Cardi B: "The conservatives keep talking and the numbers keep going up"
The rapper on spending $100,000 on corona tests, conservative reactions to her 'WAP' lyrics, and opening up about insecurities on her new OnlyFans account.
Photography Oliver Hadlee Pearch. Styling Carlos Nazario [The Radical Issue, no 351, Spring 2018]
None of us are immune to the perils of WFH -- not even Cardi B. When we arrange to speak our call is briefly delayed so she can deal with some family bits, and during our chat the connection drops out several times (“my phone died!” she yells apologetically when we get back on the line). The pandemic has hit everyone hard, even the woman with the most impressive kegel muscles in the music industry.
“Everything has completely changed because of the pandemic,” Cardi says. “You know, I was constantly on the road, now I’m mostly at home with my baby. Everything that I had planned for this year has to be rescheduled for God knows when. So it’s just crazy, it’s a lot.”
It’s thanks to being at home a lot more, like the rest of us, that’s led Cardi to recently launch her OnlyFans account. She’s using it as a sort of safe space to talk directly to her supporters and stans — an alternative to tweeting or repeatedly going live on Insta, a phenomenon more endemic amongst celebrities in the past few months than the virus itself.
“I created an OnlyFans because people are stuck at home more, but also just because I wanted to be on an app where I can talk only and specifically to my fans,” she explains. “There are certain times -- a lot of times, actually -- when I just want to talk to my fans, you know, my people. I don’t wanna go live on Instagram or say my opinions on social media because people twist it and spin it. There are certain things I want only my fans to see, you know? I wanna be more open about my insecurities, what makes me happy and what makes me sad. I wanna be extremely transparent. And I’m not even talking about my body, you know, just my life. I feel like not everybody deserves to see it.”
Cardi’s not teasing -- just in case your mind was wandering -- the content that OnlyFans has traditionally been associated with. When it launched in 2016, the content subscription app was hugely popular with sex workers and adult entertainers, who could use its pay per view system to sell clips and images. But, although it’s only four years old, OnlyFans is already going through somewhat of a renaissance. After a shoutout by Beyoncé and Cardi’s “WAP” collaborator Megan Thee Stallion in “Savage” and a global pandemic forced millions of newly unemployed to look for alternative ways to pay the rent, the platform skyrocketed in popularity. In May this year, OnlyFans CEO Tim Stokely told BuzzFeed News that they were averaging 200k new users and 8k new content creators every single day. Not all of those new content creators though, are selling nudes. Some, like Cardi, are using the platform to curate a more selective, safer space to open up. A more utopian YouTube-ian vision.
“I feel like people are using it in a different way now, like the way I’m using it,” she shrugs. “But whatever way people are using OnlyFans, I don’t have a problem with it, you know what I’m saying? Like, if you’re making money and you’re supporting your family by any means… I do not care. Like, that’s your prerogative, I don’t judge you. I do not care.”
For Cardi though, a presence on the app not only means an insight into her work, but also her home and personal life, which has changed drastically since i-D previously hung out with her. When we last spoke, the rapper had just released her world-changing debut single “Bodak Yellow”. She was newly-engaged and talked about planning her wedding to Offset, along with shooting her first i-D cover. She was green, but ready to take on the world. Now she’s a mom to Kulture, who, she says, has made the biggest difference to her life in the past three years.
“You know, when your baby is really tiny, you don’t really have to watch what you say,” she says. “Now I gotta be so careful with what I do and anything I say so she won’t be out here repeating it. She gets little tantrums and I have to decide how to deal with those. Like, do I wanna be a chill mom, or an aggressive mom?” And of course, breaking records is something she’s more used to -- the video for “WAP”, most recently, broke the YouTube record for most views in 24 hours by an all-female collab.
The internet-breaking video -- which Cardi also wants to share behind the scenes snippets of on OnlyFans -- is also historic in being one of the first blockbuster music vids created during the pandemic. A rap video this extra always comes with drama (“One of the scariest parts was the snake scene,” she reveals. “I was naked and one of them peed all over me.”) but a global pandemic adds an extra layer to the challenge. “It was kind of weird shooting the video in the age of corona,” Cardi says. “Like, we had to spend $100,000 dollars just on testing. Everybody on the shoot had to get tested for coronavirus. We had a tiger and a leopard there, but we didn’t film with them in there because of safety and because of the pandemic. We spliced those scenes together.”
The aggro seems to have paid off though. Perhaps it’s the result of months of quarantine horniness, perhaps it’s the oppressive heatwave the UK is currently living through, but it feels like 2020 is already the summer of the “WAP”. The song and video has already (inevitably) inspired a TikTok dance challenge and a conspiracy theory that the line about macaroni is inspired by this iconic vine. Cardi demurs on this, explaining patiently -- as though speaking to someone with a chronically, sadly, DAP -- that instead: “The thing is… how can I say it? When your pussy is wet and getting pounded, it’s supposed to sound like macaroni in the pot. You know you got a good pussy if it sounds like macaroni in the pot.”
The song has also, sadly but unsurprisingly, provoked a wave of negative backlash from conservative men on the internet. A video of neckbeard pundit Ben Shapiro affecting prudish disgust while reading out the song’s lyrics has already gone viral, and been remixed. “I’ve been really surprised by the reaction, honestly,” Cardi admits. “I knew it was gonna have a big impact, I guess, because of me and Megan. But I didn’t know it was going to be so controversial. I never expected that, you know, conservatives and Republicans were going to be talking about the song. I didn’t think the song was as vulgar as they said it was, you know? Like, I’m so used to it. I’m such a freak that I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I didn’t think people would think it was so out of this world…”
Cardi remains unbothered. “It doesn’t make me angry,” she adds immediately. “It makes me happy. They keep talking and the numbers keep going up. At the end of the day, whatever they’re saying, the numbers speak for themselves.”
She’s not wrong. On top of the YouTube record, yesterday “WAP” became the first all-female rap collaboration in history to hit number one on Spotify, and Billboard called it “one of the best selling debuts this century”. More importantly, it’s a bop. A bop to remind the Ben Shapiros of the world that women are active agents in their own sexuality rather than passive vessels for male pleasure (but like, in more poetic and more quintessentially Cardi B terminology). “I always encourage people to be confident, especially when it comes to your sexuality,” Cardi says. “Some of these men are uncomfortable, they’re not even comfortable being sensual. Maybe you’re conservative, but everybody got a little freak inside them, you know? Every single person. Everybody gets horny, everybody gets a little tingle down there, you know what I’m saying. Just embrace it. Don’t be scared about it.”
So that’s on that. And what about the other backlash, the claims from Tiger King’s Carole Baskin that the “WAP” video encouraged animal cruelty with its use of big cats? “I’m not gonna engage with Carole Baskin on that,” Cardi says shortly. “Like, that’s just ridiculous you know? Oh, Lord. Like, girl you killed your goddamn husband.” Fair enough.
Lede image, Cardi wears jacket Supreme, top Moschino from David Casavant archive, skirt Wolford from David Casavant archive, necklaces Fallon, rings Lynn Ban, Ileana Makri and Bijoules.