Over three months after its initial release, Cardi B has finally dropped the visuals for her infectious single, “Bartier Cardi.” The follow up to her history-making breakout single “Bodak Yellow,” Cardi’s “Bartier Cardi” — which includes a feature from rapper 21 Savage — goes just as hard and has kept eager fans satisfied as we await her highly anticipated album, Invasion of Privacy. Now, Cardi has stepped it up a notch by serving high glam and conceptual imagery in the high-profile video. It aired during Monday night’s episode of Love & Hip-Hop, and like her album title, alludes to Cardi’s newfound fame and the bothersome trappings of it. On the flip side, it’s one of her most indulgent visual projects, confirming her upward trajectory in the entertainment space. Like most Cardi B content — from Instagram posts to magazine profiles — I think the “Bartier Cardi” video is an opportunity to recommit to making room for hood girls at every social and economic level.
Directed by noted fashion photographer and model Petra Collins, “Bartier Cardi” is pretty, to say the least. Collins deployed her signature ethereal style to play up Cardi’s status as a celebrity who is constantly under surveillance but also becoming wealthier by the day. The entire three minutes and 46 seconds is a filtered experience that dilutes and combines soft pastels, floral accents, and wafty models with hip-hop staples like flying dollar bills and corporeal objectification (except with men). As the lyrics imply, viewers get to “party with Cardi” in a wonderland that is nothing like the packed clubs where you are likely to find the Bronx native hosting and performing. Juxtaposition is a Cardi B staple that is becoming more and more pronounced as she moves up the music industry ranks.
The rapper has been intentionally reminding onlookers that the rate of change from working-class stripper to A-list rap star is not the same as that from regular-degular girl from the Bronx to cultivated member of posh society. She is only slightly more censored on her Instagram account (likely a drawback of her hectic schedule more than anything), and she isn’t above describing exactly how nervous she is to be performing at the Grammys for the first time. Cardi’s “regular Jane” moments are part of why audiences love her. But that endearment could easily turn to judgement if people demand refinement in exchange for social mobility and mainstream acceptance.
When Tiffany Haddish hosted Saturday Night Live!, a sign of her crossover success from urban circuit to the national comedy stage, some people criticised her for essentially being too “ghetto.” The more she reveals about her party experiences with Beyoncé, the more people question her readiness to mingle with Hollywood’s upper echelon. As I watched the models in the “Bartier Cardi” video throw money into a pool right along with Fashion Nova gift cards (a brand that is still only associated with a lack of decorum, class, and wealth) I couldn’t help but worry that the same fate awaits Cardi. She has already had to defend her sexuality and clothing to slut-shamers. Expectations about what she should wear and how she should speak as she expands her career feel inevitable.
But ‘hood’ isn’t an identifier that should have to slowly evaporate with success. We need to challenge our cultural assumptions about class mobility and respectability, not use them to shame and police the behaviors of those who still have family and friends from the hood. Cardi's allegiance to where she came from is what has set her up to pull off the glam in "Bartier Cardi." She shouldn't have to change now, and I hope she doesn't have to.