Inside Cardi B's Insane Year Rising to the Top

What a difference a year makes.

By Billy Nilles Mar 28, 2018 5:45 PMTags

What a difference a year makes.

Heading into Grammys weekend 2017, the only people who might've recognized the name Cardi B were fans of Love & Hip Hop: New York, the VH1 reality show she'd just quit after two seasons. But the former stripper and burgeoning rapper, born Balcalis Almanzar, was about to become a household name, taking the music industry by storm in a way that literally no one saw coming. 

As the "Bodak Yellow" singer prepares to take the stage at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday, Jan. 28 to join Bruno Mars for a performance of their recent hit, the official "Finesse" remix, let's take a look back at her record-making year.

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Shortly after walking away from L&HH, and with only two mixtapes and some internet fame under her belt (the amazingly titled Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1 and Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 2), Cardi landed her first major record label recording contract, signing with Atlantic Records in late February. Around the same time, she was invited to be the opening act during hip-hop trio The Lox's February 25 tour stop, alongside legendary femcees Lil' Kim and Remy Ma. Without a single commercial release under her belt, the rap world was already starting to pay attention.

By May, she would land two BET Award nominations, for Best New Artist and Best Female Hip-Hop Artist, both of which she went on to lose. But the losses did nothing to stop her momentum. A month later, just a few days before she would release the song that took the world by storm, she was invited by Remy Ma to join her set at Hot 97's Summer Jam music festival for a performance of Queen Latifah's classic "U.N.I.T.Y." alongside a list of legendary femcees that included Lil' Kim, MC Lyte, The Lady of Rage, Young M.A. and the Queen herself.

Just five days later, on June 16, "Bodak Yellow," her first single as an Atlantic Records artist, was released. The track, whose title is a reference to rapper Kodak Black (appropriate since she borrows some of his cadences from his track "No Flockin'), would start its complete and utter domination of summer radio slowly, only entering the Billboard Hot 100 chart (at number 85) during the week of July 22. Five weeks and a performance on The Wendy Williams Show later, the track jumped to number 14, becoming her first top 20 entry in the United States. It wouldn't be her last.

"Bodak Yellow" would continue to rule the airwaves throughout the summer and heading into fall, as more and more people began to take notice of this internet star with the bona fides to back up her entertaining bluster. By the week of September 25, she would claim the top spot on the Hot 100, knocking Taylor Swift and her comeback smash "Look What You Made Me Do" off their pedestal, becoming the first solo female rapper to do so since Lauryn Hill in 1998.

That wouldn't be the only record Cardi would break in her first year as a commercial recording artist. By October, after three consecutive weeks at the number one spot, she would come to tie T.Swift at the longest-running female at the top of the charts in 2017. Not too shabby for a girl from the Bronx with literally only one solo single under her belt. 

By November, thanks to her features on G-Eazy's "No Limit" and Migos' "MotorSport" (alongside her rumored rival Nicki Minaj, the currently reigning queen of rap), she would become the first female to have three singles in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart at the same time. By December, she became the first femcee to ever have her first three singles all crack the Billboard Hot 100 top 10.

Of course, her year wasn't all about breaking records. (Though it could've been.) No, in September, Cardi also managed to land nine nominations at the BET Hip-Hop Awards (tying DJ Khaled and Kendrick Lamar for the most), winning five. In October, she became engaged with Migos member Offset, showing off an enormous 8-carat ring. And then Grammy came calling. In November, it was revealed that she'd been nominated for both Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. Should she win in either category, she'll be—you guessed it—the first female to have ever done so.

With her second solo single, "Bartier Cardi," released and her collaboration with Bruno dominating the airwaves, this is truly only the beginning for Cardi. After all, she hasn't even released her first album yet.

"I am nervous. You want to know something? You want to know something? I already feel like a winner, you know what I'm saying?"shetoldJimmy Fallon during a visit to The Tonight Show in December. "Because it's like, 'I never thought…me?' Like, I already won. What's good?"

Something tells us the winning is only going to continue for Cardi B.