ATLANTA UNTRAPPED: A pregnant Cardi B is dominating rap

The Bronx rapper subverts stereotypes about pregnant women

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Photo credit: Jorda Frantzis
TWERKIN’ MOM: The “Bodak Yellow” rapper is Quality Control’s latest superstar.

A visibly pregnant Cardi B removes her jacket, walks over to a set of stairs on the Coachella stage, and, resting her hands on the bottom stair, begins to twerk. A few seconds later, she lowers herself to the ground, using her hands to support herself, as if maybe she’s exhausted and needs a break. The rapper proceeds to thrust her pelvis, and baby bump, into the air, opening and closing her legs, with her tongue hanging out. The moment has gone viral and is a reminder that it’s still pretty uncommon — and uncomfortable for some people — for pregnant women to exude sexuality.

In an interview on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” following the performance, Cardi B, born Belcalis Almanzar, joked that her moves were a way of showing people how she got pregnant.

Less than a month after inking a management deal with Atlanta-based Quality Control, Cardi B isn’t missing a beat. With its newest addition, the Quality Control roster, overseen by Kevin “Coach K” Lee and Pierre “Pee” Thomas, continues to have a significant impact on the rap industry.

Released April 6, Cardi’s debut album Invasion of Privacy is full of twerk-worthy summer bangers that is , while promoting unabashed sexual confidence. For more on this, see her remake of Project Pat’s “Chickenhead,” re-titled “Bickenhead.”

Even with Cardi’s history of authenticity, though, it would be fair to wonder how pregnancy could affect performances of this material. By having a baby as her career continues to reach new heights, and remaining unapologetically herself, Cardi B shuns the idea that women in music can’t have it all.

To be fair, Cardi B isn’t the first woman to do this. Even her predecessor Lauryn Hill was criticized for deciding to have a baby at the height of her career. Beyoncé postponed her 2017 Coachella performance because she was pregnant with twins. This year she delivered a critically acclaimed performance that caused many to hail her as the entertainer of our generation.

Cardi’s Coachella performance on April 15 was minimally produced but culturally impactful. There’s something extremely powerful about the image of a pregnant woman, dressed in all white, dancing sexually on a major stage as strippers hang upside down behind her. This imagery debunks the traditional imagery of motherhood in a way that is necessary to bring about a change in perception. It’s possible that Quality Control and Cardi had a conversation about how they planned to tackle her pregnancy in this way, but it’s also likely that Cardi is simply continuing to be authentically herself. Refreshingly off the cuff remarks and actions are what has made her a favorite in Hollywood, after all. Perhaps Quality Control’s smartest move is supporting Cardi without getting in her way.

Prior to releasing Invasion of Privacy, Cardi’s engagement to Offset of Migos seemed to be more talked about than her music, thanks to frequent rumors of infidelity.Even Cardi B songs that don’t feature the Migos references them in some way. On “Bartier Cardi” she raps “Cardi got rich, they upset. Cardi put the pussy on Offset. Cardi B brain on Offset” — Offset even makes an appearance in the song’s video. But collaborations like “Motorsport” and “Drip” have placed the newcomer alongside her fiance’s group on streaming playlists and charts.

The concern that Cardi’s relationship would overshadow her art was heightened by the announcement that the “Bodak Yellow” rapper had signed a management deal with Quality Control before releasing her April 6 debut. Quality Control is the team ushered acts such as Migos and Lil Yachty to success. One concern, however, is that the company will continue placing Migos and Cardi side by side — to Cardi’s detriment.

For some, it seemed that the first female solo rapper to have a no. 1 since Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” topped the Billboard Hot 100 nearly 20 years ago might blow her stardom in an attempt to juggle her busy private and professional responsibilities. Commenting on the critiques, Cardi made it clear that she see no issue with being associated with them and strengthening her superstar family.

We’ll have to wait and see how Cardi and her team handle the arrival of a new baby and a tour with labelmate Bruno Mars later this year. But so far the rapper is making it clear that her personal life isn’t detrimental to her success.

Of course, a Cardi B and Offset breakup could make things awkward for the Quality Control family. For now, though, the newest addition to the roster seems to be a win for everyone involved.

Read Jewel Wicker’s Atlanta Untrapped column each week at www.creativeloafing.com/ATL-Untrapped.