New York rapper Cardi B has found musical success through transparency | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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New York rapper Cardi B has found musical success through transparency

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Bronx-bred hip-hop artist Belcalis Almanzar, best known as Cardi B, built a career off her big personality, first as a stripper of local lore, then as an Instagram celebrity with a giant following (current stats: 9.7 million followers), before blossoming as a cast member on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: New York in late 2015. Roughly a year later, she left the program to focus on her music career, which she approaches with a business acumen as steely as her rapping. As she recently told the Fader, “I have a passion for music, I love music. But I also have a passion for money and paying my bills.” Cardi’s survival instinct has helped her develop an ecumenical attitude toward hip-hop, and like many pop musicians before her, she cobbles underground and mainstream trends together to find something that’ll spark. On “Pull Up,” off March’s Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 2 (KSR), she slips into the bellicose double-time flow G Herbo and Lil Bibby perfected on 2012’s “Kill Shit.” “Bodak Yellow” (Atlantic) borrows from Kodak Black’s “No Flockin” flow—both artists draw out the ends of each line flowing from one syllable to the next, but while Black delivers them like sighs, Cardi stomps on the beat. When she’s at her best, Cardi renders her source material irrelevant—her husky voice and boisterous energy elevated “Bodak Yellow” into a late-summer smash.   v

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