I’m sorry, the new Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because Cardi B has dethroned “Look What You Made Me Do” from its three-week reign atop the Billboard Hot 100.
Cardi first gained viral acclaim online due to her Vine and Instagram videos, which led to her casting in VH1’s reality series Love and Hip-Hop: New York. She joined the series in its sixth season and remained on it for two years as it chronicled her rise to fame as a former stripper. During her tenure on the series, Cardi released a mixtape titled Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1, but it was Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 2, released after leaving reality television, that signaled her future as a breakout hip-hop artist.
The 24-year-old Bronx native was signed to Atlantic Records in February and dropped her debut single, “Bodak Yellow,” in June. The song, subtitled “Money Moves,” entered the Hot 100 at #85 on July 22. It quickly became a runaway success this summer and lead to a performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, which helped “Bodak” rise to #2 on the charts. From there, fans waited to see if Cardi would be able to take the #1 spot from Taylor Swift, whose first song in the wake of a prolonged hiatus had quickly ascended the charts.
Today, it was announced that Cardi not only managed to snatch the #1 spot, but it’s also a milestone appearance on the Hot 100. She became the first female rapper since Lauryn Hill in 1998 to top the Billboard Hot 100 without the assistance of another featured artist. The last female rapper to nearly reach this milestone was Nicki Minaj in 2014, whose single “Anaconda” failed to knock Swift from #1, where she thrived for three weeks with “Shake It Off.”
That, of course, was the precursor to Swift’s massively successful album 1989. Whereas “Look What You Made Me Do” debuted at #77 on the Hot 100, in 2014 the prospect of a new Swift album allowed “Shake It Off” to debut at #45. When the track hit #1, it was replaced after three weeks by another Swift song—“Blank Space”—which went on to remain at #1 for seven full weeks. By contrast, Swift’s rollout to her upcoming LP Reputation has been decidedly less smooth than the one for 1989.
The lead single received a mixed critical reception, signaling that Swift is still attempting to carve out a new lane for herself after being mired in drama with Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and Katy Perry. This isn’t to suggest that Swift has lost her hold on the charts—she can still command numbers when she needs to, and her new album with surely debut at #1—but as Swift and her fans age, and as her rivalries continue to pile up, she’s losing the sheen that most pop stars have early on in their careers where they can simply breathe on a track and rocket to #1 for weeks on end.
“Bodak Yellow” is also refreshing in its candidness. Cardi doesn’t shy away from her past (“Look, I don’t dance now / I make money moves”), instead using it to demonstrate how far she’s come. It’s become an anthem for a reason: it’s an aspirational song about taking on haters and flourishing, with Cardi rapping, “Don’t give a fuck ‘bout who ain’t fond of me.” In that sense, it’s the perfect foil to “Look What You Made Me Do,” which acts as both a response to Swift being exposed as a liar by Kardashian (while assuming zero responsibility for it) and a surprisingly generic tune, given her new “bad girl” persona (one that her haters—and the media—somehow made her do). And while the apolitical Swift has mostly remained silent during this turbulent summer, allowing the music to promote itself, Cardi has been front and center, calling out the NFL for not hiring QB Colin Kaepernick and lashing out at “Carrot face” Trump for ignoring the devastation in Puerto Rico (born Belcalis Almanza, Cardi is Afro-Latina and recorded a Spanish version of “Bodak Yellow”).
Cardi’s claim to the throne may usher in a new wave in music: female rap that isn’t bolstered by feuding femcees. Not that the VMAS matter much anymore, but it’s worth noting that Cardi did appear while Swift skipped the ceremony altogether. If there’s a new changing of the guard coming in music, Cardi represents the future whereas “fake ass” Swift (as Kanye referred to her) is a relic of the past.
For now, fans of women in rap are celebrating Cardi’s success because it’s been a long time coming. Aside from the aforementioned Swift and Minaj chart throwdown, there have been several other female rappers who were criminally denied solo #1 spots in their heyday. Missy Elliott, for instance, has only reached #2 on the Hot 100, as her massive single “Work It” failed to best Eminem’s 8-week reign with “Lose Yourself.” And whether you consider Iggy Azalea a rapper or not, her #1 with “Fancy” was accomplished with an assist from Charli XCX.
Perhaps the real casualty in all of this is Fergie. Not only is her new album Double Dutchess underperforming on the charts (it debuted Friday, yet has rested at or near #68 on iTunes all weekend), but also as it turns out, Billboard doesn’t even consider her a rapper. If Cardi is the first female rapper since Lauryn Hill to top the Billboard Hot 100 on her own, then wither Fergie’s three weeks at #1 in 2006 with “London Bridge.”