Cardi B was such an interesting arrival. A hit like “Bodak Yellow” was obviously noteworthy, but what really seems to be the driving force behind Cardi’s success is her personality. She’s unapologetic and owns herself in a way many people respect. Her music is the embodiment of that persona in a way that carries across more authentically than many other rappers in the pop sphere. This is what made Invasion of Privacy such a surprisingly easy listen.
The attitude Cardi is associated with comes out clearly on songs like “I Do” and “Bickenhead.” The lyrics all have this sense of humor about things like wealth, sexuality, and femininity that, and they’re backed up by some of the more solid pop-rap instrumentals of this year. SZA’s performance on “I Do” is also spectacular and serves as a reason why SZA shouldn’t retire from music out of a kindness to humanity. Both of these songs also share that anthemic quality of “Bodak Yellow” as well, something that really suggests Cardi’s potential for staying power in that pop-rap arena.
However, the album is not perfect. “I Like It,” while an incredibly popular song, struck me as somewhat corny, especially with the guests. The Latin-trap sound is an interesting development in Spanish music, but J Balvin and Bad Bunny seem to capture the worst of it with their (sadly) various moments of awkward or just generally boring singing. Cardi’s performance is also a bit underwhelming here, just as it is on “Be Careful.” It seems like when Cardi makes a track meant to be softer or more pop radio friendly she washes down some of the subtle aggression and authority of her better songs. “Be Careful” is, of course, trying to wash this down purposefully, but that does not necessarily improve Cardi’s singing on the song.
There are a few more highlights across this record mixed in what some more bland and forgettable material. Namely, Chance the Rapper’s guest feature as well as Cardi and YG’s unexpectedly good collaboration on “She Bad.” Chance’s ethos, as well as his characteristically charming vocals, enhance “Best Life” and the appreciation for Cardi’s new life it conveys. YG was a more unexpectedly good performance, as he manages to match Cardi’s attitude without abandoning his own brand of “Still Brazy” confidence. Migos, on the other hand, played more forgettable but still exhaustingly long roles on “Drip.” Kehlani isn’t awful, but she isn’t much motivation to listen to a song that comes across as overly dramatic. The instrumental isn’t very enticing either. As far as “Get UP 10,” “Money Bag,” and “Thru Your Phone” go, they’re all solid tracks that show Cardi’s strength in flow and charisma, but they’re hardly good enough in the face of the aforementioned highlights. They don’t make it past the first listen through.
Honestly, I expected this album to be mediocre. As marketing around Cardi B ramped up, it seemed more and more that the bland machine of pop stardom had devoured her, but this album still brings forth a lot of the personality that made Cardi stand out. Obviously, this isn’t the album of the year, but it’s still a refreshing change of pace from the more pop-influenced female rappers and the inaccessibility of more underground acts. Its good pop-rap and you should enjoy that for what it is. Do you really want to listen to “Gucci Gang” again? Exactly.