Belcalis Almanzar (born October 11, 1992), professionally known as Cardi B, is an American hip hop recording artist, as well as a television and social media personality. Born and raised in The Bronx borough of New York City, she first received public attention as an exotic dancer, and coupled with “her no filter attitude,” through Instagram she became an internet celebrity. She continued to gain more recognition in 2015, after becoming a regular cast member of the VH1 reality television series Love & Hip Hop: New York. In February 2017, Cardi B signed her first solo record deal with Atlantic Records.
Cardi B was born Belcalis Almanzar, on October 11, 1992, to a Trinidadian mother and Dominican father. She was raised in the Highbridge neighborhood located in The Bronxborough of New York City. Growing up she spent a lot of time at her grandmother’s place in Washington Heights, Manhattan, to which she credits why she has “such a thick accent”. As a youth, Cardi B became a member of the Bloods street gang, claiming to have been a gangbanger since the age of 16. She went on to attend Renaissance High School For Musical Theater & Technology, a small specialty school collocated on the Herbert H. Lehman campus. As a teenager she was employed at a supermarket called Amish Market. It was the last job she held before she turned to stripping at 19. Upon being fired from Amish Market, she was recommended by her former manager to work at a strip club. She has said she became a stripper to escape poverty and domestic violence, having been in an abusive relationship at the time. Cardi B has also said becoming a stripper was positive for her life in many ways: “It really saved me from a lot of things. When I started stripping I went back to school. Cardi B said at the time she was involved in an abusive relationship with her then boyfriend, who she lived with in a small Bronx apartment. She says stripping was her only way out, so that she could earn enough money to get out and get an education. However she ended up dropping out of college. Due to her new sudden career path and the expectations it holds, Cardi B turned to cosmetic surgery, getting breast implants and buttock augmentation. In 2013, Cardi B began to gain notoriety due to several of her videos going viral on social media, namely Vine and her official Instagram page.
In November 2015, Cardi B made her musical debut, alongside Jamaican dancehall singer Popcaan, on Jamaican reggae fusion singer Shaggy’s remix to his single “Boom Boom”. On December 15, 2015, Cardi B made her music video debut with the song “Cheap Ass Weave”, her rendition of Lady Leshurr’s “Queen’s Speech 4”. On March 7, 2016, Cardi B released her first full-length project, a mixtape titled Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1. In November 2016, Cardi B was featured on the digital cover of Vibe’s “VIVA” issue. On January 20, 2017, Cardi B released the second installment to her Gangsta Bitch Music series. In early February 2017, Cardi B partnered with MAC Cosmeticsand Rio Uribe’s Gypsy Sport for an event for New York Fashion Week. In late February 2017, it was reported Cardi B signed her first major record label recording contract with Atlantic Records.
On February 25, 2017, Cardi B was the opening act for East Coast hip hop group The Lox’s Filthy America… It’s Beautiful Tour, alongside fellow New York City-based rappers Lil’ Kimand Remy Ma. In April 2017, Cardi B was featured in i-D’s “A-Z of Music” video sponsored by Marc Jacobs. In May 2017, the nominees for the 2017 BET Awards were announced, revealing that Cardi B had been nominated for Best New Artist and Best Female Hip-Hop Artist. Although she failed to win any awards, losing to Chance the Rapper and Remy Ma respectively, Cardi B performed at the BET Awards afterparty show. In June 2017, during Hot 97’s annual Summer Jam music festival, Remy Ma brought out Cardi B, along with The Lady of Rage, MC Lyte, Young M.A., Monie Love, Lil’ Kim and Queen Latifah, to celebrate female rappers and perform Latifah’s 1993 hit single”U.N.I.T.Y.”, about female empowerment.
On June 16, 2017, Atlantic Records released Cardi B’s commercial debut single, titled “Bodak Yellow”, via digital distribution. In June 2017, it was revealed Cardi B would be on the cover of The Fader’s Summer Music issue for July/August 2017. On July 18, 2017, Cardi B performed “Bodak Yellow” on The Wendy Williams Show, where she was also interviewed by Williams. When Williams asked where her moniker derived from, Cardi B responded with the distilled beverage Bacardi, as people would call her that, as her sister is nicknamed Hennessy Carolina, referencing Hennessy: “My sister’s name, her name is Hennessy, so everybody used to be like Bacardi to me […] then I shortened it to Cardi B, and the ‘B’ stands for whatever, depending on the day.