Cardi B Finds Inspiration From Her Struggles
Feminism isn't a subject that is talked about a lot in hip-hop, but that doesn't mean rappers aren't out here supporting the cause. Plenty of artists have fought for and made music to support the fight for women's rights. From Queen Latifah to Nicki Minaj, rappers have been vocal about equality between sexes for years.
Surprisingly to some rap fans, Ab-Soul considers himself a feminist. His fourth studio album, Do What Thou Wilt, released last year, centered on women. Yes, men can be feminists, too.
The discussion of who is a feminist and what feminism has often divided people. Some have an elitist misconception that feminists should act and dress a certain way. Others believe feminism is about true equality and freedom that allows women to do whatever they please without bias or judgment that men wouldn't receive. When race gets involved, the debates becomes even more heated.
One rapper who isn't afraid to label herself a feminist is Cardi B. The reality TV star-turned-rhyme slinger is one of the biggest female rappers in hip-hop right now. When it comes to her music, she represents the underdog and encourages female empowerment.
"When you hear my lyrics, you hear the shots that I throw at people," she tells XXL while in New York City a few weeks after she dropped Gangsta Bitch Vol. 2. "I throw shots because I always been the underdog. I got rejected so many times and I say it in my lyrics constantly. 'My ex told me I was never gon' be shit/Lookie, lookie now, lookie now, nigga I'm that bitch,' I always got to prove myself, even now. I put that in my music because that’s something that still bothers me."
One thing for sure is that Cardi isn't afraid to speak her mind. She is unapologetically herself and uses social media to speak out on a variety of issues based on real-life experiences or what other women are going through—her following is massive both on Twitter and Instagram. She's been praised by fans and critics alike for her willingness to speak up and defend what being a true feminist means. Due to her background as a former stripper, she's often been criticized by haters for being the wrong representation of feminism. But aren't those the people who are wrong?
XXL spoke to Cardi B about social media, being a feminist, critics and where she finds her strength to keep going.
XXL: Why do you think you’re so popular on social media?
Cardi B: Because I just be myself and I guess I’m relatable to a lot of people. Even if you don’t like me [myself], what I think about situations, people think it. And even if they don’t think it, they want to think it. A lot of females, they want to do the things that I do. Some females are so closed but they want to be open. Some girls, they want to feel that power that I tell them that I have. I tell women that I have power over these men, that I use these men.
Some women, they want to feel like they can do that. Even if they can’t that’s what they want to be. They want to feel like they can have that control, like, Damn, I want to be like her, she don’t give a fuck about nothing, I want to be like that. They could and they can and they want that. That’s how they want to be.
What do you feel about social media in general?
The good is that social media could make you but it can also water down everything. For example, I went to a dancehall party. I felt like people were so scared to dance because people were so scared to get recorded and get clowned on in social media. Everything to people is a joke. Everybody has an opinion about everything. I don’t care it’s not what you like; it’s what I believe.
People are afraid to be themselves because people are afraid to be recorded. Everything is being recorded and everyone is so sensitive. You say something; a section of people will be offended. It’s so annoying; you got to be completely censored. You can’t even say anything; it either makes you a racist, judgmental, homophobic and you can’t even say what’s on your mind anymore.
Your fan base comes from a wide variety of backgrounds—poor, rich, multiple degrees, no school. They gravitate to your honesty. What gives you the conviction to not censor yourself?
What gives me the confidence and strength is because certain things that I say, I don’t even have the courage to do but it certain things I want to do. I would do a video and tell a girl if that guy is fucking you over, don’t answer his calls for the day, go get you another nigga. I speak on things people want to do.
How did you spend International Women’s Day?
For International Women’s Day, I blocked a guy’s number and it made me feel a whole lot better about myself. I blocked his number and I cursed him out a little bit. It gave me the strength to know that I have the power now; I have the power to do that to you.
Why do you think women feel like they don’t have that power?
Because men make you feel like you’re powerless. Men make you feel like, "She’s attached to me now. Now I can do whatever I want." It seems like men do that. I know a lot of women think, I have the pussy I have the power. Not really, sometimes that man has that power. Girls get too much dick-matized. They too scared to be alone and sometimes guys know that. Guys know that the girl is dick-matized and guys know that girls care. So that’s why a woman feels like she doesn’t have power.
Since your come up, what have you noticed about being a woman in the hip-hop industry? Do you think it’s better or worse to be a woman in hip-hop?
It’s both. Everybody wants to see a pretty face and everyone wants to see the pretty woman but sometimes I kind of want to interact with certain artists, but I’m so afraid because I talk to them but they don’t really want to listen to me. They want to see me and you know. I never really approach nobody because I’m afraid that they will approach me in a way that I don’t want. So I just avoid it. I really avoid it.
Wow, that has to be exhausting to always be on guard like that.
It is. I’m trying to practice being more social but I’m from New York. I used to be a dancer so I feel like everybody just wants something from you. I don’t ever want to appear like, She’s thirsty, Cardi reached out to me. I’m not the type of person that reaches out to people, especially because I’m a woman. Sometimes I see male artists and think how the fuck do they know each other. It seems so easy for guys to interact and get in the booth. It’s so hard for me to do that because I don’t ever want to be misinterpreted.
That’s not fair at all.
And then sometimes I do want to approach female artists and some are not as humble as me. I don’t want to approach a woman and she goes on to say, "Cardi B was on my dick." So I just avoid that too. Women are not that supportive of each other. I feel like women see the sport more competitive than men do. We don’t really hear a man competing to be No. 1; it’s women. It’s usually a woman that says she’s the No. 1 rapper and "I am this and that." Women are so competitive that I don’t want to reach out to someone and later we have beef and they say, "Yeah, I remember when you was on my dick and I remember when you hit me up." It’s hard as a woman to be in the game.
What women inspire you?
The women that inspire me to be honest are the women that struggle. For example, my mom, she’s the best woman ever, she’s the best mom in the world. But she dependent on my dad for a very long time and when he left, I saw how hard she had to work to take care of us. I knew I didn’t want to work that hard for a little bit of change. Then who also inspire me was the strippers that I used to work with 'cause a lot of them were in their 30s and they used to tell me, "Listen, you’re young. You don’t want to be 30 years old and still stripping for the same niggas because the older you get, the more used they are of you and they give you less money."
Those are the women that I didn’t want to be so they inspired me to work harder and look for another direction. A lot of people say I’m inspired by this artist and this and that, I didn’t see their struggle. So they don’t really inspire me. I seen struggle and people go through struggle and that’s what inspires me.
What does feminism mean to you?
There was a university professor did 11-page essay on why am I a feminist. A lot of people hate the fact that people call me a feminist because I don’t have a college diploma. I inspire bitches to make money. I inspire women to make money. I’m not encouraging women to be a stripper. I’ma tell women to find a niche and make the best out of yourself and make money out of it.
A feminist is a woman that is empowering other women to get that bread, to be the best that they can be, to shit on people. A lot of people think feminism is just about sexual liberation, [to] show your top, show your titties, show this. That doesn’t mean feminism. I don’t bash a bitch that’s going to college or has a degree; I might learn something from her. She might help me open up a business; I don’t know how to open up a business, I got the money to. She can help me with that and I can help her be a bad bitch. I don’t like really the words bad bitch but I can teach you how to have that boss-ass personality. What you can teach me, I can benefit off that and you can benefit off what I can teach you.
It’s mostly guys who say you’re not a feminist?
Yeah, you should listen to me because two years ago I was in an apartment in the Bronx that had mice in the hallway. Look where I’m at now. How is that not inspirational? I wasn’t sucking dick for it, I ain’t suck dick to be here. A lot of people want to believe that but I didn’t. No nigga that I ever fucked did anything for me. They just gave me dick; they didn’t do anything for my career. They didn’t give me shit. I once asked a guy to lend me $10,000 to open up my own cleaning company and he just fell asleep on me. That was the only time I asked a nigga for help. Never again did I ask anybody for shit. Everything I get it by myself. How is that not inspirational?
What gives you strength?
I get my strength because I want the money and my fans. They constantly are asking me for music. I can’t give up. From Gangsta Bitch Vol. 1 to Vol. 2, it took like six, seven months to put out another mixtape and my fans was just going crazy. Why would I give up on them? Sometimes I don’t be believing in myself. Sometimes I be feeling like I’m not where I want to be but my fans constantly remind me like, "Listen, bitch, we’re rooting for you." I can’t let them down.
It probably helps when Lil' Kim teases she wants you to help her remake “Ladies Night” too.
She’s the OG. If a person like that believe in you, how can I give up?
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