Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, Hal Kitchen is listening to “Up” by Cardi B, Hawk Ripjaw urges you to check out 2018’s American Animals, and Hal Kitchen dives a bit deeper into the past to recommend Local Hero.
“Up” by Cardi B
Hal: The most discussed musical moment of 2020 was when Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion spent three minutes finding increasingly funny ways to describe the extent of their lubrication. The most sexually explicit number one hit America has ever had, “WAP” was hilarious, audacious, and ridiculous. It’s a terrific song. However, since we’re not allowed nice things, publications swiftly decided to make a thing out of its bawdy burlesque, with some praising it as a groundbreaking and empowering statement of sex-positive feminism, and others recoiling in horror at the nightmarish spectacle of two women, each with a vagina, a sense of humour and the will to use them both. Nothing made “WAP” easier to get behind than the men who decried it (and I’ve only seen men do it). Cardi and Megan’s gleefully vulgar track wasn’t intended as a feminist challenge, but the backlash it received soon made it one and only furthered its naughty appeal. By listening to “WAP” you were not only enjoying an uncomplicatedly fun song, but you were indirectly sticking it to the most tiresome people in the world.
Cardi rode the success of “WAP” for almost a full six months, finally releasing her next single “Up” on 5 February. It was a particularly strong week with JID, Freddie Gibbs, Polo G, Conway the Machine, ScHoolboy Q and Denzel Curry all releasing particularly strong singles, but nothing has earned its way into heavy rotation like “Up”. In many ways “Up” doesn’t recreate the magic of “WAP”. For one, there’s no Megan, it’s all Cardi, but here she uses a faster and more varied flow that keeps the energy up the way Megan would. “Up” might even be her most dexterous display of acrobatic cadences to date, proving herself as a flow-smith and more than just a magnetic personality. It’s a formidable combination and Cardi is sounding more of a complete package than ever before.
The beat is more reminiscent of her 2018 single “Money”, with almost the exact same piano chords and without the hilarious sampling that made “WAP” such a consistent joy. The beat has more layers and pace to it though, and the sound effects that added so much personality to “WAP” do make a return, filling the track with delicious little moments like the train whistle or the group chanting on the chorus. Lyrically, “Up” is a less focused track than “WAP” with more general flexing on Cardi’s part, hitting familiar topics of her body, sexual prowess, and financial means, as on the immediately catchy chorus: “I say my face bomb, ass tight, racks stack up Shaq-height…” It’s the third verse that has the strongest similarities to “WAP”, as Cardi begins to get into her sexual flexing vibe.
“Up” maybe a little gimmicky, and you can tell she’s trying to recapture the magic of her last big hit, with the provocative video as well. Chances are this track won’t receive the same notoriety—it’s not quite as risqué or attention-grabbing, but it still hits all the right notes for her fans. It might not have the transgressive frisson of “WAP”, but it’s still a righteously confident burlesque anthem with a typically brassy and infectious sense of humour.