Belcalis Almanzar (born October 11, 1992), professionally known as Cardi B (stylized as CΛRDI B), is an American hip hop recording artist, as well as a television and social media personality. Born and raised in the Bronx borough of New York City, she first embarked in a career as an exotic dancer and began to receive public attention as she built a large Internet following; coupled with her "no filter attitude", through Instagram she became an internet celebrity. In 2015, she became a regular cast member of the VH1 reality television series Love & Hip Hop: New York, and in February 2017 signed her first major label record deal with Atlantic Records. Her debut single for Atlantic, titled "Bodak Yellow", reached number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, with the New York Times calling it "the rap anthem of the summer".
Cardi B was born Belcalis Almanzar, on October 11, 1992, to a Trinidadian mother and Dominican father. She was raised in the Highbridge neighborhood located in the South Bronx section of New York City. Growing up she spent a lot of time at her grandmother's place in Washington Heights, Manhattan, to which she credits why she has "such a thick accent": Stereogum has described her voice as "a full-bodied New Yawk nasal bleat". As a youth, Cardi B was a member of the Bloods street gang and has claimed to have been a gangbanger since the age of 16. She went on to attend Renaissance High School For Musical Theater & Technology, a small specialty school collocated on the Herbert H. Lehman campus. As a teenager she was employed at an Amish Market supermarket in Lower Manhattan, the last job she held before turning to stripping at 19. Upon being fired from Amish Market, she was recommended by her former manager to work at a strip club. She has said she became a stripper to escape poverty and domestic violence, having been in an abusive relationship at the time. Cardi B has also said becoming a stripper was positive for her life in many ways: "It really saved me from a lot of things. When I started stripping I went back to school." Due to her new sudden career path and the expectations it holds, Cardi B turned to cosmetic surgery, getting breast implants and buttock augmentation. Cardi B said at the time she was involved in an abusive relationship with her then boyfriend, who she lived with in a small Bronx apartment. She says stripping was her only way out, a way to earn enough money to escape her dire situation and get an education. However she ended up dropping out of college. In 2013, Cardi B began to gain notoriety due to several of her videos going viral on social media, namely Vine and her official Instagram page.
In November 2015, Cardi B made her musical debut, alongside Jamaican dancehall singer Popcaan, on Jamaican reggae fusion singer Shaggy's remix to the latter's single "Boom Boom". She made her music video debut on December 15, 2015, with the song "Cheap Ass Weave", her rendition of English rapper Lady Leshurr's "Queen's Speech 4". On March 7, 2016, Cardi B released her first full-length project, a mixtape titled Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1. In November 2016, she was featured on the digital cover of Vibe magazine's "Viva" issue. On January 20, 2017, Cardi B released the second installment to her Gangsta Bitch Music series. In early February, Cardi B partnered with MAC Cosmetics and Rio Uribe's Gypsy Sport for an event for New York Fashion Week. In late February 2017, it was reported Cardi B signed her first major record label recording contract with Atlantic Records.
On February 25, 2017, Cardi B was the opening act for East Coast hip hop group The Lox's Filthy America... It's Beautiful Tour, alongside fellow New York City-based rappers Lil' Kim and Remy Ma. In April, she was featured in i-D's "A-Z of Music" video sponsored by Marc Jacobs. In May, the nominees for the 2017 BET Awards were announced, revealing that Cardi B had been nominated for Best New Artist and Best Female Hip-Hop Artist. Although she failed to win any awards, losing to Chance the Rapper and Remy Ma respectively, Cardi B performed at the BET Awards afterparty show. In June 2017, during Hot 97's annual Summer Jam music festival, Remy Ma brought out Cardi B, along with The Lady of Rage, MC Lyte, Young M.A., Monie Love, Lil' Kim and Queen Latifah, to celebrate female rappers and perform Latifah's 1993 hit single "U.N.I.T.Y.", about female empowerment.
On June 16, 2017, Atlantic Records released Cardi B's commercial debut single, titled "Bodak Yellow", via digital distribution. In June 2017, it was revealed Cardi B would be on the cover of The Fader's Summer Music issue for July/August 2017. On July 18, she performed "Bodak Yellow" on The Wendy Williams Show, where she was also interviewed by Williams. When the host asked where her moniker derived from, Cardi B responded with the distilled beverage Bacardi, as people would call her that, as her sister is nicknamed Hennessy Carolina, referencing the French cognac: "My sister's name, her name is Hennessy, so everybody used to be like Bacardi to me [...] then I shortened it to Cardi B, and the 'B' stands for whatever ... depending on the day."
In August, Cardi B's debut single "Bodak Yellow", reached the top three of the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also reached number one on the Hot Rap Songs chart, number two on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and number three on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart. She performed at MoMA PS1 on August 19 to a crowd of 4,000. Three days later, "Bodak Yellow" was certified gold for over 500,000 in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). She is reported to headline Power 105.1's annual Powerhouse music celebration, alongside The Weeknd, Migos and Lil Uzi Vert, at the Barclays Center in October.
In 2015, Cardi B joined the cast of the VH1 reality television series Love & Hip Hop: New York, debuting in season six. She is considered the breakout star of the show's sixth season. The sixth and seventh seasons chronicle her rise to stardom and her turbulent relationship with her incarcerated fiancé. On December 30, 2016, she announced she was leaving the show after two seasons to further pursue a career in music.
She appeared on the December 9, 2015 episode of Uncommon Sense with Charlamagne. On April 6, 2016, she was on the twelfth episode of Khloé Kardashian's Kocktails with Khloé: In it, she revealed how she told her mother that she was a stripper. In November, it was announced that she would be joining the cast of the BET series, Being Mary Jane. TVLine describes her character, Mercedes, as a "round-the-way beauty with a big weave, big boobs and a big booty to match her oversized, ratchet personality."
Cardi B guest-starred on the celebrity panel show Hip Hop Squares, appearing on the March 13 and April 3, 2017 episodes. On July 18, she appeared on The Wendy Williams Show where she performed "Bodak Yellow", as well as answered questions about her name and the status of her love life.
As Cardi B rose to prominence she was able to transition from an exotic dancer to modeling for fashion websites In February 2017, she partnered with M.A.C and Rio Uribe's Gypsy Sport for an event for New York Fashion Week. During an April 2017 interview with HotNewHipHop, Cardi B spoke on being rejected by fashion designers. Her April appearance in i-D's "A-Z of Music" video was sponsored by designer Marc Jacobs, and she made the cover of The Fader's July/August 2017 Summer Music issue.
In August, the Style section of the New York Times's Sunday edition did a half-page story on her. The writer reported on her preparations for her first public performance in New York City, at MoMA PS1, describing her appearance as she arrived to the interview in "leggings, an Atlanta Braves 'Lost Bravos' logo jersey and white Yeezy sneakers". She also covered Cardi's affinity for Christian Louboutin heels (a running theme in her song "Bodak Yellow"), and the custom local designer, LaQuan Smith, whose red dress she wore to perform.
In Billboard's "You Should Know" series, Cardi B said the first albums she ever purchased were by American entertainers Missy Elliott and Tweet, respectively. She also cited Madonna and Lady Gaga, as two of her favorite artists, and has also credited Puerto Rican rapper Ivy Queen, as an influence.
In an interview with music website Hollywood Unlocked, when asked about the initial direction for her music, Cardi B said, "When I first started rapping [...] I liked certain songs from Khia and Trina, and they [were] fighting songs. I haven't heard fighting songs for a very long time," crediting the two female rappers for her aggressive rap style. She continued saying "a lot of girls they can not afford red bottoms, a lot of girls they can not afford foreign cars [...] but I know that every girl has beef with a girl [...] I know that every bitch don't like some bitch, and it's like 'that's what I wanna rap about.'"
AllMusic editor David Jeffries called Cardi B "a raw and aggressive rapper in the style of Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown." Stereogum called "her voice a full-bodied New Yawk nasal bleat, the sort of thing that you've heard if someone has ever told you that you stupid for taking too long at swiping your MetroCard." They continued to call her voice "an unabashedly loud and sexual fuck-you New York honk—that translates perfectly to rap." In a 2017 Complex article about her, the editor wrote "unapologetic does not begin to describe the totally unfiltered and sheer Cardi B-ness of Cardi B's personality. She's a hood chick who's not afraid to be hood no matter the setting. Cardi B is Cardi B 24/7, 365, this is why she resonates with people, and that same energy comes out in her music."
She was nominated for Best New Artist and Best Female Hip-Hop Artist at the 2017 BET Awards but respectively lost to Chance the Rapper and Remy Ma. In September 2017, the nominees for the annual BET Hip Hop Awards were unveiled, revealing Cardi B to be in the lead, alongside DJ Khaled and Kendrick Lamar, with nine nominations.
Cardi B identifies as a feminist. The New York Times wrote on Love & Hip Hop: New York "some viewers saw her as a hero of female empowerment, as she made pronouncements like 'Ever since I started using guys, I feel so much better about myself. I feel so damn powerful.'" When commenting on her rise to stardom The Fader wrote "one video in particular tipped her popularity over the edge. It was a 13-second clip that doubles as a neat précis of her ethos: 'People be asking me, 'What do you does? Are you a model? Are you, like, a comedian or something?' Nah, I ain’t none of that. I'm a hoe. I'm a stripper hoe. I'm about this shmoney.'"
She is a Christian, believing in Jesus Christ; she has mentioned her "strong relationship" with the Almighty in interviews, often saying that she "talks to him": "If you know me, you know that I have this deep connection to God. Is it crazy for me to say that I used to ask God to please help me? The strip club really helped me. I can say that it saved me…God put that in my way."
|2015–17||Love & Hip Hop: New York||Herself||Main cast, seasons 6–7|
|2015||Uncommon Sense with Charlamagne||Herself||Season 1, episode: 23|
|2016||Kocktails with Khloé||Herself||Season 1, episode: "Khloé Kardashian Spills the Tea"|
|2017||Being Mary Jane||Mercedes||Season 4, episode: "Getting Real"|
|2017||Hip Hop Squares||Herself, panelist||Season 1, episodes: "Ray J vs Princess Love", "Jessica White vs Joe Budden"|
|2017||Herself||Best New Artist||Nominated|
|Best Female Hip-Hop Artist||Nominated|
|2017||"Bodak Yellow"||Best Hip-Hop Video||Pending|
|Herself||Hot Ticket Performer||Pending|
|MVP of the Year||Pending|
|"Bodak Yellow"||Single of the Year||Pending|
|Herself||Best New Hip-Hop Artist||Pending|
|Hustler of the Year||Pending|
|Made-You-Look Award (Best Hip-Hop Style)||Pending|
|Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 2||Best Mixtape||Pending|
|"Bodak Yellow"||Impact Track||Pending|