This year, Cardi B exploded onto the rap scene with “Bodak Yellow” after remaining relatively unknown, though she did have a large Instagram following and became a regular cast member on a reality TV show, Love & Hip Hop, New York, in 2015. Due to “Bodak Yellow”’s success, Cardi B became the first female rapper to, unassisted, hit Number 1 on the Billboard charts (other female rappers only reached Number 1 with features on their songs). She most recently began involving herself in social issues, arguing that she was kicked out of a hotel due to her race, and instigating social justice issues using her fame.
Despite this, however, I don’t see Cardi B sustaining success for much longer. One reason why “Bodak Yellow” became popular, other than sending a powerful message for independent women of color, is that it sounds incredibly similar to Kodak Black’s “No Flockin”. In fact, the song was named Bodak Yellow as a shout-out to Kodak Black. She stated at one concert; “And for anybody that telling me, ‘Oh b***h, you copied Kodak flow, you copied this and that flow.’ So what, b***h? So what? I’ma sound like all your favorite rappers.” Continuing; “One day I’ma sound like Kodak, the next day I’ma sound like Meek Mill, the next day I’ma sound like Migos,” she added. “I don’t give a f**k.”
Which is great. That’s totally fine. Except, why? Why would you want to copy other rappers instead of coming up with your own style?
This isn’t just a problem with Cardi B — it’s so common among many new hip-hop artists today. Playboi Carti sounds like Madeintyo sounds like Lil Uzi Vert (can they all just get on a track together called “yah” and just say “yah” over and over for three minutes? Because that would be great). As described by J. Cole, “…these amatuer rappers, lil whatever, just another short bus rapper…”, these rappers too easily and too often copy each other’s sound and flow instead of striving for individuality. I don’t see much future success for Cardi, or any of these new upcoming rappers, if they plan on just copying rappers forever.
Of course, she can carry the success of Bodak Yellow into carving her own style in the rap game, following the career path of singer Zayn Malik, who switched from a generic pop boy-band model to a solo R&B career. If she doesn’t, though, she’ll drop off like artists The Game or 50 Cent, rappers who found fame in the mid 2000s by riding the gangsta-rap phase, but were unable to find their own styles and advance their careers.
The current status of rap is saturated with B-list SoundCloud rappers cycling through the same sounds, the same Migos-type lyricism. Ugly God, Smokepurpp, Lil Pump, Ski Mask the Slump God, Playboi Carti, and Madeintyo all found moderate amounts of fame using this model, some finding more success than others. If Cardi doesn’t switch things up soon and identify herself as someone with a novel musical idea, she could be lost in the sea of these semi-famous artists.
As the first female rapper to achieve this level of success in the male-dominant hip-hop culture, Cardi B takes on the responsibility as a pioneering woman increasing female visibility in rap and hip hop. If she continues to copy other rapper’s styles rather than generating her own voice, it would be too easy to label her as “the female Migos” or “the female Kodak.” No one has labeled Beyonce as “the female Jay Z,” or Jhene Aiko the “female Bryson Tiller.” I think it’s important for Cardi B to start finding her own voice as well, or else such labeling will start to happen, and her career may take a tumble.
Also, why would she want to sound like Meek Mill? The dude just screams his head off into the mic every time he gets on the track.