Cardi B, the chart-topping rapper behind hits such as “Bodak Yellow” and “I Like It,” is an avowed presidential trivia enthusiast who has previously weighed in on topics ranging from the United Nations’ role in Libya to a minimum age for gun ownership. So it should come as no surprise that she had plenty of thoughts on the fact that nearly 50,000 federal employees have been told to return to work without a paycheck amid the partial government shutdown, which is now the longest in U.S. history.
Still, it appears even the Bronx-born artist, real name Belcalis Almanzar, didn’t anticipate the response to the 58-second video that she posted to her Instagram account on Wednesday evening — a succinct denunciation of the shutdown that quickly racked up millions of views in a matter of hours and inspired calls for the rapper to run for president, deliver the State of the Union address or get her own cable news show. “Why am I trending?” she wondered out loud when she logged into Twitter hours later.
The answer was her now-viral, expletive-laden message to her nearly 40 million Instagram followers. “Hey y’all,” it began. “I just wanna remind you, because it’s been a little bit over three weeks, OK. Trump is now ordering, as in summonsing, federal government workers to go back to work without getting paid.”
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Already anticipating the obvious rebuttal, she continued: “Now, I don’t want to hear y’all [expletive] talking about, ‘Oh, but Obama shut down the government for 17 days.’ Yeah, [expletive]! For health care! So your grandma could check her blood pressure!”
Many of her fans don’t necessarily care about the shutdown, since they don’t work for the federal government or “probably don’t even have a job,” she acknowledged. But the ongoing standoff stemming from President Donald Trump’s insistence that taxpayers should help fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, she told them, was something to take seriously.
“Our country is in a hellhole right now,” she said. “All for a [expletive] wall.”
Shaking her head, she gestured emphatically with her long fuchsia nails. “I feel like we need to take some action,” she mused. “I don’t know what type of action, [expletive], because this is not what I do. But [expletive], I’m scared.
“This is crazy,” she concluded. “And I really feel bad for these people that gotta go to [expletive] work to not get [expletive] paid.”
By early Thursday morning, the Instagram video had racked up nearly 9 million views and accolades from prominent Trump critics, who praised Cardi’s concise, pointed commentary. “Colorful language and eyelids, but the message is loud and clear and the sentiment is shared by many Americans,” tweeted CNN commentator Ana Navarro. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, wrote that he was trying to decide whether to retweet the video, which largely echoed congressional Democrats’ talking points but added a heavy dose of profanity.
“Omg, I had the same argument with myself 30 minutes ago!” replied Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
Schatz responded: “Ok you do it. And say retweets are not endorsements, especially the language, and I will retweet.”
They continued the back-and-forth until Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., broke in: “Guys, I’m still holding my breath. Are you gonna RT Cardi B or not?”
The answer, it turned out, was no. “Wouldn’t be senatorial,” Schatz explained.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Wednesday night, and there was little immediate response from conservative commentators, save for a handful of tweets deriding the rapper and her music.
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Earlier in the day, Cardi had offered an even more biting critique of Trump on Instagram Live.
“You promised these [expletive] racist rednecks that you was gonna build the wall, but you know that was impossible,” she said, according to the Hill. “But they voted for you and you promised them this [expletive] so now you have to do it.”
She also accused the president of being a “clout chaser,” a derisive term for individuals who seek fame and attention.
“He’s like one of these new rap artists — they follow, they do the most for clout,” she explained, per the Hill. “And Trump wants that.”
The president, she argued, “wants to be cool with basketball teams, football teams and black people [ …] He wants validation from what’s popping right now.”
It’s not the first time that Cardi has criticized Trump, whom she called a “madman” in an interview with Rolling Stone last summer. A former stripper, she began to develop a public profile as a reality television star with her 2015 appearance on “Love & Hip Hop: New York.” From the start, her political views were on full display: According to Roll Call, she encouraged her followers to “vote for daddy Bernie,” meaning Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in advance of the 2016 presidential primaries. (The video is no longer available on her social media accounts, but archived versions can be found online.)
After she skyrocketed to fame with the release of 2017′s “Bodak Yellow,” fans rushed to claim her as an avatar for their own personal political beliefs. A viral Twitter thread that year offered a tongue-in-cheek Marxist interpretation of the lyrics to “Bodak Yellow,” suggesting that “These is red bottoms, these is bloody shoes” could be translated to mean “overthrowing the bourgeoise may be a bloody affair, but the working class will prevail.” Several months later, the singer posted a rant about taxation on Instagram, leading Reason magazine to dub her “your new libertarian hero.” Her vague remarks last April about having a baby because she “didn’t want to deal with the whole abortion thing,” likewise, prompted anti-abortion groups to hold her up as a symbol of the movement, even though Cardi has never publicly stated where she stands on the subject.
In a GQ profile last April, she expounded on her love of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, telling reporter Caity Weaver that she is “obsessed with presidents” and loves learning about political science and “how the system works.”(Without looking it up, can you name the only president who was a bachelor? Cardi can: It was James M. Buchanan.) As for the 32nd president, she explained, “He’s the real ‘Make America Great Again,’ because if it wasn’t for him, old people wouldn’t even get Social Security.”
Sanders later declared: “Cardi B is right. We have got to protect social security for all generations.”
“I’m always watching the news,” she told GQ last April. “I’m always looking at it on my phone. I hate when you talk about something that’s going on in the community, people think, because you’re famous, you doing it for clout. But you concerned about it because you are a citizen of America; you are a citizen of the world.”