As Cardi B garnered chart-topping success, a series of controversies emerged including social media backlash, a lawsuit and the infamous feud with Nicki Minaj

By Karen Mizoguchi
October 03, 2018 10:30 AM
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Cardi B‘s meteoric rise to fame has not come without some troubles.

From her recent New York Fashion Week brawl with Nicki Minaj to her candid interviews about her upbringing and background, the rapper, 25, has never shied away from the events that have occurred in her life.

A Star Is Born

Born Belcalis Almanzar in the Highbridge neighborhood of the Bronx, she adopted her more famous moniker at a young age in a jokey tribute to her sister. “Her name is Hennessy, so everybody used to be like Bacardi to me,” she said during an appearance on The Wendy Williams Show. “Then I shortened it to Cardi B.” What’s the “B” stand for? Sometimes it’s “beautiful” and other times it’s “bully” — “depending on the day.” (During the same interview, she promised to clean up her act for impressionable youths: “I’m gonna change for you, little girls, because I deadass love ya.”)

While attending Renaissance High School for Musical Theater & Technology, the star showed off her musical talent in a school performance but she eventually ventured on to a different path. “I used to know how to sing, but, you know, I started smoking and sucking d—,” she previously tweeted in a since-deleted post years ago.

Cardi B
| Credit: Instagram/ @iamcardib

After high school, she studied at Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York City but only completed three semesters. She also found work at the local deli, called Amish Market, but was fired from her job after giving friends too many discounts, which led one of her managers to suggest she get a job as a stripper. “He was like, ‘You’re so pretty, you got a nice body.’ He told me to go across the street to New York Dolls, the strip club. That’s when I started stripping,” she told The Fader.

“I was poor as hell. I was living with my ex-boyfriend that was beating my ass. I had to drop out of school. I was living with his mama, two pit bulls in a bedroom. It was crazy,” she told VladTV in January 2016. “A lot of people make [stripping] so negative, but it really saved me from a lot of things. I went back to school.”

Cardi B was 19 when her career as a stripper began and she quickly became a local celebrity on New York City’s club circuit.

Cardi B
| Credit: Offset/Instagram

Before Bardi Gang… She Was in a Gang

Cardi B revealed she was a member of the Bloods (a.k.a. the Brims) since she was 16. “When I was 16 years old, I used to hang out with a lot of Bloods. I used to pop off with my homies. And they’d say, ‘Yo, you really get it poppin’. You should come home. You should turn Blood.’ And I did. Yes, I did. And something that—it’s not like, oh, you leave. You don’t leave,” she told GQ in April 2018.

“When I was younger, I used to go very hard. … After you’re in your 20s, why would you join a gang? That’s something that you do when you’re young. … There was a point when I was like 20, 21, 22…I was repping it,” she recalled, adding she would advise the younger generation to not follow in her lead.

“If somebody was to tell me right now, ‘I want to join a gang,’ I would tell them that it’s a waste of your money, it’s a waste of your time,” she said.

Cardi B previously tweeted about the affiliation in February 2017, writing, “Cardi F—ing B and the B stands for Brim.” And in her song “Red Barz” she says she’s “flyer than a big big B with a Blood tie.”

Cardi B
| Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Making Money Moves

On her 23rd birthday in October 2015, Cardi B quit stripping and made her music debut one month later with her remix of Shaggy’s “Boom Boom.”

Though she was gaining a large following on social media with viral Instagram and Vine videos, it wasn’t until December 2015 when she broke into mainstream media and was cast on the VH1 reality juggernaut Love and Hip Hop: New York.

“Hey America! What’s poppin? My name is Cardi B, you might know me as that annoying dancer on social media that be talkin’ hella crazy with the long nails and big ole titties,” she said in her introduction on season 6.

The two-season stint focused on the trials and tribulations of her relationship with an incarcerated boyfriend, known as “Tommy.” Despite discussing plans to marry her beau while behind bars, the relationship ultimately fell apart. In addition to the storyline of her romance and job as a stripper, fans came to know her as a quick-tempered, no filtered firecracker — as evidenced by the time she threw her ultra chunky Gucci heels at a foe during a reunion special.

With Success Comes Strife

In February 2016, Cardi B released “Stripper Hoe,” her first solo single. It was followed by her first mixtape Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1. With her music career on the rise, Cardi quit Love & Hip Hop New York in December 2016 to focus on her music. It was in January 2017 when she released her EP Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 2 featuring the lead single “Lick,” with her now-husband, Migos rapper Offset.

Then in June of that same year, “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)” was released as her first single on her first major label, Atlantic Records, later followed by the April 2018 release of her debut album, Invasion of Privacy.

With her smash “Bodak Yellow,” Cardi B bumped Taylor Swift from the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and made history as the second solo female rap artist ever to top the charts. She followed in the footsteps of Lauryn Hill, who scored a No. 1 in 1998 with “Doo Wop (That Thing).”

But along with her chart-topping success, a series of controversies emerged.

RELATED VIDEO: Cardi B Turns Herself in to Police, Arrested and Charged for Alleged Attack on Strip Club Bartenders

Lawsuit

In late April, weeks after the album’s release, she was sued for $10 million by her former manager Klenord “Shaft” Raphael, who claims he was fired by the rapper despite being instrumental in her success. Months later, in July, she responded to her former manager’s lawsuit with a $15 million countersuit, calling Shaft a “self-serving and controlling personal manager” who breached “contractual and fiduciary duties to Belcalis Almanzar, an immensely talented and trusting young artist,” according to multiple reports.

Cardi B
| Credit: VH1

LGBT Backlash

In May, singer Rita Ora came under fire following the release of her pop single “Girls,” which featured Cardi B as well as Bebe Rexha and Charli XCX.

Fans and fellow artists, including Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani, called Ora out for the lyric “Sometimes, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls/ Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls,” which many noted contributed to stereotypes about same-sex female love being a phase.

“Listen to ‘GIRLS’ by Rita Ora ft me @BebeRexha @charli_xcx. We never try to cause harm or had bad intentions with the song,” Cardi B tweeted. “I personally myself had experiences with other woman [sic] with a lot of woman [sic]! I thought the song was a good song and i remember my experience.”

She further apologized for her past use of gay slurs in a tweet: “I know I have use words before that I wasn’t aware that they are offensive to the LGBT community. I apologize for that. Not everybody knows the correct terms to use. I learned and I stopped using it.”

However, in September, Cardi B was in hot water after a transphobic meme was shared to her Facebook page. She attempted to clarify the controversy, saying she’s not responsible for any “offensive posts” made on her official account.

Cardi B has previously come under fire over using a term referring to the trans community, according to Entertainment Weekly. During a Periscope video recorded in January, Cardi said that at the time she “did not know that that was a bad word ‘cause trans people use it.”

Parody Gone Wrong

In August, Cardi B apologized to the family of Martin Luther King Jr. after portraying his wife Coretta Scott King in a controversial skit called “Real Housewives of the Civil Rights Movement.”

She joked about Dr. King’s contributions to the civil rights movement while the other actors, who played the wives of Malcolm X and Jesse Jackson, referenced King’s alleged infidelity. The timing was also criticized as the skit surfaced on the same day as the 55th anniversary of King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.

King’s youngest child Bernice took offense to Cardi B’s parody, revealing that the rapper contacted her to discuss the skit. “Thank you, @iamcardib, for reaching out to me and apologizing for the skit that aired on @TMZ. I look forward to talking with you soon,” Bernice tweeted.

Nicki Minaj; Cardi B
| Credit: Swan Gallet/WWD/REX/Shutterstock; Stephen Lovekin/REX/Shutterstock

Nicki Minaj and New York Fashion Week

It was the infamous fight that everyone was talking about during Fashion Week on Sept. 7 when Cardi B and Nicki Minaj got into an argument at the Harper’s Bazaar ICONS party that left Cardi B bruised, a source previously confirmed to PEOPLE.

During the altercation, Minaj, 35, was up against a wall and completely surrounded by security as Cardi screamed and lunged at her, another source told PEOPLE.

WATCH: Cardi B Escorted Out Of Fashion Week Party After Physical “Altercation” With Nicki Minaj

In one video of the incident posted by Twitter user Danieljonasny, Cardi can be seen saying, “Bitch come here,” while appearing to make a lunge towards Minaj. Afterward, a male voice can be heard shouting, “Don’t do it,” as Cardi — whose red Dolce & Gabbana dress was ripped in the back at this point — is led away while shouting about her daughter, Kulture Kiari, whom she did not mention by name. In another video obtained by Cosmopolitan, Cardi can be seen removing her shoe during the altercation as she repeatedly screams, “I will f— you up!”

Cardi B
| Credit: Steven Ferdman/WireImage

The source told PEOPLE that as Cardi was the one to throw her shoe at Minaj, but it remains unclear how she ended up with a welt on her head and Minaj did not. The source added that it’s possible the shoe could have ricocheted back and hit her in the face.

Three days after the incident, Minaj broke her silence about the altercation. “The other night I was part of something so mortifying and so humiliating to go through in front of a bunch upper echelon… people who have their life together,” she said during an episode of her Queen radio show on Apple Music’s Beats 1.

Minaj added, “I was in a Gaultier gown — off the motherf—ing runway — and I could not believe how humiliated we all felt.”

Cardi B
| Credit: Mark Lennihan/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Strip Club Fight

On Oct. 1, Cardi B surrendered to police and was subsequently arrested due to a rumble at a New York City strip club that occurred in August. She was charged with one Class A misdemeanor count of third-degree assault and two Class A misdemeanor counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and will be arraigned Oct. 29.

According to the New York Times and TMZ, the charges stem from an incident in which two bartenders at Angels Strip Club claimed that Cardi B ordered an attack on the women because she believed her husband Offset had had an affair with one of them.

One of the two, a woman named Jade, says that Cardi B had been threatening her on Instagram since early summer, according to TMZ. Cardi B was “throwing chairs, bottles and hookahs in the club at 3 a.m.,” a police spokesman told CNN.

In order for Cardi to face jail time, she must be found guilty of third-degree assault and receive among the strictest sentences from the presiding judge. In order for this to occur, there must be proof that she physically injured the two women during the altercation at the strip club.

Sources close to Cardi previously denied that she was involved in the attack, according to TMZ. While the bartenders were reportedly injured during the brawl, both women declined to receive medical treatment.

“We’re aware of no evidence that she caused anybody any harm on that night,” the rapper’s attorney Jeff Kern told press outside the police station on Monday. “We expect that the matter is going to be resolved expeditiously.”

A lawyer for the alleged victims begs to differ. “Cardi B ordered and committed violent assaults against my clients, and is being called to justice for her crimes,” Joe Tacopina, an attorney for the alleged victims, said in a statement to PEOPLE. “Apparently, she thinks her celebrity status puts her above the law, since she has bragged to multiple people and on social media that she orchestrated these vicious attacks.”