Review Summary: Either a collection of relatively fun party tunes or an album of frustratingly milquetoast messages.
When it comes to hip-hop a lot of the enjoyment comes from the context of where the music comes from, there's a feeling of authenticity hearing 2Pac's histrionics through a slightly sub-par production, after all the genre is all about making a statement about disenfranchisement in the face of constant mistreatment. Conversely, there's certain gratification involved when you hear someone like Lil' Kim spitting an incisive perspective from the other side of the gender, as a lot of horrible things are being described as at the female expense. Similarly, it's interesting to hear Cardi B rapping a message about sexual empowerment on Invasion of Privacy
with the vitriol of a '90s gangsta rapper, but through exceedingly porny lyrics and a glitzy production that sounds comfortable to be played around your friends.
Whether it's unapologetic ribaldry on a track like "Bickenhead" or confident sentimentalism on "Be Careful", from the word go it's obvious that Invasion of Privacy
thematically is intended as a statement against the unfairly lopsided representation of women in hip-hop. With the attitude of her home neighbourhood of the Bronx and the flow of her influences in Manhattan, Cardi B fuses the old with the new by adopting the unfiltered bars of the '90s and fitting them into a distinctly polished, late '10s production. Considering the context of how both of these eras of sounds came about however, the result here comes off as a bit of a nostalgia act and as an attempt to capture the spirit of a past era, as opposed to a comment on anything new or introspective.
While it is true that "Bodak Yellow" awarded Cardi B the first female rapper spot since Lauryn Hill to be at the top of the Hot 100, and this might paint her as a relatively new material in the scene, considering how literally every track on Invasion of Privacy
is either for men or about men it comes off as a bit complacent in comparison to the attitude of the idols she's attempting to imitate. Even though it might be true that this album is a statement in itself about how things haven't changed much in the gangsta world of New York since the '90s, on songs like "Drip" Cardi B comes off less as the boss of the situation and more as the unsavory female described in the songs of men she's fulminating about. Now, that kind of music certainly has its place in the background of an obnoxious party, but in terms of how this album was advertised, don't think for a second it is for any grander cause than Cardi B's own personal gratification.
Even though on the surface it seems like an album that doesn't want you to think about it, there's an unfortunate lack of self-awareness that permeates Invasion of Privacy
in a way that sticks out like a sore thumb when you do actually sit down and try to think about it. The best of the best of hip-hop is more often than not comprised of deeply introspective lyrics, as is exemplified by Cardi B's regular reference point 2Pac, and in the song "Best Life" it becomes abundantly clear that she's not so much interested in the legacy of her idols as opposed to the pure street image that she can portray from the comfort of a classy production studio. Considering Cardi B herself is a purported former gang member, if you buy all the huffing and puffing about the 'purpose' of this album, it's a bit of a missed opportunity to be a bit more self-conscious about how she's able to make a record like this in the first place.
For what it's worth, Invasion of Privacy
is a fine album in what it succeeds at delivering, Cardi B's nasal but commanding flow fits neatly on every track and the aforementioned clean production is punchy enough to make the album a staple for a party in need of some extra attitude. There is also a statement to ponder for the thoughtful music fan, however it might prove to be a frustrating one as it is perhaps not the statement Cardi B intended, ending up more as material you've heard before attempting to sound like nothing you've heard before. Perhaps it would be a more appealing album if it was more fearless in being cartoonishly smutty, as opposed to an album trying to find a middle road between ridiculous and genuine resulting in being neither satisfyingly, but as it stands it is an album strictly designed for the consumer for some edgier alternative entertainment.