Chartbreaker: Cardi B Wants 'Bodak Yellow' To Dominate Every Strip Club

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Shaniqwa Jarvis
“This is all I ever wanted, and I worked my ass off for it,” says Cardi B, photographed July 19 at Lovely Day in New York. Styling by Kollin Carter.

The Love & Hip-Hop alum, Cardi B, wants her breakout hit -- currently No. 49 on the Billboard Hot 100 -- to rule the strip clubs. 

Her first fans were her high school classmates

Before rap became her passion, the Bronx-born Cardi (real name: Belcalis Almanzar) showed off her top 40 love at high school talent shows. "I did Madonna’s 'Material Girl,' then Lady Gaga’s 'LoveGame,'" says the 24-year-old. "I was nervous, because a lot of people didn’t like me in high school -- I was very loud -- but I was so different [onstage] that they would end up liking me."

She feared reality TV defining her

VH1’s Love & Hip-Hop, which she joined in 2015, "helped me to be more popular, but not in my music," says Cardi, who purposefully avoided recording in the booth on-camera. "Every time somebody pushes their music on Love & Hip-Hop, they don’t go far." In December, after two seasons as queen of the confessional, she left the show and signed a deal with Atlantic Records.

Her debut hit began as a voicemail

When Cardi first heard the crushing "Bodak Yellow" beat, she immediately thought of an opening line: "Bitch, you can’t fuck with me if you wanted to." But she wasn’t near a recording studio. Instead, she rapped the lyrics into her phone, and the voicemail recording led to her first Billboard Hot 100 hit, which leaps 78-49 on the tally dated Aug. 5. "I knew the song was hot when I saw that Diddy was jamming to it," she says.

She thinks if the strippers love it, it’s a hit

Cardi’s frank love advice helped her gain a huge social following -- and was born from life as a stripper. She still considers the setting a source of musical inspiration: "If your song is not playing in the strip club, then it’s not popping," she says. Cardi has already watched "Bodak" work its magic in a strip club. "Seeing the dancers singing to it and men throwing money, it feels like I accomplished something." 

Watch Cardi B: You Should Know, where she talks about the first album she ever bought (Missy Elliott), her favorite artists (Madonna, Lady Gaga) and why her music can help you forget about your ex for an hour:

This article originally appeared in the August 5 issue of Billboard.

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