She’s bawdy, brusque and even brutish. Because of or despite those traits, Cardi B made local history Saturday night at Target Center.
The Bronx, N.Y., native became the first female rapper to sell out a Minnesota arena as a headliner.
“Top to bottom,” the real-life Belcalis Almánzar rightfully bragged to the 15,000 fans, who stretched up to the rafters but weren’t afraid to twerk even at those heights.
Cardi, 26, beat her similarly saucy ex-Minneapolitan peer Lizzo to the arena sell-out claim by probably just a half-year or so. Both of the relentless artists represent a sharp shift commercially in the notoriously male-dominated and too often boneheadedly sexist hip-hop industry — “sharp” as in razor-tongued and sometimes musically edgy.
Her 50-minute set proved way too brief, sure.
At least she offered much more bang for a buck than the local Super Bowl party last year, when she mildly danced on stage for 20 minutes at $150 to $250 per ticket.
And anyway, Cardi had enough time to prove she’s a creative and cunning rapper when she did have a microphone in her hand.
She raps about money, sex and her self-esteem a lot; kind of like male rappers have been doing for decades, but with her own cool twists.
Early in the set, she offered a dizzying combo of all three topics in the hit “Money,” with such lines as, “I like boarding jets, I like morning sex / But nothing in this world that I like more than checks.”
The bigger reveal of Saturday’s concert, though, was how much more Cardi has to offer in concert on top of her biting and spitting rap skills.
Backed by a DJ and a 10-member dance troupe, she proved to be a wily and wicked dancer herself, including plenty of moves that looked as if she pulled them from her pre-fame days working as stripper.
After leaving the stage to the tune of “Bodak Yellow,” she came back out briefly to impressively crouch down and do the splits in her tight blue-sequined jumper, to wild applause.
“Is she a stripper, a rapper or a singer?” she asked mid-show in “Drip,” one of the night’s most high-energy dance numbers.
Sure enough, she also showed off a decently compelling singing voice a couple of times in the show, including when she delivered a melodic verse in “Clout,” a tune by her husband Offset (who’s showed up at several of his wife’s concerts but not this one).
Cardi’s best asset, though, might be her wisecracking, sometimes jaw-dropping personality, which is also now earning her film and TV roles. Talking with her unmistakable Dominican/Trinidadian-stewed accent and sometimes made-up lingo, her between-song banter and all-around playfulness won over the crowd almost as much as her megahits.
Some of her funniest moments were talking extra-candidly about her outfit being too tight (“My butt crack is wet,” she understandably complained) or how freakishly angry she gets delivering her ode to a loser ex-boyfriend, “Be Careful.”
“It makes me want to stab, stab, stab,” she confessed afterward. Yep, to more wild applause.
On the playful side, she kept saying it was “karaoke night” Saturday, and thus she kept dropping in improvised snippets of numerous tunes, including Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” and Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts.”
If only Cardi hadn’t also turned in so many abbreviated snippets of many of her own songs.
“Ring” and “Press” were the two most frustratingly trimmed numbers.
Finishing those songs at least would’ve pushed the concert past the one-hour mark.
But let’s still go ahead and call Cardi’s long-awaited Twin Cities arrival a major achievement nonetheless.