Following a landmark year of record-breaking success and a quick rise into the mainstream, New York rapper Cardi B issued her first studio full-length, Invasion of Privacy. The spiritual descendant of Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma, the artist born Belcalis Almanzar brought a similar glitz-meets-grit attitude to her debut, a fun and endlessly quotable collection of big-bass trap dusted with pop-savvy glitter. The production is top notch and the guest features are not wasted, but it's Cardi's personality and charm that are the stars of the show. When she's not dropping shocking threats at her detractors ("I'ma put a Louboutin where her neck at") or making outlandish boasts ("Pussy so good, I say my own name during sex"), Cardi takes the time to remind listeners of how far she's come since her stripper days, and doesn't shy away from revealing the woes and pitfalls that came with sudden fame. The underdog angle is exploited for maximum effect and it's so genuinely endearing that listeners will be rooting for her -- if they don't already -- by the last line of the empowering, SZA-assisted closer "I Do." Invasion of Privacy keeps pace and doesn't wear out its welcome, kicking off with Cardi's own superhero origin story on "Get Up 10," as in "Knock me down nine times/but I get up ten." The rags-to-riches narrative continues from there, with Cardi remarking that she's gone from "small ass apartments to walking red carpets" on the uplifting "Best Life" with Chance the Rapper. Later, on the popping "Money Bag," she playfully laments "I been broke my whole life/I have no clue what to do with these racks!" She gets filthy on the explicit "Bickenhead" -- which samples its namesake Project Pat song with a little Blood twist -- that it could make Lil' Kim or Foxy Brown blush. Her chart-busting singles "Bodak Yellow" and "Bartier Cardi" are also included here, nestled with other tough-talking shots like "She Bad" with YG and "Drip" with fiancee Offset and his group Migos. The Latin trap "I Like It," with Bad Bunny and J Balvin, is a notable highlight, a potential chart-buster in waiting. Surprisingly, Invasion is not just sneering street bangers about her "money moves." Bittersweet infidelity dirge "Be Careful" finds Cardi yearning for a solid relationship with a real man, not an unfaithful one (all signs point to Offset). On "Ring," a smooth R&B jam that features Kehlani, Cardi is vulnerable, revealing a well of pain beneath her tough-as-nails facade. "Thru Your Phone" is unflinching and relatable, wherein Cardi burns with vengeance as she poisons her cheating man with bleach in his cereal and a good old-fashioned stabbing. It's cartoonish but real, a confession of thoughts that are all too familiar to the scorned. This balance between over-the-top party starters and thoughtful reflection makes Invasion of Privacy an impressive debut for a rising star who can back up her outspokenness with raw talent.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung