New York Magazine

Girl FROM THE Bronx

Only in 2017 could this particular strip-club, reality-television, rap-fame fairy tale have come true. And maybe only for Cardi B.

CARDI B THINKS NOBODY is watching her as she practices in the backstage holding pen at Brooklyn Academy of Music, where Jimmy Kimmel Live! is taping a special. Everyone is, though: She’s built to watch, built herself to be watched; 12.8 million Instagram followers agree. But this is a jittery, private moment. She’s mouthing her lyrics into a handheld mic, nervously marking when she’s going to shimmy her shoulders, flip her hair, grind her hips, point at the audience.

Cardi B—the stripper turned social­media sensation turned reality­TV star and, now, ascendant rapper—has performed her surprise hit “Bodak Yellow” dozens upon dozens of times before this. She’s done it at least five times this week, and it’s only Wednesday. In late September, with an assist from an online fan campaign, Cardi unseated Taylor Swift from her carefully plotted slot atop the pop charts, making Cardi the first solo female rapper in two decades to have a No. 1 song since Lauryn Hill did it with “Doo Wop (That Thing)” in 1998 and certainly the first reality­TV star (or Instagram personality) to do so. This is the kind of audience and attention that comes with mainstream success. Last night, Cardi met J.Lo backstage at a benefit. “I just kept acting like a fucking weirdo, but I think she understands,” Cardi says. “Man, I met Beyoncé, too. Who else I gonna meet? Jesus?”

She’s precisely dressed in hot-pink, vintage-Chanel sunglasses—clout goggles, as they’re known on style blogs—and a costume that shows off her urban-strip-club Jessica Rabbit form: a hot-pink sequined bandeau top, matching high-waisted pants, and a hot-pink feathered coat. Her wig of the day, long and black, is flat-ironed to the gloss and fluidity of an oil spill. She’s nervous; Kimmel has just announced she’ll be on to perform the No. 1 song in the country.

“Actually, it’s No. 2,” Cardi quietly responds to the flat-screen TV in her dressing room, a surge of anxiety in her voice. “Bodak Yellow” had, just hours earlier, been unseated by the white sorta-rapper Post Malone’s droning “Rockstar.”

“What, you want us to tell him to correct himself?” someone from her team asks, before telling Cardi that nobody knows just yet that she’s lost her perch.

Cardi doesn’t want empty reassurances. “They keep saying, like, ‘You got this,’ ‘You’re the one,’” she says. “Sometimes I get a little discouraged, and I wonder how it is going to be next year, but it seems like everybody already predicting where I’m gonna be next year, and it’s just like fucking farther than my asshole,” she says, speaking in her particular way, so that my asshole is joined by the diphthong to become one word: myyesshole. Is that so far? It’s not, she says, her famous confidence reasserting itself.

The fog machine begins to roll; her DJ cues up the first notes. And as Cardi

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from New York Magazine

New York Magazine2 min read
Naomi Wadler Staged Her First Walkout At Age 10
SIXTH-GRADER AT MARET SCHOOL IN WASHINGTON, D.C. / Spoke at March for Our Lives / Favorite book is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix AS YOU MAY KNOW, Courtlin Arrington was a black female who was killed in her school in Birmingham, Alabama.
New York Magazine1 min read
The Look Book
Where are you headed? MatchaBar. They sponsor me. I was going there all the time, ordering this $15 CBD latte, and then posting pictures of it to Instagram. Finally, the owner gave me a corporate card in exchange for a couple of posts a week. Their s
New York Magazine11 min readFood & Wine
Hidden Kitchens
The Underground Gourmet’s guide to New York’s out-of-sight, semi-secret, and truly off-the-beaten-path restaurants.