All I Ever Needed To Know About Life I Learned From Cardi B: On Life Lessons From Bodak Yellow

All I Ever Needed To Know About Life I Learned From Cardi B: On Life Lessons From Bodak Yellow

By now you should know that I love all things Cardi B. Belcalis Almanzar is my play cousin. Last year, I wrote that 2016 was the year of Cardi B but it appears I spoke too soon. To be fair, I did tell y’all that Black girls were coming for 2017 too. Just count on us having the next decade on lock. Or thirty. Matter of fact, #BlackGirlMagic is on some Buzz Lightyear type ish. We taking this to infinity and beyond. And you will deal.

So back to my cousin. Cardi been getting it in. And I am here for it. Just a couple of years after establishing herself as a breakout reality tv star, the round the way girl is killing the game having dropped “2 mixtapes in 6 months.” As for me, I loved both mixtapes but her newest single, Bodak Yellow, stays on repeat when I’m at the gym. And on the metro. Also while I’m in the shower. So basically it’s all Cardi, all the time. But y’all know me, I love words and words mean things so it ain’t just the hot beat that keeps me pushing play. Cardi (as always) is dropping gems on Bodak Yellow. I’m talking life lessons. Of the Whitley Gilbert variety.

Now I ain’t one to keep goodies to myself (unless it’s Garrett’s Popcorn) so I thought I’d share the life lessons I gleaned from Cardi’s latest masterpiece.

Like oh my, oh my, oh my God. I don’t do nothing for free you know I gotta charge

Dig this. There is value in your labor. All of it. Physical. Emotional. Intellectual. And you should be compensated for it. Granted that compensation includes many forms of currency including reciprocity (shout out to Lauryn Hill for giving us that lesson way back in 1998 but some of us hard headed). Point is, none of that labor should be given away for free because all of it costs you something, sis. I’ve had many conversations with other Black women about when to demand compensation for their work (always) and how to go about such a demand. I personally consider compensation a necessary component of my self-care. D.C. rent is way too high to play “do it for the exposure” games with folks. How about you expose your budget and write my check? Hashtag 1099. Pay me. The same goes for personal relationships. Of course I’m not saying you should be sending your friends invoices. I am saying that personal relationships should be a give and take. Reciprocity. I’ll give my friends my last. And not because I’m expecting it back but I know I don’t even have to think twice about whether they will be there for me. Squad has held me down time and time again. And again. That said, part of my need for monetary compensation for my labor is built on doing the work that I want to do for free. Work that is often, and will remain, unseen. Workshops. Mentoring. Blogging. I need resources to make those things happen. Hell, I have to eat to have energy to do those things. I gotta pay for the phone that still operates as a crisis line long after I formally stopped working in sexual assault and domestic violence work. The reality is that not all work will be compensated with cash but only you get to say when and how that happens. Enough about me though because much like Cardi B, I already don’t “do nothing for free you know I gotta charge.” Get your coin, sis.

*First off, I already cheated because this first life lesson isn’t from “Bodak Yellow,” it’s from Cardi’s track “On Fleek” from her mixtape Gangsta Bitch Music Vol 1. But you didn’t expect me to play by the rules on a Cardi B post, did you? We make our own rules. I digress, but everything else in this post is from Bodak Yellow though.

And I’m quick cut a nigga off/so don’t get comfortable

Everybody can get this work and anybody can go. See, in the name of Black womanhood, we’re taught to shoulder the burden of making things work. All things. All the time. Even toxic relationships. As a result, we expend a lot of wasted time and energy with people and situations that are not only beyond our ability to fix, they are toxic to our own health. You magic sis. But you ain’t a psychologist, a psychiatrist, pastor or an exorcist. Sometimes you gotta let folks go so they can get the help they really need. And sometimes, folks are just wack for no reason at all and we hold on to them because we buy into the notion that being alone means being lonely or that being coupled in pieces is better than being alone and whole. As this line from Bodak Yellow illustrates, folks will often get comfortable with thinking your magic makes you Superwoman and as a result, their harmful presence will always be tolerated.

Same goes for online spaces. My personal Facebook page’s block list is longer than my friend list. And yup, I’m proud of that. Because removing toxic folks from my online space is necessary for my well-being. I don’t allow rape culture supporters and will gladly remind folks that their free speech rights don’t include hate speech on my page. #BoyBye #GirlByeToo

If I see you and I and don’t speak that means I don’t fuck with you 

I’m an introvert. Of the INTJ variety. Plus I’m from the South Side. That means that being fake will literally drain me. I simply can’t do it without it taking something away from me. So I don’t. And you shouldn’t. I used to tell folks in the south that Chicagoans don’t ask how you doing on the street because we don’t care. Now you might think that’s rude but what’s really rude is that thing where both parties greet, say “How you doing?” and no one ever answers the question or worse yet, folks answer and say they’re good when in fact their lives are crumbling around them. So if I ask how you’re doing, I mean it. I want to know. The good, bad and the ugly. Along those same lines, if I consider you a friend that means something too. It means I got you. It means you can call my phone any time of day or night if you need to talk. It means you can call me if you just need to sit in silence. It means I’m not gon’ eat and have you starving. It means I’m gonna support you when you want to try to make your relationship work and I’ll find all sorts of ways to treat they life when you decide the relationship is over. Again. It also means I will always tell you their new partner ain’t cuter than you. But if I see you and I don’t speak…

Honestly don’t give a fuck ‘bout who ain’t fond of me

Remember that saying that what people think of you is none of your business? Nothing but facts. If you’re doing anything that impacts the world in a positive way, there will be some folks who don’t like you. In fact, you very likely know exactly what people don’t like you. Rape apologists and racist folks hate me and that’s how I know I’m on the right track. Hell, if everybody like you, you should probably question that. Now that’s not to say we should ignore constructive criticism or trusted friends when they tell us we ain’t right. It is to say that you can’t let the masses determine your worth or course of action.

I had to let these bitches know

Just in case these hoes forgot

I just run and check the mail

Another check from Mona Scott

Don’t let the red bottoms or her new multi-million dollar deal with Atlantic Records confuse you. Cardi ain’t forgot where she came from. She still the regular shmegular degular girl many of us fell in love with on Love and Hip Hop. As Cardi has repeatedly reminded us, she was a stripper and does not shy away from owning that experience. She did what she had to in order to pay the bills. As many of us do. Her body. Her labor. Her compensation. Folks will have all kinds of thing to say about how you pay the bills and how you live your life. Ain’t they business so long as what you do ain’t harming nobody. At any rate, Cardi didn’t get more popular and try to pretend that her past isn’t part of what made her who she is today. She owns who she was and who she is. In doing so, she helps to remove the shame of many women who have similar experiences either by choice or necessity. Your past will do the same. Part of why I am so open about my experience as a sexual abuse survivor is so that other girls and women know that they don’t have to be ashamed of their past. Especially not the parts that we had no control over. Point is, Cardi being Cardi is what we love. And how she gets paid. Be you. Be ambitious. Because you can win without erasing your past.

Got a bag and fixed my teeth

Hope you hoes know it ain’t cheap

One of the things I really loved about Cardi was her crooked teeth. For obvious reasons (smile). Cardi let you know that she still thought she was fine despite the numerous folks who always wanted to insult her teeth. And she kept them that way. Until she decided she wanted to change them. Thing is, change will cost you. In Cardi’s case the change cost actual money. I imagine there was also a mental expense. If she’s anything like me, learning to accept crooked teeth took a lot of time and emotional energy. Especially since it’s always the go to insult. So like most changes that involve our bodies, the change isn’t just cosmetic and you will pay for it. Maybe you’ll pay with cash, maybe you’ll pay with time in the gym and healthier groceries or maybe you’ll pay with emotional task of learning to accept yourself and all of your perceived flaws. Cardi is pretty upfront about what types of cosmetic surgeries she has had but the truth is that she ain’t got to tell nobody nothing. Her body. Her choice. Your body. Your choice. The change (or lack thereof) is a decision for you to make because you’re the one who will ultimately pay for them. Unless you got a sugar daddy/momma but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

You in the club just to party

I’m there I get paid to be

Even when Cardi at the party she building her brand. So are you. You’re building your brand at all times. Even if you don’t think you have a brand. Not sure about what your brand is? Ask five of your closest friends/mentors to describe you in two words. Ask them how they would sum up your work. What will folks put on your obituary? Do those things fit with your personal and professional goals? So much of the stuff you do for fun can be used to build your brand. Social media is cool but make it work for you. My public pages are curated. Even the candid moments I choose to share align with my brand of empowering Black women with a specific focus on sexual assault and domestic violence survivors. How you are compensated will depend on your brand and bottom line. For me, my online brand building leads to paid gigs and assures survivors that I (and my inbox) am a safe, confidential and supportive space. My bottom line is supporting survivors and my brand building supports that. In that sense, social media pays off. So ask yourself- you in the club just to party or are you getting paid to be?


Cardi drop gems for days. And some folks missing out because they got problems with the messenger. For the rest of us, she’s reinforcing what we already know and teaching us a few new things. I’m here for it. In the meantime, I’m bumping Bodak Yellow and Gangsta Bitch Music Vol 1 and 2 while I wait on Cardi’s next album/thesis to drop.




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