Hip-hop has long been an environment where black men from low-income communities have been able to channel their energy, emotions, and creativity in a transformative way. In the American Dream way. And while that environment has been a platform for black women, too, hostility and violence against black women is undeniably part of its culture. In a society that boxes in and wrongly tries to define what women should be, behave like and be treated like, Cardi B’s resistance to conformity and respectability, her unapologetic history as a sex worker are kind of profound.
Lyrically, and in her personal life, Cardi is outspoken about her sexual and personal boundaries with men. Freely expressing her sexuality in an unapologetic way and on her terms. Not just a performance for men, but a bold declaration of pro-hoe’dom that prioritizes her pleasure and her agency. On the flip side, with songs like “Be Careful”, Cardi’s exposes rawness and emotional vulnerability that we don’t normally associate with hip-hop culture, especially when it’s free of pretension or braggadocio. Breathtakingly, Cardi lays herself bare, like a real human being and not a too cool for a school world-famous rapper that everyone else seems to pretend to be.
Cardi B’s success and popularity come from her commitment to authenticity to herself and to her fans as a sex-positive afro-latinx woman in a (white) world that is constantly beating people like her, like us. She defies the odds in a way that’s actually really hopeful.
Respectability politics be gone!