There’s no doubt that in 2017, Cardi B is making waves in the hip-hop and mainstream music industries. With her breakout single, “Bodak Yellow,” peaking this week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list, the 24-year old rapper from the Bronx may seem like an unlikely (and refreshing) candidate to oust Taylor Swift from the top of pop. A strong-minded, black and latinx, sex-positive feminist (she was notoriously a stripper before making it big in the music business), she’s also become a favorite of left-leaning social media communities, where she previously dominated for her witty, no-bullshit Instagram videos and tweets. As a musician she’s equally impressive — every track slaps, and her lyrical authenticity and gaull is both humorous and inspiring. She is a woman of color who is both speaking her mind and making great music in a generally male-dominated genre — a combination we need to see more of in popular music.
However, it’s important to check even the pop stars we love (and the people we love) when their comments are insensitive, inappropriate, or downright inexcusable. When a major pop song has underlying or overt themes of sexism, racism, and rape culture, it normalizes those things in a public sphere. This similarly applies to stars’ statements on social media, and though it’s possible to appreciate art separately from the artist, performers should at least be wary of the consequences of their language and actions when speaking from a public platform. The transphobic (and, for lack of a better word, rape-y) Cardi B video that resurfaced on Twitter this summer is thus a vile and intolerable example of a star who needs to be called out.
The video in question was posted to the star’s Instagram account back in May 2016, and involves Cardi’s advice on getting “even” with a cheating boyfriend —namely getting him excessively intoxicated with a cocktail of alcohol and percocet, and then proceeding to involve him in a threesome with, and this is the doosie, a “tranny.” In other words, she says that the ultimate punishment is to weaponize a trans woman and have a threesome with a man who is too intoxicated to consent. When fans re-discovered the video on Twitter in August they were outraged, many saying the star was “cancelled,” or, in other words, that her career was over.
Her response? Saying the word “tranny” a few more times, telling people to stop being “sensitive” and, at best, saying she was using the transphobic slur before she knew it was offensive. Worst of all was perhaps her interview with Dazed, in which she actually had the audacity to say she was the one feeling “violated,” and then continued to shift blame away from herself and on to all the people who were “the real definition of transphobic.” As criticism shrugged off her description of sexual assault and focused on the transphobic slur, her shallow apologies made no reference to this element of the video at all.
General awareness of identity politics is increasing rapidly, so it might be permissible to forgive and forget Cardi’s slip had she expressed any sort of remorse. I also have heard the very valid argument that she deserves the benefit of the doubt, considering her disadvantaged upbringing; she has opened up since about getting kicked out of the house as a minor, struggling to make rent, and frequently finding herself caught up in toxic relationships. These realities considered, however, Cardi’s shallow and unapologetic response is a disappointment, especially coming from an artist that is clearly intelligent, talented, and could bring so much good to the industry. Further, her lack of remorse makes me think she might be a ticking PR time bomb–unable to learn from her mistakes or acknowledge the impact of her words, it feels like she might cross another ethical line and actually “cancel” her career any minute.
Commercially, Cardi B has recovered from this embarrassing tirade, supporting Colin Kaepernick in her VMAs performance and publicly condemning Donald Trump on social media. In a way, I still respect the stars unfiltered-ness, and can honestly say I would never expect Cardi to do anything artificial for the sake of getting views, likes, or listens. However, her poor response to this video still taints my endorsement, and leaves me in a position of moral skepticism about this star’s future career.
Written by Veronica Irwin
Photo by Picture Perfect