PROVIDENCE, RI – I don’t particularly like this song, which is currently sitting at no.1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
But I love that a rap song is topping the charts. Not a Katy Perry song with Migos opportunistically tacked on in a wholly unnecessary and disjointed bridge with some trap hi hats. Not a DJ Khaled posse cut with a pop beat and Bieber supplied hook. Not even a hip-pop song featuring a sung hook. Cardi B spits from start to finish in Bodak Yellow, and the song didn't need an established artist’s name (well, I guess it has a play on an established artist’s name as its title but we’ll get to that) anywhere near it to go number one. We’re living in an era where hip hop is the most popular genre of music, and Bodak Yellow shows that the top of the charts are not reserved for pristine pop or the biggest names. Thats awesome.
I don’t like the fact that the song is basically Cardi B biting Kodak Black’s flow (and potentially a whole song) harder than a great white shark would a seal. This is probably my biggest issue with the song, and I’ll break it down. There is always a conversation in hip hop about who’s stealing who’s style, and people are always lauded for originality and bashed for similarity. The fact that this song is so blatant in it’s similarities… bothers me. Does Bodak Yellow mean that suddenly biting style has been completely normalized and now all rap will be is a string of copy-paste jobs that blow up…? (It was at this moment I remembered Panda and hesitated) No. Rap is flourishing, and people continue to innovate even if Desiigner has more #1s than Future and Cardi has more than Kodak. I guess I bristle a little at the positive reinforcement of hijacking, rooted in the history of the genre as it may be. However, I do like the fact that someone who hasn’t been arrested for sexual battery is succeeding with an undeniably popular style.
Moving on from my biggest reservation, I love that Cardi B is doing so well off of this song. A female, latinx rapper from the Bronx topping the charts is huge. Its a win for female rappers, particularly as we witness the current renaissance of women in rap, and its win for women of color. Thats awesome, and that alone is reason enough to celebrate Bodak Yellow.
Furthermore, the success of Cardi, if taken along with other indications of the direction of Hip Hop, the future looks very bright for the biggest genre in America. While it was awesome that Migos got the mainstream look this year and went #1 with Bad and Boujee, it was less awesome when they got on a radio show and were thoroughly homophobic. But with Tyler, the Creator rapping about his sexuality on an album that debuted at #2, Joey Bada$$ and an ever growing crop of incredibly talented, socially conscious rappers generally kicking ass, and an impressive number of elite female rappers making sure they’re voices are heard, you can’t deny that a genre once deprecated for its homophobia, materialism, and misogyny is not just growing past these unsavory aspects of its history, but showing its incredible potential as an art form.
So, to attempt to tie off my ramblings: do I think that Bodak Yellow is a great rap song? No. Was I just listening to Kendrick’s The Heart part 2 and might be biased toward a different style of rap? Definitely. Do I think that Bodak Yellow going #1 is important and a good thing for rap? Yes. Cardi B definitely deserves a huge congratulations for all she’s accomplished, and rap fans should be proud of the genre, and excited for its future.