Cardi B may have had a wild and woolly week, but those who know her say the Bronx-born rapper has always lived in the middle of drama.
Just ask her former manager Klenord “Shaft” Raphael, who discovered the rapper when she was dancing at Club Lust in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Back then, he said, “Her apartment door didn’t have a lock because [someone had] kicked it down. So she had a guy she paid to sleep at her house while she went to work so no one would break in.”
It’s just another example of the craziness that inevitably surrounds America’s hottest female rapper. Only now it’s occurring on a daily basis.
On Monday, the star angered a Queens Criminal Court judge when she skipped an arraignment hearing related to charges of reckless endangerment and third-degree assault against two strip-club bartenders. Judge Sean Dunn said that if Cardi didn’t show up for her next appearance, “It’s very likely that the court will issue a bench warrant for her arrest.”
On Tuesday, it was revealed the 26-year-old rapper had missed her court date because she was in Miami and painted up like a tiger for a video shoot on a yacht.
On Wednesday, Cardi took to Instagram to announce a split from her husband, rapper Offset of the group Migos. In a video, she revealed: “I guess we just grew out of love.”
A Cardi insider told The Post: “No one really expected their marriage to survive.”
On Thursday, Page Six reported that Cardi disappointed fans at a Miami appearance: “She showed up in the corner of the club at like 4 a.m., and just kind of lip-synced … It was a bit of a disappointment, she was a little bit out of it,” said one.
On Friday morning, the rapper was nominated for a Best Album Grammy for her debut, “Invasion of Privacy” — minutes before she finally showed up at court. (She was released without bail, warned to have no contact with the alleged victims and is scheduled to return to court next month.)
Let us not forget that, in 2018, she also gave birth to her daughter, Kulture, in July — after denying the pregnancy for months. She revealed in June that she and Offset had secretly been married for months. For much of the year, she has feuded with rapper Nicki Minaj, including a hair-pulling, shoe-throwing showdown at a Fashion Week party in September that resulted in Cardi — her Dolce & Gabbana dress ripped open — being escorted out by security.
But 2018 also saw her first album hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200. She soared high on the charts time and time again, both with her own songs and guest spots on Maroon Five’s “Girls Like You” and Bruno Mars’ “Finesse.”
Before Belcalis Marlenis Almánza became Cardi B and conquered the music world, she was just a girl trying to hustle her way out of the South Bronx. And insiders tell The Post that much of Cardi’s turmoil is stirred up by those around her, including people from her past.
“Cardi has friends from her strip-club days who are always trying to prove themselves to her,” said an old pal about the rapper, who worked as a stripper from age 19 to 23.
Additionally, a music business insider said the decision to shoot a video with the rap act City Girls instead of showing up for court suggests that Cardi’s team is obsessed with striking while the iron’s hot.
“It’s not all Cardi’s fault that she missed that court date,” the music insider said. “Her team doesn’t care … if she’s well or makes her court dates. It’s too much. [They] don’t want her to lose steam. They are treating Cardi B more like a product than a human.”
Meanwhile, insiders are concerned that her past is undermining her ability to capitalize on her stratospheric present.
“She has to get to the point of letting some things fly,” said the team source. “She can’t fight everybody.”
Born in 1992 to a Dominican cab driver father and Trinidadian cashier mother, Cardi grew up in the Bronx’s rough-and-tumble Highbridge neighborhood. Since her younger sister is named Hennessy, she got the matching nickname Bacardi, later shortened to Cardi. (“The ‘B’ stands for whatever, depending on the day … beautiful or bully,” she would later tell Wendy Williams.) As a teen, she attended the Renaissance High School for Musical Theater & Technology, then Borough of Manhattan Community College. She also reportedly joined the Bloods gang.
“My sister ran with her as a member of the Bloods,” said a woman from the neighborhood. “If there was a girl dissing her, Cardi’s first instinct was to fight.”
At 19, after she was fired from her cashier job at the Amish Market in Tribeca, Cardi told the Fader, a co-worker suggested she start stripping across the street at New York Dolls. Suddenly she was earning in a night what she made in a week at the grocery store. (She would later dance at city clubs including Lace 2 in Midtown West.)
Even with that extra money — which she has said helped her escape an abusive relationship — her life was rough.
A 2015 episode of the Revolt TV network show “Real Talk” reveals her South Bronx apartment building, the hallway looking like it hadn’t been mopped in months. The word “Homicide” was scrawled on the door of an elevator that was described as smelling like “hot piss in the summertime.”
At the time, she was dating a guy in prison. “The fact that her man was in jail was a blessing,” said the woman from her old neighborhood. “All Cardi had was passion and focus to make it out of her situation.”
Indeed, her video for Revolt was filmed just weeks before she upgraded to a $3,000-a-month Edgewater, NJ, apartment. “I’m so fortunate and I’m so grateful that I get to get the f–k out of here,” she said in the clip. “But then again, I feel so bad because there’s actually families that live here.”
By then, Cardi had joined the cast of the VH1 reality show “Love & Hip Hop: New York” and was trying to break into the rap game. She became a show favorite and an Instagram star with her bubbly, outspoken persona — regaling followers with escapades about her sex life — and mile-a-minute cartoon voice.
Those freewheeling qualities also made her shine as an emcee.
“She can transform from this goofy jokester to a serious rapper,” said J. White, who produced her breakthrough 2017 hit “Bodak Yellow” and this summer’s
“I Like It.” He added, “She doesn’t hold back her feelings, which gives producers like myself the best ammunition.”
Cardi B's style went from sexy to sophisticated
Cardi’s unique style was initially met with resistance in the hip-hop world. “I would hear a lot of ‘What is this … are you serious?’ ” recalled her former publicist, Ra-Fael Blanco, vice president of media relations at 2R’s Entertainment & Media PR. “There are certain people who today champion Cardi who initially passed on her.”
But following her turns on songs by other artists, as well as the release of two successful mixtapes, Atlantic Records signed the unlikely superstar. Less than two years later, having racked up more than 1 billion streams on Pandora, Cardi B is having the last laugh.
After getting together with Offset in 2017, Cardi moved to Atlanta. The problem, insiders say, is that she didn’t completely leave her old world behind.
In October, Cardi was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors in connection with an August fight in which she and her crew allegedly attacked two bartenders at Angels Strip Club in Flushing.
The brawl was ignited reportedly because Cardi suspected an infidelity involving Offset.
Cardi, who allegedly threw a chair, was fueled by old friends, sources say. “They are really still in the [street] life, which is not good for Cardi,” said the old pal.
Added the team source, “Cardi B comes from a culture where you have to fight for your respect.” And one of her biggest bugbears has been a lack of respect from fellow NYC rapper Minaj. Many listeners interpreted the latter’s verse on “No Flags” by London on da Track, released in August 2017, as about Cardi:
“Lil bitch, I heard these labels tryna make another me / Everything you getting, lil hoe, is cause of me.”
After a year of public back-and-forth, the two got into the brawl at the annual Harper’s Bazaar Icons party during New York Fashion Week this October — allegedly over something Minaj said about Cardi’s parenting skills.
“For a while now, [Nicki’s] been taking a lot of shots at me,” Cardi told W magazine in an October profile. “I spoke to her twice before and we came to an understanding. But she kept it going.”
Said the music insider, “I don’t think those two are ever going to see eye-to-eye. People see Cardi as this underdog. Nicki has been the most high-profile female rapper for close to a decade, but Cardi is winning right now because she’s more authentic.”
It looks like Minaj has no intention of burying the hatchet. She recently hired sisters Rachel “Baddie Gi” Wattley and Sarah “Jade” Wattley, the bartenders at the center of Cardi’s strip-club fiasco, for her “Good Form” video. Cardi had reportedly accused one of the women of cheating with Offset.
According to the Cardi insider, that romantic relationship “wasn’t working before they got married. Before Cardi even got pregnant, Offset was already cheating on her.”
(Representatives for Cardi B and Offset did not respond to requests for comment.)
According to TMZ, the last straw was Migos allegedly asking a woman known as Summer Bunni to set up a threesome with rapper Cuban Doll.
Still, the Cardi insider added, this may be another thing Cardi can’t let go. “Knowing those two, I don’t think it’s going to be a clean break. I can see them getting back together and falling apart again and again before Cardi divorces him.”
There is one person she’s left behind. In April, former manager Shaft sued Cardi for $10 million, alleging she froze him out of a burgeoning career he “conceived, arranged and orchestrated.” Cardi then countersued for $15 million, claiming breach of contract.
“Everything that is around her right now is [because of] me, from her publicist to security to producers,” Shaft said. But now, “I don’t speak with Cardi at all.”
Still, he respects her success, which now includes a sneaker line with Reebok, a Fashion Nova clothing collection and an endorsement deal with shoe brand Steve Madden.
“People think because of our legal issues I would be mad,” said Shaft. “I’m not. I’m proud about her success because I helped make history. There are a million girls out there looking to be the next Cardi B.”
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