Cardi B talks 'Cardi Tries__' series and why feminist song of the year 'WAP' was a 'cultural reset'

·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music
·6 min read

At last week’s Billboard Women in Music ceremony, when Cardi B accepted the night’s top award for 2020 Woman of the Year, she explained her work ethic, saying, “Life is about making your dreams come true — but in order to make your dreams come true, don't think that it's gonna come and fall from the sky to your lap. You actually gotta put in the work. … I practice, so I can become better and better.”

This is a mindset that Cardi is now applying to her new eight-episode series on Messenger’s Watch Together, “Cardi Tries__,” premiering this week with the hip-hop superstar taking a ballet lesson from famed (and Fame!) choreographer Debbie Allen. Later, she’ll try stunt-car driving with Michelle Rodriguez and Bri Lynch, sushi-making with Yamashiro head chef Vallerie Archer, and ranching with country singer Mickey Guyton, among other new endeavors. Despite her above-mentioned can-do attitude, the Grammy-winning rapper freely admits, “I wasn't trying to be like trying to be, like, the best I could be at something, because OK, there's [an episode] where I'm playing basketball with Damian Lillard — and I will never be the best at that, because I'm just not a sporty girl!” However, she confesses that it was the ballet class with Allen that was toughest challenge of all. “It hurted,” she chuckles. “It hurted a lot.”

Also during the Billboard Women in Music event, Cardi spoke about “WAP,” her raunchy, internet-breaking duet with Megan Thee Stallion that Pitchfork declared the song of 2020 and rapturously exemplified as “decisively absent of shame” and “two women in their career prime overpowering pop with a raw anthem attuned to the very specific frequency of certain pandemic urges; the rare instant hit that exists as a trend and future monument. Of the many words that could describe their duet — dirty, vulgar, nasty, explicit — none come anywhere close to capturing the attitude of the acronym itself.” (Amusingly, “WAP” can also mean “Winning at All Professions” when applied to “Cardi Tries__.”) Said Cardi in her Billboard speech, “Not only was it an amazing song that broke so many records, but it was a conversation that I never thought was going to be so big. I mean, it pissed off a whole bunch of Republicans for no reason, you know what I'm saying? It was just weird.”

“This song just impacted. For a song to get so many people — so many people that are not even like you — so upset? I mean, this was being talked about like for five minutes on Fox News. So, I just feel like it was just such a cultural reset,” Cardi tells Yahoo Entertainment this week, with a bemused giggle.

One of the specific “Republicans” Cardi was likely referencing in her speech was conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro, whose icky recitation of the “WAP” lyrics (albeit the “wet and gushy” censored ones) on his talk show went viral back in August. Shapiro even suggested that a “WAP” might be a health concern requiring medical treatment. “I thought it was so funny. Like this guy, while he's reading it, he’s having a heart attack! It's like, bro, this is not the most horny song in the world. Like, maybe he just don't watch porn,” laughs Cardi, who “grew up listening to Khia’s ‘My Neck, My Back’ and Trina and Lil’ Kim,” and was therefore totally surprised by the outraged public reaction to her own hypersexual hit. “But he was just like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God!’ … I don't know, I feel like people just want to have a conversation. People want to be offended by something.”

At that time, Shapiro grumbled on his show, “This is what the feminist movement is all about. It's not really about women being treated as independent, full-rounded human beings. It's about wet a** P-word. And if you say anything differently, [it's] because you're a misogynist, you see.” Later, after his decidedly awkward and unsexy “WAP” reading became the talk of Twitter, Shapiro sarcastically posted, “Listen, guys. I fully explained on the show that it's misogynistic to question whether graphic descriptions of 'wet-ass p****' is empowering for women. ‘WAP’ is obviously an incredibly profound statement of women's empowerment, a la Susan B. Anthony.”

However, addressing any detractors who might claim that “WAP” has somehow set back the feminist movement, as well as the long-running, ridiculous double-standard that male artists can sing and rap about sex in an unapologetic and “vulgar” way without being slut-shamed the way artists like Cardi are on a daily basis, the rap diva tells Yahoo: “[The song] is feminist, because you're comfortable in talking about your p***sy! And in your life you could do whatever you want, I guess just like a thousand guys can do too. I thought that was feminism was about. Feminism is not, ‘Oh, I’m stepping up to be a woman!’ and this and that. It’s doing the same things [men] can do.”

Cardi is all about owning her sexuality, as well as owning any room she enters — as evidenced during the first couple minutes of the “Cardi Tries__” premiere, when Allen asks her if she’s ever done ballet, and she nonchalantly answers, “I used to be a stripper!” Even Cardi isn’t sure where her almost superhuman confidence comes from. “I’ve always just been a confident, happy person,” she shrugs. But she hopes the series, which can be viewed via Messenger, Messenger Rooms, and on Instagram through the Watch Together feature, will provide some inspiration for her female fans. “I always say, don't go inside a space being afraid, because people could, like, peep that,” she advises. “Just be confident, man. Just be happy. And whatever you don't feel happy about, just remember, you could always change it.”

Cardi also mentioned in her Billboard Women in Music speech that due to COVID, many of her 2020 musical projects and plans had to be put on hold, lamenting, “It messed up my creative space” — which was why she was so thrilled when “WAP,” the only new single she released this year, became such a global phenomenon. And that’s why she was also so happy to focus on “Cardi Tries__,” which she executive-produced. “I just wanted to do a show that just brings happiness this year,” she explains. “I just feel like the show is fun. It's funny. It will bring the smile. This year has been just so terrible, so that's what I wanted to bring to the table.”

Cardi B's new series, “Cardi Tries__." (Photo: Messenger)
Cardi B's new series, “Cardi Tries__." (Photo: Messenger)

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