It seems like Cardi B has gone from stripper to reality show star to Instagram influencer to hip-hop newcomer in the blink of an eye. The 24-year old is charting a very unique path to stardom, one that has left many bodies in its wake. Cardi wasn’t the first person to attempt a transition from social media stardom to the music world, but she may be the first to pull it off spectacularly. Here’s a primer on the world of Cardi B.
Cardi’s real name is Belcalis Almanzar. Her parents were both immigrants. Her father came from the Dominican Republic, while her mother immigrated from Trinidad.
2. Cardi Was a Member of the Bloods
As she put it on Twitter, “Bitch I been a big time Blood since I was 16 sooo fuck is you talking bout ..ya just never peep it.” Cardi grew up in the Highbridge area of the Bronx and joined a gang because that’s what most kids did in the neighborhood.
3. Cardi Was a Stripper
Cardi’s musical talent was obvious during her teen years and she attended the Renaissance High School For Musical Theater & Technology. A YouTube search will yield a video of Cardi doing a full Lady Gaga number, complete with coordinated backup dancers. However, it was tough to make ends meet, so Cardi hustled at a job at an Amish supermarket in Lower Manhattan. The $200 a week job wasn’t paying enough for her to live and afford the acting classes she was taking, so Cardi turned to stripping. Her honesty about her past as an exotic dancer is one reason Cardi has been hailed as a breath of fresh air – she’s frank about the downsides of stripping, like domestic violence, but also admits that stripping was a positive. “It really saved me from a lot of things. When I started stripping I went back to school.”
4. Cardi Made It On Instagram
Cardi started hitting the NYC clubs and quickly got lots of attention for her moves and sense of style. While her local fame was rising, Cardi got involved with the then-rising social media app, Instagram. Within a year of starting on Instagram in 1994, Cardi attracted hundreds of thousands of followers who loved watching her uniquely empowered videos. Cardi gave pep talks on dealing with bad men and how to keep hustling.
5. Cardi Became a Rapper Accidentally
Lots of “influencers” are perfectly happy to keep building their social media presence, getting massive amounts of freebies and earning money to plug them. However, Cardi B was thinking big. At age 22 she stopped stripping and hired a manager. Cardi wanted to be famous, but wasn’t thinking about rapping. The new manager heard the way she was constantly commentating on her own life with her own hip-hop lyrics and suggested she try rap.
Cardi got herself on a Shaggy remix and then landed a role on season 6 of Love & Hip Hop, the reality show that covers the music business. She quickly parlayed that into her first LP, Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1, which dropped in March 2016.
6. Cardi Wants to Be Radio-Ready
Cardi loves her hard New York-style raps, but she also wants to craft radio-friendly songs. She has no patience for indie artists who disdain the idea of financial success or following trends. “I have a passion for music, I love music. But I also have a passion for money and paying my bills,” she said with characteristic bluntness.