You know a hit single when you hear one. The palpable greatness of certain records can leap out at you with a quickness, an undeniable bop marking its territory and captivating you in such a visceral way that it sends an electrifying sensation throughout your body. A select group of rappers, past and present, were and are capable of eliciting such a thrilling feeling on a consistent basis. One member of that elite camp is Cardi B.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say Cardi has the platinum touch. In some instances, that hot streak veers toward diamond status. Her debut album, 2018’s Invasion of Privacy, has had every song on its tracklist certified platinum or diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Cardi’s first studio effort was a legitimately record-breaking accomplishment. In the five years that have seemingly flown by since its release, listeners have been waiting for new Cardi B songs. But instead of rushing to put out a sophomore project for the sake of saying she did it, the rapper from the Bronx has been fixated on sliding on absolutely every guest verse opportunity that has come her way.
Cardi’s confidence in her delivery has exploded past what we heard on her breakthrough 2017 single, “Bodak Yellow.” On that No. 1 hit, she sounded young but sure of herself, like she was laser-focused on finding her footing in a relatively new pursuit. At the time, work ethic and determination made up for inexperience.
In comparison, the execution of Cardi’s verse on Latto’s potential song of the summer, “Put It On Da Floor Again,” sounds fully developed. She’s adept at molding bars into aural darts that feel like they could penetrate your soul or, at the very least, your self-esteem. Her elastic and charismatic voice comes across as more emboldened with each feature. Content-wise, she leans toward incorporating current events like the recent LSU women’s basketball team’s national championship, and sidling them next to pointed bars seemingly directed at her contemporaries, internet trolls, and any other opps who dare to question her authenticity. By fusing those elements with clever one-liners that touch on topics like her wealth and her attractiveness, Cardi rounds it all up with slick pop-culture references. Look no further than, “I’m sexy dancing in the house, I feel like Britney Spears,” the runaway crowd favorite bar from the track.
“Put It On Da Floor Again” recalls the frenetic energy of GloRilla’s “Tomorrow 2,” which also featured a fiery guest verse from Cardi. “Tomorrow 2” is stacked with memorable lines from both female rappers, but Cardi’s verse in particular had the girls in a tizzy. With showstopping bars like, “I stay on her mind, I got condos in that bitch head,” Cardi worked her way toward what many considered the best verse of last year.
Prior to the success of “Tomorrow 2,” Cardi also collaborated with drill rapper Kay Flock on the aggressive 2022 track “Shake It,” which saw her taking on a more gritty vocal approach to match Flock’s. When revisiting two of Cardi’s most visible 2021 features — Normani’s “Wild Side” and Lizzo’s “Rumors” — it’s apparent that she not only aspires to rise to the occasion, but often elevates and adapts her lyrical style, pitch, tone, and even ad-libs to match the varying atmospheres of these songs. Now, it has long been discussed that Cardi B employs the help of songwriters. (Quick reminder: Cardi is not the first nor the only hip-hop artist to seek assistance with barring the fuck out on a steady basis. Drake vs. Meek Mill was not that long ago, folks!) But one thing is clear. Cardi excels at guest features because she has perfected a formula specific to her.
She may not have worked directly with them, but Cardi has gleaned the ability to habitually put out fire features from her predecessors. Lil Kim made significant waves in the Junior M.A.F.I.A. clique (“Get Money,” “Player’s Anthem”) in the late ‘90s, but it was her work outside of the group that transformed her into a bonafide and formidable rapper. Her features on Mary J. Blige’s “I Can Love You” and Mobb Deep’s “Quiet Storm (Remix)” are two of the most revered verses of any woman rapper’s career, while her pop sensibilities shone through on the 2001 mega hit/Labelle cover, “Lady Marmalade.”
With the aughts came a notable feature run by André 3000. From remixes of Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s” and DJ Unk’s “Walk It Out” to classic verses on John Legend’s “Green Light” and Devin the Dude’s “What a Job,” the Outkast rapper was batting 1,000 every time he stepped up to the plate. Then, he blessed us with one of the most incredible verses known to man: the stunning collection of stream-of-consciousness bars that opened UGK’s “Int’l Players Anthem.”
André more than held his own then (and still does now), but the mid-to-late 2000s belonged to Lil Wayne. This was only solidified when he hopped on close to 100 songs in 2007. The volume and impact of Weezy’s resonant verses, especially on tracks like Lloyd’s “You” and Birdman’s “Pop Bottles,” would eventually leave a gaping artistic chasm between him and his peers. “I am the beast: feed me rappers or feed me beats,” as he succinctly put it on DJ Khaled’s ambitious “We Takin’ Over.”
Wayne’s musical mentees, Drake and Nicki Minaj, essentially picked up where he left off in the 2010s. Nicki crushed features for sport early on in the decade on songs like Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up” and, of course, her highly regarded (and often recited) verse from Ye’s “Monster.” Meanwhile, Drake hit his stride near the middle of the decade, thanks in large part to his SoundCloud remixes to Fetty Wap’s “My Way” and Migos’ “Versace,” which were just as ubiquitous as his official verse on Future’s “Where Ya At.”
Now, Cardi is on a notable features run going into the 2020s. She continues to snatch the world’s attention with scene-stealing verses, showcasing a confidence, versatility, and fun that we haven’t seen from a mainstream rapper (maybe save for Kendrick Lamar) in quite some time. As long as she continues on this path she’ll continue to be that girl, undoubtedly inspiring other women and femmes to step into their own bad-bitch era.
Kiana Fitzgerald is a freelance music journalist, cultural critic, and DJ. Her writing credits include Billboard, The Cut, NPR, Complex, Nylon Magazine, and Rolling Stone, among other publications. She writes for the world from deep in the heart of Texas.
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