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Released: 2018

Drop the needle on Cardi B’s global smash hit, “Bodak Yellow” and you’re diving headfirst into a brash and unapologetic declaration of success, self-empowerment, and authority from a woman who rose from a background of struggle to stake her claim to the hip-hop throne. It’s an in-your-face anthem of financial independence, personal strength, and an absolute embodiment of Cardi B’s rise from Bronx strip clubs to Billboard charts, showcasing a rich autobiographical lyrical content.

If you’re new to the pop music world, you might be wondering what the term ‘Bodak Yellow’ is all about. The song’s title is a creative nod to the Floridian rapper Kodak Black, borrowing the flow from his song “No Flockin” while flipping it into a unique, Cardi-approved mold. The color yellow, on the other hand, refers to her blonde hairstyle at the time she wrote the track. This kind of intertextual referencing is part of what keeps the vibrant tapestry of pop music always fresh and morphing.

Cardi B’s boasts of luxury purchases like ‘red bottoms’ — a.k.a. Christian Louboutin’s high-end shoes known for their red soles — is a shorthand method of underlining her financial success and lifestyle shift, not to mention it’s an instant status symbol. When she talks about choosing not to dance now and making ‘money moves’, she’s directly referencing her past as a stripper and contrasting it with her current, more lucrative career in music.

When she says, “I’m a boss, you a worker, bitch,” it’s Cardi emphasizing her leadership and dominance over her competition, crowning herself as a boss who calls the shots. And when she talks about not speaking to you if she doesn’t mess with you, she’s simply saying that she doesn’t waste her time on people she doesn’t respect or like.

The word ‘opp’ you notice in the lyrics is a term borrowed from Chicago’s drill music scene, referring to an enemy or someone on the opposing side. “I just checked my accounts, Turns out, I’m rich, I’m rich, I’m rich” – that’s a mic drop moment for Cardi, a triumphant realization of how far she’s come in the game.

If the boundary-pushing lyric, “My pussy feel like a lake, He wanna swim with his face,” makes you blush, welcome to the overdose of Cardi’s unapologetic sexual potency, transforming the song into a body-positivity anthem. Cardi is reclaiming the narrative, asserting her sexual agency and wants, which again is a pervasive theme in contemporary pop music.

Lastly, when Cardi crows “I go to dinner and steak. Only the real can relate. I used to live in the P’s, Now it’s a crib with a gate,” she’s contrasting her past — living in public housing (often known as ‘the P’s’) — with her current affluent lifestyle of gated mansions and expensive steak dinners.

A closer inspection of her lyrics also reveals Cardi’s prowess as a songwriter whose sense of wit, wordplay, and personal storytelling makes “Bodak Yellow” much more than a catchy banger. It’s a memoir set to a beat, a testament to determination, and a beacon for any listener who’s ever wanted to turn their life around and say to the world, “Look at me now.”

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