was unconventional, rule-breaking; an album felt like playing by a dated mandate. I had the same feeling about Fetty Wap during his incredible run. But the game is still the game, and now her full-length offering is finally in the world’s hands. For all the lovers and haters, believers and nonbelievers, and everyone’s attention she has grabbed in the last two years, we are all gathered to hear what Queen Cardi has to say.
In usual 1-listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish. The most anticipated rap debut of 2018 is here.
1. "Get Up 10"
Nice, a soft beginning. Cardi’s voice. Underneath this soft piano, she sounds delicate without losing her bite, like a rose covered in thorns. She's reminiscing about her past. Starting the album with it all out in the open. The song is building. Slowly. She’s spitting, too. On the heads. A support bra bar haha. I'm getting Meek vibes. If these drums knock we might have a new Dreams and Nightmares intro. I’m excited. You can feel that piercing passion peaking. BOOM! NOW WE COOKING. Her intensity is rising. WE REACHING TAKEOFF. These drums are about to push me to the edge alongside Lil Uzi. I JUST FLIPPED IN MY SEAT. THIS IS HELLFIRE. MEEK WOULD BE SO PROUD. THIS ISN’T CARDI B THIS IS A RAPPING AK-47. DRUMS SWINGING, DANCING LIKE RUSSELL WESTBROOK. You have to lose your entire mind when this comes on. Straight brolic boast. Rapping with her chest out. From reflective raps to unapologetic shit talk. Cardi B released this album just to let all her naysayers hear this message loud and clear before taking their necks off. I need Flex bombs. Drop all the bombs. This was a rush. No intro should have so much fire. Nasty.
2. "Drip" ft. Migos
What a start. The beginning of this beat sounds like background music for a Super Mario stage. You can just imagine Mario off the mushrooms, trying to jump on Bowser to this. Very video game-esque. Drums and some wind instrument just came in and the track is officially candy coated cocaine. I’ll be saying “Drip, drip” in my sleep. Cardi’s ad-lib game is very addictive. Who mixed this record? Her drums are HITTING. So much charisma. Offset! I love Migos. It’s like they always find a way of being unapologetically themselves. “Drip” could’ve been a song on Culture II, but I like how Cardi brings a refreshing energy to the trio. I can see this foursome being very dangerous. Takeoff said he’s giving out wet willies even though he’s a grown man. Your favorite could never be as childish and somehow still cool. Quarterback Quavo. This is a really solid contribution. When Quavo is in his Ziploc all is right in the world. A nice, lite banger. Anytime there’s a flute, there’s the potential for another “Mask Off Challenge.” Expect this Mario Stage music to run our approaching spring.
Let's GO!!! The DEEP BASS IS KNOCKING and the Project Pat homage!!! “Chickenhead” lives again! This is beautiful. WOOO!!! Cardi is in the pocket like her name was Aladdin before he met Genie. The flow is sweeter than the Ohio Players album cover for Honey. I'm Harlem shaking in my seat hard enough to break my chair. I will bill Atlantic Records, I swear I will. This is going to be the song in every woman’s Snapchat and Instagram video for the remainder of spring/summer 2018. Every gym playlist is about to have half this album on it; already calling it. I can’t believe it took this long for such a great flip of “Chickenhead.” Three 6 Mafia has been quietly running rap since winning their Academy Award for Hustle & Flow. Their fingerprints are all over rap in 2018, amazing. Every line is an Instagram caption or a Twitter quote. Cardi might be a genius for this one. So simple yet so effective. Boy, I wouldn’t release an album until winter if I’m anyone but Kanye. Three songs strong.
4. "Bodak Yellow"
The sequencing has been great. What a nice seamless transition. Kodak made it a hot flow, Cardi made it a hit song. “Bodak Yellow” is truly a trick monster. I’ve heard this song over a million times and it still encourages an irresistible bounce. I remember when, during my interview with Carl Chery of Apple Music, he convinced me her verses were flawless. I had to agree. “Bodak Yellow” is one of those records that you can’t resist but to rap. So many lines just hit the bullseye. The mark of a great club is how infectious it is and how long it stays infectious. There’s a naturalness to how she rides this beat. All the energy, all the punch, but she doesn’t lose her grace. Cardi B is like the kid who could step on the lake wearing Timbs when the water freeze over and not fall in. Aggressively graceful.
5. "Be Careful"
I love this beat! Cotton candy. Starrah would fit better on this record, but it has grown on me tremendously. Again, Cardi’s aggressive graceful-ness is such a deadly weapon. I like the softness of her voice. It’s very vulnerable without coming off as weak. She isn’t folding; she's demanding this man sees how his ways impact her. It’s a masterful example of showing and telling. “She don’t even know your middle name” is going to make me laugh for the remainder of my life. I love the pureness to her music. Her artistry can expand out of the clubs and Snapchat filters. Be careful.
6. "Best Life" ft. Chance The Rapper
CHANCE! I’m happy the features were kept secret. Far more rewarding when you don’t know what’s coming. This is how an announced album can still be a surprise party. Chance sounding like melodic money. Pac homage. Ha. FAM. THE TOM AND JERRY LINE. References to Tupac, Lil Caesar, and Tom and Jerry all back to back, my soul is floating. Referencing Twitter hate. EH. This hook is a little cheesy. I can’t remember the last Chance verse I’ve heard. He’s been missed. NICE FLOW CHANCELLOR. Chance Malfoy the way he slithered around the pocket. Pep talks from Beyoncé!? What does that even sound like? Probably like getting positive reinforcement from Buddha himself. I really like this Cardi verse. She admits she exposed herself to the world. She is hip-hop’s Cinderella. I love it. MAN. I really wish this hook was just not so much cheese.
7. "I Like It" ft. Bad Bunny & J. Balvin
These horns! Oh shit. She TURNED A PETE RODRIGUEZ CLASSIC INTO A TRAP ANTHEM. I can’t tell if this is ridiculous or ridiculously amazing. I never imagined this song of all songs would be flipped into a rap record. Cardi is putting on a backboard breaker performance. Oh, this is going to be big as a crossover record. I'm glad she is showing all sides of herself on the anthem. Okay, I know their names, but I'm not super familiar with Bad Bunny and J Balvin. Whoever's on this second verse has got the bounce. [Editor's Note: That would be Bad Bunny.] These horns are festive. Piano breakdown. The song is just dripping sauce. I really wish I had paid attention in Spanish class. My teacher would be so disappointed in my dumbfoundedness. The vibe is so much fun. The tongue roll hahaha. Global Cardi is a force to be reckoned with. A song this fun is guaranteed to be huge.
8. "Ring" ft. Kehlani
Kehlani. A nice tempo. A little slower than the last few records. It’s the R&B trap bounce. Sorta wish 6LACK got the call instead but Atlantic Records gon Atlantic Records. I really want to do a piece on the popularity of songwriting themed around phones. Cardi is digging into some man who isn’t acting right. In an alternate reality, Beyoncé remixes this song and continues to trash that good-for-nothing cheater and Becky with the good weave. I never really got into Kehlani's work. Her voice is fine, she fits this song, it's solid, and there’s definitely radio promise, but I’m just not very fond of what she brings to the table. Someone will love it, though.
9. "Money Bag"
WE BACK IN THE TRAP. This beat is strange. Like it’s a robot tweaking off too much coffee. This is what R2-D2 sounds like if he was addicted to Starbucks frappuccinos. Terrible, terrible chords. Cardi is cooking but she can’t save me from feeling like I’m on a bad date with Sophia The Robot. Wait. This flow. “Money Bag” has “Bodak Yellow” flavoring. Tricks galore. “This is sweet pussy Saturday,” the Plies homage has made my day. Cardi probably loves Florida rap, word to Trina. I hate how such a potential bop has been ruined by the worst beat on the album. Why would she torture me by trying to rap over the sound of Daft Punk’s dying battery? This is the sound my computer made before she overheated. Hard skip.
10. "Bartier Cardi" ft. 21 Savage
Turning phrases and creating tricks is why Cardi’s music is so fun to rap. A master of tricks. I pray she doesn’t try to make that Offset flip ever again, though. I love how the first verse begins. The way she’s her own hype-woman. It doesn’t have to be complex for a verse to be a landmine. All energy and snark. 21 Savage doesn’t get excited about anything. LMAO at the hot sauce lyric. His verse added a novelty that I wouldn’t miss. But he does kill it, flow is water whipping. The removal of “Offset” from the hook would make this single superb. It’s still good but could’ve been great. Maybe I’m just being picky.
11. "She Bad"ft. YG
YG! The twerk tempo. This is the one that will erupt in the strip club. Close your eyes and envision the dollars raining down. “I wear Off White at church” hahaha. Product placement stunts. She even threw shots at women with ass shots, I’m dead. This album is hilariously fun. “Tell RiRi I need a threesome,” man if this lyric turns into a video that reaches the world wide web it would break the internet. I'm talking shattering The Shade Room and every other room. I love YG but the hook was the only contribution I needed for him. Blac Yungsta is upset he didn't get the call. Cardi has strut all across this album, YG's verse was unnecessary. Regardless, clubs are going to go crazy. The bounce is taking me to Bourbon Street.
12. "Thru Your Phone"
A slower record. The album has kept a consistent tempo. It hasn’t overstayed its welcome yet. Cardi is snapping. I never assume it’s Offset, Lord I hope it isn’t. SHE WENT HUMAN TORCH on the first verse. Is that her singing? It doesn’t sound like her. “Beyoncé on my stereo,” you know she's about to bring hell. Another anthem that will be taking over a social media caption near you. Yep. Women and their cheating men are about to have this one going to the top of Twitter’s Billboard charts. Cardi's got a song for every woman, salute to OG Chaka Khan.
13. "I Do" ft. SZA
Happy to see SZA. This might be a smash. Hahaha. A little Auto-Tune on her vocals. She sounds like pure silk. I would love for SZA to write an album for Rihanna. I feel like they’re kindred spirits. Boss Cardi. “Pussy so good I said my own name during sex,” I’M SCREAMING. That’s an amazing line. Naysayers catching all the shades. SZA delivered. “I’m a gangster in a dress.” She is truly “Knuck If You Buck” personified.
Invasion of Privacy isn’t the trap era’s Illmatic, and we're years away from potentially proclaiming the project as anything resembling a classic—whatever that means—but it feels special, an album that will be praised as a complete body of work and not just for a few hot songs. That’s what was expected of Cardi, to make a few hot songs and be stuck in a feeding frenzy cycle of supplying the demand for another “Bodak Yellow.” Instead of a few, Cardi overachieved and delivered an album full of hits, bangers, and bops that will rule summer 2018 and many summers after.
There’s a safeness about Invasion of Privacy that feels like both a flaw and strength. Cardi wasn’t aiming to prove who she wasn’t, but to hone in on who she is. From the intro to outro the album is tailored toward a winning formula specific to her blossoming star. It’s like Phil Jackson’s Triangle Offense; an effective offense that won countless championships. Invasion of Privacy is a playbook that caters to her hungry audience but can also appeal to outside ears. The surprises aren’t in style but in the execution; seeing the triangle in action is far more impressive than reading about it on paper.
Cardi's 48-minute debut is an enjoyable play on her artistic strengths, isn’t bloated by filler, and provides appealing material for the vast variety of hip-hop fans. Instead of calling in a Rolodex of superstars, Cardi’s selective cast of features all play their roles how supporting acts should. While being the newcomer in a cast of notarized names, her spotlight isn’t diminished. Her personality and prowess aren’t overshadowed by anyone. It’s fun, funny, and fulfilling. The bottom half of the tracklist doesn’t have the same momentum as the top—the first six songs are a hotstreak—but the few lows ("Ring," "Money Bag") aren’t enough to drag down all the highs.
It goes without saying, Cardi is here to stay. Deny all you want, but Cardi B made a major label debut that hip-hop could be proud of.
By Yoh, aka Invasion of Yoh, aka @Yoh31