Cardi B has electrified the music industry since she released “Bodak Yellow” in 2017. She offers a different perspective than other rappers in several ways; not only is she a woman, which is rare in rap, she’s also of Afro-Latina descent. Her father is from the Dominican Republic, her mother is from Trinidad, and she grew up in the Bronx. This combination provides her with a unique background which few mainstream pop stars have.
While there are other famous Latinos in the music industry like Pitbull, Selena Gomez, and Shakira, none of them also have the African influence which Cardi does. Similarly, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee brought Spanish-language music to the public with “Despacito” in 2017, but again, neither of them has an African background like Cardi.
This dual influence allows Cardi to appeal to and speak to both Latino and black communities. She can sing in Spanish while still being loyal to rap origins. Additionally, she can also entice fans of neither Latino nor African descent by virtue of her status as a mainstream pop star. Because of the power she has in the music industry, she can introduce non-Spanish speakers of all backgrounds to Spanish-language music. This ability is so important because there would not be many other opportunities for non-Spanish speakers to experience the language.
Cardi proved how invaluable her background is on May 29 when she released the video for “I Like It.” The song, which is a single from her recent album Invasion of Privacy, features verses from Bad Bunny and J Balvin. Bad Bunny is a rapper from Puerto Rico and J Balvin is a singer from Colombia. With “I Like It,” Cardi is able to provide a platform for two musicians who, before the song’s release, had not seen much success in the United States. Because Cardi is such a big star, she can garner support for the two underrated Latino musicians.
Not only does Cardi feature Bad Bunny and J Balvin who rap and sing exclusively in Spanish, but she also created the song with Latin grooves. She references and celebrates her Latino background with bars like, “Spicy mami, hot tamale” and “Beat it up like piñatas.” Cardi also interpolates the 1967 boogaloo song “I Like it Like That” by Pete Rodriguez, further celebrating Latin influence.
The music video for “I Like It” continues the theme of Latino pride. Cardi wears dresses, headwraps, and earrings that allude to her Dominican heritage and her, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin dance around the streets of Miami, a city known for its high Latino population. While she may not rap in Spanish in the studio version like she does in some of her other songs, she raps along to the men’s verses in the video, demonstrating her knowledge of the language.
She also shows that both sides of her background matter to her. “I Like It” is a medley of heritages and influences. Cardi demands that her Dominican and Trinidadian backgrounds be viewed together rather than separately. The song has both reggaeton and reggae nods, conveying her loyalty to her origin. In one of her first verses, she stretches out the word “texts” to rhyme with “exes,” reflecting her natural speaking cadence and proving that she has a way with words.
By demonstrating her Dominican influence and providing a platform for Latino musicians, Cardi is making Spanish-language music mainstream in the United States.
Watch the music video below to see if you can spot Cardi’s different influences!