What's Happenin'
From reality television to the recording booth, Cardi B can do it all.
Words: Sidney Madden
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Summer issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Love & Hip Hop might have had a lot of rappers on the show but they haven’t documented the rise of one. Enter Cardi B, the 23-year-old Bronx native who is earning her stripes in the music industry while appearing as one of the stars on Love & Hip Hop: New York.

Cardi first got on as a rapper when she spit on Shaggy’s “Boom Boom (Remix)” with Popcaan last November. She followed that appearance up the following month with her own single, “Cheap Ass Weave.” Three months later Cardi dropped her first mixtape, Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1, garnering co-signs from industry heavyweights such as Wale and A$AP Twelvyy. Confident that she’s on the right track, Cardi has been busy pushing forward her newly found career, collecting new fans along the way. XXL caught up with the femme fatale to talk about all of her recent success.

Were you surprised by the reception of the tape so far?

I was surprised. I was a little bit scared because you know, like, being a rapper has always been my dream so if nobody liked it, that would mean my dream is destroyed. And then there’s a lot of things for example, like, I was a little nervous because I know a lot of artists that come from Love & Hip Hop or any reality show, it’s hard for people to take them serious as an artist. I didn’t really want to put my music out there on [the show] even though they asked me a lot of times because when it comes to things like this, I plan it out.

Have you heard any of your songs on the radio yet?

Yes, I did! The “Foreva” record. It’s just like, Damn! They really playin’ my shit. They really supporting my music! And then, there’s certain states that I hear that it’s on rotation. It be my fans that be telling me and I can’t even believe that my music is being played all the way out there when I’m all the way in New York. A lot of New York artists don’t get played in some of these other states. A lot of down South artists or West Coast artists don’t get played in New York, so it makes me feel good that I can actually hit every market.

Do you think you’re going to do another season of Love & Hip Hop?

I will do another season because the shmoney is really, really nice! I didn’t really want to do it because I didn’t want it to interfere with my music but then I was like, Wait a minute, this check is poppin! This check may change my mama’s life! Why not?

How do you deal with the pressure and the haters online?

Sometimes it gets hard for me to ignore it until I go to an event that I host and I be like, Damn, I can’t really give up when I got all these people telling me that I make them feel good! Some girl told me that because of me, she smiles. She’s like, “My teeth are crooked, but now I smile in my pictures because I don’t give a fuck.”

Has your past as a stripper helped you in your rap career at all?

Yeah, I do think that because you know, sometimes, it’s a little bit scary to go out and perform. Before I get on stage, I tell myself, Listen, if you danced in front of the most gangsta, the biggest artists in the industry and the most get-money niggas, the biggest d-boys and the biggest scammers in New York City, if you’ve performed in front of them, you could definitely perform in front of these people that are actually here and love you. So, that really helps me. That mental, like, pep talk, helps me a lot.

Check out more from XXL’s Summer 2016 issue including our 2015 XXL Freshman year-end report card; Joey Badass, Raury and Dizzy Wright talk about The Four AgreementsMadeintyo's Show & Prove interview, Bump J speaking straight from prison and more.

See the Hottest Photos of Cardi B

More From XXL