Yesterday, Cardi B addressed a disconcerting Instagram live video that she originally shared several years ago containing her admission that, in her past life as a stripper, she had done unsavory things to survive. Specifically, she admitted to drugging and robbing men of their money after they accompanied her to a hotel room.
Cardi initially had filmed and published the video in response to critics who felt that she hadn’t earned her celebrity. “I had to go strip, I had to go, ‘Oh yeah, you want to f*ck me? Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s go back to this hotel,’” she said in the footage. “And I drugged n*ggas up, and I robbed them. That’s what I used to do.” This anecdote from the past, she felt, demonstrated that nothing had ever been handed to her on her ascent to fame. You don’t have to be a fan of her music to understand the time and work that goes into being the first solo woman to ever win a Grammy for Best Rap Album.
When the video resurfaced, the response on social media was a mix of faux outrage and apologists. The hashtag #SurvivingCardiB, a spinoff of #SurvivngRKelly, attempted to conflate her crimes to those of sexual assaulter R. Kelly. It’s a false equivalency that completely fails to contextualize the two distinct narratives and is being peddled to shut down conversations about consent and the #MeToo movement in general, according to Maiysha Kai for The Root. “Drugging someone is effectively endangering their life—which should be the real issue here,” wrote Kai. “That said, to compare drugging someone with the intent of stealing their money to drugging someone in order to sexually assault them is intellectually dishonest.” Kai emphasized that Cardi had never raped anyone, though she did not dispute that the musician had “sexually enticed men, then drugged and robbed them—which is absolutely criminal behavior.”
Cardi’s personal response on social media was open and honest about her wrongdoings, though she diminished them as “poor choices.” Importantly though, she acknowledged that she was being held to a double standard that has shielded many male rap artists from the same scrutiny and outraged hashtags. “Im apart [sic] of a hip hop culture where you can talk about where you come from talk about the wrong things you had to do to get where you are,” she explained. “There are rappers that glorify murder violence drugs an [sic] robbing. Crimes they feel they had to do to survive.”
Cardi characterized her past actions as her way of surviving despite “limited options,” crimes that she had never once glorified; instead, she felt that she had risen above them. “I have a past that I can’t change we all do. All I can do now is be a better me for myself, my family and my future.”