From Memes to Grammys: How Did Cardi B Do It?


As described eloquently by Fayetteville-bred rapper J. Cole on 21 Savage’s smash single a lot, “Some niggas make millions; other niggas make memes.” But the truth of the matter is, the rap industry is slowly realizing that breakout stars of today have developed a holy matrimony of both elements. Connecting digitally to audiences on the ground floor of social media platforms is what directly correlates to success.

The current no holds bar, relentless leader of hip hop’s social media movement is, without a doubt, Cardi B. Only the power of internet virality could catapult a Bronx-born and bred stripper to a Grammy-award winning artist in a solid three years.

The true power of Cardi B’s beginnings is that her growth throughout the internet was organic. Utilizing platforms like Vine and Instagram, she built upon her firecracker personality and candid takes on sex, relationships, and life in general as a stripper in New York. What catapulted her into the Internet Hall of Fame was a collection of memes, including this classic number:


Cardi’s timeless sentiment “a hoe never gets cold” set the social media stage aflame and went insanely viral. The unabashed, raw nature of her content connected with thousands of followers throughout multiple platforms. Her internet fame led to her first reach into mainstream media: seasons 6 and 7 of VH1’s long-running reality television series Love and Hip Hop.

The three years since Cardi catapulted onto a national platform have proved that she’s a master at creating viral moments that personally connect with the average consumer. From “a hoe never gets cold” to her endless catchphrases, the public finds joy in not just her music but her personality as well. They see themselves in her so much that they’ve incorporated her likeness into their everyday life, through memes.

And, at the end of the day, she can really rap. Despite who’s writing her lyrics, Cardi’s naturally strong stage presence and charismatic flow prove that she’s way, way more talented than the average internet star.

Gaining genuine followers and likes on social media can be an extremely difficult thing to accomplish, but when it’s done right it can translate into immense success. A Dec 2018 Vulture article entitled “The Gatekeepers of Soundcloud Rap” dove into a major label’s ten-step marketing scheme entitled “The Pump Plan” which utilizes calculated social media marketing tactics and memes to transform them into a star. The plan uses a variety of strategies including “social-media influencer campaigns, meme-ing the artist, placements and World star promotions.” They then pitch the plan by showcasing the success of an artist like Lil Pump to emerging artists. But, this plan may be missing one thing that’s really pushing successful social media-based artists like Cardi B: a unique, yet genuine personality.

Social media brings us closer to our favorite artists than we’ve ever been. In order to gain popularity, the public has to fall in love with the person as well as the music. That’s exactly what happened with Cardi B. She’s a multifaceted artist that has maintained the juxtaposition of an incredible sense of humor with a genuine gratefulness for her sudden success. A perfect example of that is her recent acceptance at the 61st Grammy Awards, where she won Best Rap Album.

At this point, we’ve all witnessed Cardi’s rise to fame, from her endless Vines to Bodak Yellow making history, and now to her historic Grammy win. The reason why we’ve kept rooting for Cardi is that, through her social media platforms, she’s always been comfortable in her own skin. We can see ourselves in her, whether it be her push for others to budget their money correctly:

to her real Grammy speech backstage:

A win for Cardi feels like a win for all of us.

At the end of the day, it’s hard not to like Cardi B. She’s the perfect storm of authenticity, raw talent, and luck. One cannot exist without the other two when discussing Cardi B’s seemingly overnight success. The meshing of these factors has created a Cinderella-esque story that’ll soon create a fantastic cinematic feature decades from now. Until then, like the rest of her 40.8 million Instagram followers, I’ll take a front seat, grab a bag of popcorn, and enjoy seeing Cardi win.