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Cardi Taught Me: Life Lessons From ‘Invasion of Privacy’

Practice safe sex, go to church, always tell the truth, and other valuable takeaways from the debut album of the year

Cardi B with an apple inside a speech bubble Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Eleven days ago, Cardi B released Invasion of Privacy, her debut studio album. This week, after breaking the record for the most streams ever in a week for a female artist (and nearly doubling what Beyoncé did two years ago when she released Lemonade, per The New York Times), it sits no. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. My colleague Lindsay Zoladz already wrote a wonderful piece on what the album is and how it should be absorbed, so let’s not do that. Instead, let’s drill down into it some, same as we did with the Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury or Missy Elliott’s Supa Dupa Fly, and find some of the pieces of valuable life advice tucked away inside it.

Admit your vulnerabilities to defeat your vulnerabilities.

Before I fixed my teeth, man, those comments used to kill me. —Cardi B, “Best Life”

Cardi B says this in reference to how, before she was famous and rich and had legitimate money, she was not able to afford to fix her teeth. Now that she has money, she’s able to do something about it, which means now she has teeth that she likes. (She mentions her teeth on “Bodak Yellow” as well, rapping, “Got a bag and fixed my teeth / Hope you hoes know it ain’t cheap.”) The line here on “Best Life” reminds me of the time I was in a conversation with a therapist and the therapist was talking about how, when dealing with things like insecurities or past trauma, the strategy is “you have to name it to tame it,” meaning if you talk about and address the things that are affecting you negatively then they will lose their power over you. That’s what Cardi is doing here.

Practice safe sex.

I hope your wallet got condoms in it. —Cardi B, “She Bad”

Apologize when you should apologize.

Told that bitch I’m sorry, though. —Cardi B, “I Like It”

A thing that I’ve learned as I’ve aged into maturity against my will is that apologizing for something is extremely cathartic. And I’m aware that apologizing for a bad thing you’ve done just so you, the perpetrator of said bad thing, can feel better about it is kind of the opposite of the point of an apology, but it’s fine. This is one of those where A Rising Tide Raises All Boats applies, probably.

Go to church.

Pop that pussy up at church. —Cardi B, “Bickenhead”

This seems like inappropriate behavior at a church, but I haven’t been in a long time so I’m not above admitting that I might be wrong. Maybe the Latter-day Saints are extremely pro-pussy-popping these days. Like, maybe it’s part of a trendy new initiative to build a larger population of young people in the congregation or something.

Also: On “She Bad,” Cardi says, “I wear Off-White at church,” and it’s fun to think about those two things being Cardi B’s default church settings. You’re a pastor at a church and Sunday rolls around and someone says they just saw Cardi B pull up outside and you’re like, “Was she wearing Off-White? Please tell me she was wearing Off-White. Because otherwise we’re gonna need to send all the kids to the youth ministry a little earlier than usual.”

Also: There’s a song called “Get Up 10” on Invasion of Privacy where Cardi says, “I’m tryna whip the foreign like a badass child,” and there’s a line in the Bible that reads, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son,” and, I mean, perhaps we should start considering the idea that Cardi B is actually a Christian rapper.

Be flexible.

Spread them asscheeks open. —Cardi B, “Bickenhead”

Nevermind. Not a Christian rapper.

Have good friends.

I don’t hang with these bitches ’cause these bitches be corny. —Cardi B, “Get Up 10”

An aside: Using “Get Up 10” as the album opener is such a great play by Cardi. It’s an honest, Vibranium-strong, confrontational confessional, and it establishes very quickly that Invasion of Privacy, while for sure possessing moments that exist just to be fun, will also have moments of real (and unexpected) gravity. And what’s more, when she hits the second half of it and starts spraying gunshots everywhere and at everything, it’s just like, “OK, Cardi is for real. Cardi is a killer.” And that’s (of course) a feeling she was able to grab a hold of and wield with great force on her mixtapes, but seeing her do it not only on her first proper album, but also in the first three minutes of it, is very fulfilling.

Be good at similes.

I’m like Makaveli meets a Little Caesars pizza. —Cardi B, “Best Life”

This what I know, and what I have to live with: Approximately nine years ago, I started writing for money. Since then, I have written hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of articles, both for websites or various print publications. In addition to that, I have two proper, full-length, actual books. In 2015, writing became a full-time job for me, as in that it is how I take care of my family and provide for my family. I write something literally every single day now. Listen to me because I’m going to say it again: I WRITE SOMETHING LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE DAY NOW. I sit at my computer with my fingers on the keyboard and my brain in the cosmos, trying as hard as I can to think of a way to write a turn of phrase or a sentence that nobody has ever come up with before. AND STILL, despite the fact that I have written something near a million words, I have never come up with anything as smart, as funny, as interesting, as advanced, as aware as Cardi B describing herself as “Makaveli meets a Little Caesars pizza.”

Small talk is for suckers.

I walked into the label, ‘Where the check at?’ —Cardi B, “Get Up 10”

Sadly, I have never walked into a building, record label or otherwise, and asked, “Where the check at?” The closest I’ve come is one time on a road trip from Houston to San Antonio I walked into a Dairy Queen and asked where the bathrooms were at. (Even then, I was scared that I was going to get in trouble for using their restroom without having been a customer so I bought an Oreo Blizzard beforehand, even though I 100 percent did not want it.) (That’s not to say that Oreo Blizzards are not good and delicious, because they are.) (It’s just to say that I didn’t want one at that particular time.)

Big talk is for suckers, too.

And you gon’ have to learn to hold your tongue or hold the gun. —Cardi B, “Get Up 10”

Tongue for me, please.

Do not die during oral sex.

Go down, eat it up, don’t drown. —Cardi B, “Drip”

Three things here:

  1. You are either extremely good at oral sex or extremely bad at oral sex if you die while performing it. It can only be one of those two options. Nobody who is medium at oral sex could possibly die during it.
  2. If you die while performing oral sex, do you think that automatically disqualifies you from getting into heaven? Like, is there a bylaw somewhere or something that addresses that? I’ve not gotten to that episode of The Good Place yet.
  3. Let’s assume you are able to get into heaven if you die while performing oral sex; that being the case, can you even imagine having to explain that to other people (angels?) there? You’re at a party in a room and you’re there with someone who died while rescuing children from a house fire and someone who died while on a hunger strike protesting injustices in a developing country, and then there you are, holding a little plate with party snacks on it, telling them about how you were done in by fellatio or cunnilingus.

Work on your anger.

I gotta work on my anger. —Cardi B, “Drip”

Brand recognition is important when you’re an artist.

Cardi B, know it’s me, hear that “blap” sound. —Cardi B, “Get Up 10”

It’s like the sound that Netflix makes when you open it up. Or the sound that T-Mobile makes at the end of its commercials. Or the sound a MacBook makes when you power it up for the first time. Or the sound of a Peyton Manning insurance commercial. Or the “bada bah bah bahhhh” from the McDonald’s jingle. Or the “The best part of waking up” from a Folgers ad campaign. It’s like all of those things, except it’s Cardi B.

Make sure people are doing right by you.

Don’t matter if you fuck with me, I get money regardless. —Cardi B, “Bickenhead”

The second-best scene from 2016’s Fences is when Denzel Washington’s son asks Denzel why he doesn’t like him. (Denzel plays Troy Maxson, a turned-hard-by-life garbage man in the 1950s. Jovan Adepo plays his son, Cory Maxson, who is smart and sweet and doesn’t quite understand why his dad is so angry all the time.) Troy, taken aback by the question, responds, “Like you? Who the hell says I got to like you?” It’s the beginning of this long, tense, beautiful one-sided conversation in which Troy explains that his job as a father is not to like Cory, but to provide for Cory. After beating up Cory a bit (verbally, I mean), Troy ends their talk with a final point: “Now don’t you go through life worrying about whether somebody like you or not. You best be making sure they’re doing right by you.” It’s the same thing that Cardi B is talking about here with this line. And it’s kind of wonderful to think about Troy Maxson being proud of Cardi B’s Do Right By Me worldview.

(I don’t want to write about what the first-best scene in Fences is because if you’ve seen it then you already know what it is and if you’ve not seen it then I don’t want to be the one who spoils it for you.)

Always watch for teachable moments.

Turned all my L’s into lessons. —Chance the Rapper, “Best Life”

Do you remember when you were little and you had certain cousins whose house your mom would never let you spend the night at because they were always getting into trouble that was a little too serious for her to be comfortable with? Chance the Rapper being on a Cardi B song is like the music version of that.

Brand loyalty is important.

This is some real-life fairy-tale Binderella shit. —Cardi B, “Best Life”

Cardi B changing “Cinderella” to “Binderella” is a remarkable commitment to brand loyalty.

Improvise, adapt, overcome.

Learn to text with your nose if your thumb broke. —Cardi B, “Ring”

Remember when Clint Eastwood gives his new group of loser Marines the “Improvise, adapt, overcome” monologue in Heartbreak Ridge? That’s Cardi B here, and honestly it’s kind of brilliant to bark at someone that they should learn to text with their nose if they break their thumb(s).

Multitasking is important.

Write a verse while I twerk. —Cardi B, “She Bad”

Always tell the truth.

Call your momma phone, let her know she raised a bitch. —Cardi B, “Thru Your Phone”

This line always makes me smile because I can’t help but picture my mother, beautiful and perfect, outside on a Sunday afternoon in her front yard planting flowers or watering a tree or something. Her phone rings. She hears it. She gets up, takes her cute little gardening gloves off, then wipes the adorable sweat off her adorable forehead. She takes a sip of some iced tea she has in a tumbler nearby. Then answers the phone. And it’s Cardi B. And my mother, still beautiful and perfect, says, “Hello,” in her charming Mexican mom voice. And Cardi, with that VOLUME 10 voice of hers, says, “May I speak with Shea’s mother?” And my mother, who worked extra shifts at the corner store where she’s been employed for nearly 30 years so that I could get through college, says, “Yes. This is her,” and she smiles because she’s always happy to talk about her only son. And then Cardi, grumbly and growly, says, “You raised a bitch, ma’am,” and then hangs up.