Does Cardi B Benefit from Colorism?

A commonly accepted definition of colorism:

“Discrimination based on skin color, also known as colorism or shadeism, is a form of prejudice or discrimination in which people are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin color.” (Source)

Cardi B’s meteoric rise to the top of the rap game has been nothing short of historic and inspirational. Her first entry on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, “Bodak Yellow,” peaked at #1 for 3 non-consecutive weeks. She soon followed with two additional #1 hits (“I Like It” and “Girls Like You”), a plethora of sizeable hits (“No Limit,” “MotorSport,” “Be Careful,” “Bartier Cardi”) and a #1 debut album with Invasion of Privacy (read my review of the album here.) Cardi’s ear for hits and hilarious personality have made her the most successful female rapper for the past two years. Her hard work and dedication cannot be discounted, but it seems as if Cardi gets numerous passes for her behavior. There are a number of female rappers with stronger flows and harder bars, yet they haven’t seen a fraction of the success Cardi has. So, I put forth this argument: assuming everything about Cardi’s personality and career remained the same, would she have the have the same level of success and adoration is she were a darker-skinned black woman?

Here are some interesting, and by interesting I mean problematic and disgusting, things Cardi B has said and done:

  1. She said this:

“Yo, if a n*gga cheat on me, I’mma be that guy. I’mma take him out. We gonna get drunk. I’mma get him all perked up and everything. We gonna have a good time, get him super twisted, then bring a b*tch around. We gonna have a threesome, and when he wake up, he gonna be like, ‘What the f*ck?!?’ Yeah, because the b*tch was a tr*nny. I’mma be like, ‘Yup, yeah, we had a threesome with a tr*nny. Yup, yup a tranny sucked your d*ck.’

2. She called a dead black boy a “monkey” and has referred to dark-skinned black women as “roaches” on multiple occasions.

3. She’s used slurs such as “retard,” “f*ggot,” and “d*ke” without remorse. In fact, she blamed gay people for not educating her as to why those slurs are unacceptable. She even said that because her sister is a lesbian she has the right to use the work “d*ke.”

These are just a select few instances, but they speak volumes. Cardi has continued to escape retribution for her comments. We get it, she’s a regular girl from a hood in the Bronx, but when do we hold her accountable for what she says. She is a grown adult, after all.

The industry powers-that-be and a large portion of consumers have collectively “canceled” Azealia Banks over her problematic comments, among other things. Azealia has struggled to release music for years now and has resorted to selling soap online. Now, Azealia is definitely a troubled and problematic artist, but she is undeniably talented. Why didn’t she get the pass that Cardi is getting? Cardi instigated a fight and threw a shoe at Nicki Minaj at a New York Fashion Week party and she was applauded. If we swapped Cardi out for Azealia or Asian Doll or Kash Doll or CupcaKke what would the reaction be?

Any student or edified consumer of hip-hop culture knows how hard the industry is on female rappers. Female rappers have always been held to a higher standard: their lyrics have to be harder, their flow has to be tighter, they have to move more units… all for a record label to invest half as much money and time in them as they would for a male rapper. In addition, female rappers are unfairly dogged with claims doubting their writing skill. Foxy Brown battled rumors throughout her career that Jay-Z wrote her raps, the same for Lil’ Kim and Biggie, and for Nicki Minaj and Safaree Samuels. If female rappers are always having their writing skills over-evaluated and judged, why are so many female emcees unsigned or not heavily promoted? Noname, Rapsody, Leikeli47, and Tierra Whack all rap circles around the some of the most popular male rappers. One thing these ladies all have in common is that they are of a significantly darker complexion than Cardi.

Again, Cardi is indisputably a hard worker and does have talent, but it is important that we have a conversation on how colorism assisted (or didn’t) her rise to the top. Colorism is the same reason why Nicki Minaj achieved her greatest level of worldwide success when she donned blonde wigs and sported a significantly lighter complexion. Of course, it may just be that people want to see another female rapper on top so badly that they are willing to overlook Cardi’s problematic actions and comments. If that is the case, what does that say about us as a culture? Everyone is problematic in their own way, but when do we stop and make sure the people who we support are held accountable for their actions? Now, I’m not sure where I stand: I think a combination of colorism and Cardi’s own savviness resulted in her success. Where do you stand?

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