Illustration by Gemma Fa-Kaji
A major event happened on September 25, 2017. Cardi B posted a video of her screaming, then twerking, then singing “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift. This was a really exciting day for Cardi and the rest of the music industry. This was the day that Cardi B’s song “Bodak Yellow” hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
Cardi B, born Belcalis Almanzar, is a New York rapper from the Bronx. She had a rough childhood and was even part of the Bloods when she was 16. After living in poverty, Cardi decided that she needed to find a way to earn money so she had to become a stripper. These experiences influence the lyrics of “Bodak Yellow.” After going viral through Vines and various other social media posts, Cardi eventually joined the cast of Love & Hip Hop: New York. She was labelled the breakout star of the season but left the show because she wanted to further pursue her music career.
She made a couple of mixtapes, and participated in some features, but on June 16, 2017, she dropped the big one. “Bodak Yellow” seemingly blew up overnight. Publications were calling it the song of the summer and as summer continued, that statement became increasingly difficult to disagree with. Slowly rising up the charts, “Bodak Yellow” cemented Cardi B’s fame, and hitting the number one spot was a huge achievement. “Bodak Yellow” wasn’t only a big deal for Cardi, but was huge deal for the entire music industry.
Cardi is the first female rapper since Lauryn Hill to have a hit in the number one spot. Does this mean the music industry is changing? Maybe.
The world is currently a terrible place for women of color. The president says racist things and the general culture is filled with hatred. It might seem like there are a lot of women of color involved in the music industry right now, but this really isn’t the case. If you look at the lineup for Rolling Loud, a hip-hop and rap festival coming to the Bay Area this month, there isn’t a single female headliner. Rap has historically been filled with sexist depictions of women and general objectification and harassment. Maybe there aren’t many women in the industry because they have to do twice as much work to get the same amount of recognition as their male counterparts.
Oftentimes, women of color in the industry are pitted against each other. Take for example the supposed beef between Beyoncé and Rihanna. These are two powerful, strong women and people are constantly saying that they hate each other, even when there’s no evidence to support that. In a time so divided by hate, people need to stop pitting people against one another.
All in all, “Bodak Yellow” reaching the number one spot is a pretty big deal for the music industry. It’s possible that there will be another nineteen year break between now and the next time a song by a female rapper will reach the number one spot, but that isn’t very likely. This song will hopefully spread positivity and empower women. Cardi B truly turned nothing into something and her story is the epitome of the American dream. She isn’t just the feminist we wanted, but the feminist we deserved.