Cardi B talks about becoming a Blood, tells kids: ‘Don’t join a gang’

Of course I had heard the rumors and read the stories about Cardi B’s gang affiliation. She put it all out there in her mega-hit “Bodak Yellow”: “These expensive, these is red bottoms/These is bloody shoes…” She’s a Blood. She talked around it in interviews, but there were always verbal and lyrical allusions to her gang affiliation. Cardi refused to speak about being a Blood directly in interviews in the past year, but now that her new album is out, I guess she feels like she’s in the position to talk about all of it openly. Which is what she did in her new GQ profile, which you can read here. This GQ piece is just as entertaining as all of Cardi’s interviews – she’s extremely sharp and quotable, she has an encyclopedia knowledge of American presidents, she’s crazy-worried that she’s going to run into Taylor Swift and she thought she was going to literally sh-t herself when she met Beyonce. But quotes about gangs:

Her association/affiliation with the Bloods, or the Blood subset the Brims: “Here’s the thing. I never really wanted to talk about that, because I always wanted a music deal. I always want to keep my endorsements. When I was 16 years old, I used to hang out with a lot of”—agonizing, cliff-diver pause—”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. Stripping,” which Cardi began at 19, “changed my life. When I was a stripper, I didn’t give a f–k about gangs, because I was so focused on making money.

Gangs don’t make you rich: “One thing I could say, you could ask any gang member: Being in a gang don’t make you not one dollar. And I know for a fact every gang member, he asking himself, ‘Why did I turn this?’ Sometimes it’s almost like a fraternity, a sorority. Sometimes it’s like that. And sometimes I see people that’s in the same gang kill each other. So sometimes there is no loyalty. Sometimes you gotta do certain things to get higher, to get higher and higher. You’re doing all of that and you not making money off of it. That’s why I don’t talk about it much. Because I wouldn’t want a young person, a young girl, to think it’s okay to join it. You could talk to somebody that is considered Big Homie and they will tell you: ‘Don’t join a gang.’ The person that I’m under, she would tell you, ‘Don’t join a gang.’ It’s not about violence. It’s just like—it doesn’t make your money. It doesn’t make your money. I rep it, because I been repping it for such a long time.”

What she means by “repping it”: “I always mention it, because it’s something that I been doing for a long time.” Like being a Libra? “Yeah, it’s like saying you’re a Libra. When I was younger, I used to go very hard. As I got older…you can do your own thing, but you always got to check in with your set. You don’t leave your people behind. They will understand I don’t be doing it because I’m an adult now. After you’re in your 20s, why would you join a gang? That’s something that you do when you’re young. I don’t even got to keep up communications. I keep communication because I’m used to it. There was a point when I was like 20, 21, 22…I was repping it, but I know that things change, Big Homies change, and I knew I had to check in again. It’s like almost like renewing your license. I kept repping something, [but] people was like, ‘Okay, but you’re not under the right person.’ So it’s like, ‘Okay, I gotta do it real right.’ You gotta get in the loop. 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. And then you can never leave it. Sometimes these people are gonna expect you to be at meetings when you have a job. You gotta be at work till 9:30 p.m., and you cannot go to a powwow because you at work. How you tell that to people? One of the laws in my set is that you always gotta have a job, you always gotta do something to contribute, to be right in the community. They want everybody to be successful. Nobody want to be in a group full of bums. Nobody want a group full of bums.”

She didn’t adopt a gang persona for a record deal: “People always be like, ‘Oh, Cardi never used to rep it when she wasn’t making music.’ Yeah, because I already got signed. I can do that now. I’m smarter than what people think. There’s so many things that I limited myself because I wanted a million-dollar contract. When I do interviews, I don’t talk about it, because I will lose my endorsements. But since the cat is out of the bag”—she throws up her small, barbecue-sauce-covered hands—”that’s how I feel. Why? For what? Why would you join a gang?”

[From GQ]

Cardi B is out here talking like a mix of after-school specials and Scared Straight speakers. But it’s the right tone to set, and maybe she will genuinely help kids looking up to her: don’t join a gang. Gangs are time-consuming. Gangs won’t make you money. You have to rep your gang no matter where you are and what you’re doing, no matter where you go. Gangs don’t mean loyalty, gangs don’t save you from being killed. And you have to check in with your gang too much and that’s time you should be spending at work, making money. It’s not the worst argument for “not joining a gang.”

Grammy Awards 2018

Photos courtesy of GQ and WENN.

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55 Responses to “Cardi B talks about becoming a Blood, tells kids: ‘Don’t join a gang’”

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  1. Betsy says:

    Well, dang. Good for her. I didn’t grow up anywhere near a gang and do not know the reasons for joining beyond what I have read back in the day in the likes of Time and Newsweek, but I’m glad she’s giving practical reasons for not joining.

    (Edited by me for relevance)

    • Yes says:

      Well I have direct experience w Latina gangs. It’s aboit identity and protection. If you live in an impoverished and tribal area- there is ZERO choice. It’s survival to join- but genius to get out. She’s the exception- not joining- but getting out.

  2. Nicole says:

    Gotta give it to her…she hasn’t changed. She was like this on LAHH. I don’t hate it

  3. Lala says:

    The reality of way too many lives…is that you HAVE to join gangs…in order to go to school safely…live in your neighborhood safely…walk out your door…safely…but the secret is that IF you get out…YOU STAY OUT! I have so many friends…loved ones who went back to visit…and never left!

    • Betsy says:

      As in seriously you can’t go home to visit friends or family ever? Does that sort of expire as you get older and people sort of forget who you are/you acquire that invisibility that people in their 30s and older have in the eyes of teens/20 somethings?

      • Lala says:

        In that situation…folks don’t forget…and those folks have kids too….and the majority of the people that I know who went for a visit and NEVA left…got caught up in some random stuff…wrong place at the absolute…wrong time!

  4. Tata Mata says:

    This is the same Cardi B who recently claimed she didn’t know where her taxes went.

    • Merritt says:

      So she is the same as millions of other Americans.

    • Snowflake says:

      I mean, I don’t think she was being literal when she said that. I didn’t watch the video but we say stuff like that all the time at work. Between taxes, health insurance, 401k, I don’t take home shit. And I’ve had to pay the last couple years. So I’ll say, where is my money going? But I know. Government programs, social security. We’re just bitching. Plus, she was a stripper so she’s not used to paying taxes on everything she makes. no one reports all their tips. Add to that taxes on the money she’s making now must be mindblowing.

    • Originaltessa says:

      I don’t want to be part of a society that doesn’t question where their tax dollars are going…

    • ValiantlyVarnished says:

      Most Americans don’t know where there tax dollars go. It’s not like you get an end of year summary telling you where every dollar you paid went.

      • Hummus says:

        That’s funny you say that, in Australia you actually do get a breakdown of what your taxes contributed to eg schooling, transport etc

    • Wren says:

      I don’t know where my tax dollars go. I mean, I do have SOME idea, but knowing exactly where they’re going and what they’re being spent on? No. I don’t. I know what the government says they’re being spent on, but I’ve worked in government institutions. It’s not the brisk efficiency and effective resource allocation that we’d all hope for. Portions of tax dollars get funneled to specific projects, and those are the ones they tell you about, such as the “your tax dollars at work” signs alongside a road improvement project. I also know that there’s often a “general fund”, often quite large, that you have no freaking idea what that is being spent on. Often the government employees doesn’t know either. Usually unnecessary, inefficient bureaucracy, but you don’t know.

  5. Leviathan says:

    I always wondered what the philosophical differences were between Bloods and Crips.

  6. Clare says:

    I’m not quite grasping how this works…she is still in a gang? And has people ‘above’ her, so she has to do as she is told by them? How is she allowed to be this critical?

    I know I’m coming from a place of extreme ignorance and privilege, but genuinely looking to be educated about this; I know I can google it, but there is so much hateful shit out there.

    • Alix says:

      I’d be surprised if the finer details of gang membership were spelled out on a site you could Google.

      And FWIW, there’s nothing wrong with being ignorant about how gangs work; most people are.

    • Domino says:

      My thought was – gangs have been around for forever. Like the mafia. if you are a low level person – you can do stuff for the mafia and pledge loyalty but you are not in the know, you don’t have reports or aren’t doing major crime? And if you never get ‘made’ as a Blood, maybe you stay familiar, but they let you go? Or someone else who Cardi stripped for told the bloods to leave her alone because she was earning well as a stripper.

      Now that she’s famous I see her as what Sinatra was to the mafia – the bloods claim her and she them, but that is it.

      • Domino says:

        There was a really good slate series between Patrick Radden Keefe and an economist at U of Chicago about gangs in the US and how they span through every ethnicity but somehow we demonize black and brown Americans the most for any involvement.

        The economist from U of Chicago – I think his name starts with an S – has been saying for years gangs make less than minimum wage, and die early, but as someone said above, if companies don’t hire you, or build in your neighborhood because of racial prejudice, or because the neighborhood forces you to join, what choice do you really have?

      • Alix says:

        Sinatra and the mob — perfect comparison!

  7. Shannon says:

    I like her, and she does make a good argument here (not that I’m thinking of joining again, but I mean for kids). But I don’t find her super “quotable.” She tends to ramble – I get it, I do too. But that’s a lot of stuff to read through that could have been more concise. That’s not an insult to her, I just don’t get the continued narrative about how quotable she is. But I do like her – she’s funny and smart.

    • Sarah754 says:

      I think they’re referring to the topics she brings up, which can be quoted to generate headlines and clicks, not that she’s the next Shakespeare:)

      • Shannon says:

        Gotcha, and that’s definitely a fair point. I love reading what she has to say; she’s pretty fascinating.

  8. sunnydaze says:

    I’m actually really into this. Scaring people and fear mongering doesn’t work for the majority of people. And she really is playing to a huge reason why many people do join (obviously there are other more insidious reasons). Hearing the “war stories” of initiation beatings, the violence, etc. I think just further sensationalizes gang activity for a lot of people, but breaking it down in a really practical way – from a financial and time perspective – is smart if only because it’s a different message than most people get. And it wasn’t signing that music deal that got her out of it, it was dancing, so it’s not even the Cinderella story a lot of people cling to when they think about gangs. I’m not a fan of her music, but I do respect the hustle and her candidness.

    • Wren says:

      I found it a surprisingly down to earth assessment and argument against joining a gang. You’re right, scare tactics don’t work. They don’t counteract the allure of mystique, of belonging, of the “glories” of such activities. You don’t counter that with threats of danger. Thing is, young people like danger, or at least being associated with danger. A better deterrent is that it’s boring. It’s tedious. You don’t actually get much of a reward. You can’t truly move up or move on. The way Cardi describes it, it’s not much better or different than being beholden to some mind numbing shift job, except you don’t get paid.

  9. Tan says:

    Or just say, don’t join a Gang.

    She does ramble a lot

    • KL says:

      So don’t read it. Plenty of others are interested in what she has to say.

    • NameChange says:

      And she’s still repping/glorifying them in her music. I guess I just don’t get the Cardi B love.

    • ValiantlyVarnished says:

      That’s about as useless and pointless as saying “Just say no”. How has that worked out for the opiod crisis in this country??

    • Menlisa says:

      Telling kids to simply not do something will make them do it. Her giving them reasons as to why to not join a gang will make them pause and rethink.
      Good for her for sending out this message.

  10. Muprhy says:

    So is she still in it? How can she talk like this and not be worried about retaliation? I’m sure she has 24/7 security but still, sounds dangerous.

  11. Victoria says:

    She checks in with her gang because she’s used to it? That makes no sense.

    • ValiantlyVarnished says:

      She said she checks in because she HAS to. She clearly stated that no matter what you have going on they expect you to check in.

      • Erinn says:

        No she didn’t.

        “I don’t even got to keep up communications. I keep communication because I’m used to it.”

        She’s saying she doesn’t HAVE to keep up communications, but she does anyway. It’s a routine she’s used to – and honestly, I’m sure she’s probably bonded with at least a few of these people.

      • ValiantlyVarnished says:

        “It’s like almost like renewing your license.“
        “And then you can never leave it. Sometimes these people are gonna expect you to be at meetings when you have a job. You gotta be at work till 9:30 p.m., and you cannot go to a powwow because you at work. How you tell that to people?“

        So perhaps she in contradicting herself a bit here. But more likely she does in fact have to check in periodically but doesn’t mind doing so.

  12. Parigo says:

    Can someone explain what “pop off” means? I looked it up in urban dictionary and I’m still not sure.

    • mtam says:

      For me it read like “partying” maybe? ‘Cause then she goes on to say they liked that she “got it poppin'” so either it’s she’s great at getting things hyped, which could mean celebration, but it could also mean riling up for a fight. So, not sure, but I think she meant she’s fun to be around so they invited her to join.

    • Littlestar says:

      “Popping off” means like happening or going on. A party can be “poppin” or “popping off” as in boisterous and in the full swing of celebration. Or you can say “stuff started popping off” as in an event or events began a dramatic or extreme way; example “they were arguing and then stuff started popping off!” You can say “she started popping off at the mouth” as in she’s talking sh*t. Again, denotes something happening in a dramatic way.

  13. Eva says:

    I’m sorry but I didn’t understand any of this. Maybe it’s a language barrier because English is not my first language.

    So first she says don’t join a gang, it’s a waste of time, but then she talks about repping and checking in all the time and staying loyal to her gang?

    So she’s still in a gang and talks about how important it is to “check in” even though she says it’s a waste of time?

    What point is she making?

    I think it’s great she’s talking about it though because silence and mystery just makes it more intriguing to some kids.

    • Erinn says:

      I think her point is that looking back, she shouldn’t have done it? And the message that she wants to send to younger kids is that the reasons they think are good for joining one actually aren’t the reality. They might think it’s a route to quick money, and connections – but it’s actually not. And if anything it’s going to tie them down with no benefits to them.

      But it’s kind of too late for her because she already made that choice years ago.

  14. Umyeah says:

    I think this was so important of Cardi. Her gang affiliations have been rumoured for a while and she clearly knows young women look up to her so she made an important statememt. Well done Cardi

  15. Slowsnow says:

    That’s the best argument I ever heard yet for not joining. And yet it’s still not enough. Kids don’t project themselves in situations where they are working or where they’ll be in 10 years time.

    Here in the UK, especially in London, violence is on a high. We’ve had 50 knife murders since February in London, mostly teens and young adults – more than in NY. My son was telling me that now you don’t even have to be in a gang to carry a knife with your friends and look for trouble. Apparently knifing someone is considered the ultimate buzz. He says it’s a sense of belonging and feeling that “someone has your back”. Even if these groups are not gangs, soon enough they’ll be reckless and organised enough to protect themselves from the police at least.

    Society is failing these kids if they feel that they don’t belong and that they are vulnerable.

    • psl says:

      FIFTY? That is insane! And so frightening!!!

      • Slowsnow says:

        Yes. Some of my kid’s acquaintances are part of these groups and I’m really worried. We’ve come to a situation where we have to make an effort not to freeze in fear until they come back home because life must go on and statistically, of course, there are not many chances that something will happen. Also, it’s mainly boys involved in this and therefore teens and young men are starting to be treated immediately like thugs if they dress sporty whit hoodies (which they all do). It’s a bit sad to be a boy nowadays because at the end of the day, women have suffered a lot but we are finally getting a voice. The suicide rate from 17 to 35 year old men is on the rise – and superior to women’s – and no one really talks about this. The only real positive thing is rappers (or grimers as they’re called here) who are starting to be vocal about gang culture and depression.

    • Hikaru says:

      If feelings of not belonging drive men to attack people with knives they have lost any empathy I might have had for them and their feelings. They weren’t “let down” they were built that way. So many girls are actually vulnerable and abused by both their families and their peers but they don’t turn to murder to “get a buzz”.

  16. Snowflake says:

    To me, she’s hard to understand. It’s a word salad, you have to sort through it to get to the good stuff. But I’m glad she says not to join a gang!

  17. Vic says:

    I’m glad she’s being vocal about the gang affiliation and her lessons learned.

    I just wish she didn’t glamorize stripping as much as she does. I do understand that school is not an option for everyone and that stripping is not necesarily a choice for some, but still. Of course, she might have had a positive, empowering experience stripping – I am not discounting it. But it’s not like that for all women in the trade. So, could have been nice to hear some more depth there especially since she’s so well liked among teens.

    • Slowsnow says:

      I think we need to stop looking at this young woman as a role model and a spokesperson for everything, feminism, stripping, rap, gang culture etc. She is probably struggling with all of those things too and developing as life goes – as we all are.
      Compared to being owned by a gang, she resorted to stripping which allowed her to have money independently, with something she knew how to do. I have a hard time with the very idea of stripping but it was her choice in a limited amount of stuff she probably felt she could do. Was it a good choice, why didn’t she work at a till or washing other people’s toilets? I don’t know but she might not have felt like she could do those jobs and wanted to be rich with skills she felt she had: stripping and now rapping. Her choice, her life, her way of getting by.
      Edit: I often think of my daughter, who is a contemporary dancer and what I would think if she told me she stripped for money in order to pursue her studies. I would be scared and sad in all honesty. So I see what you are saying, of course. I just think Cardi B’s story of stripping comes in a very specific context and, being part of a gang, she may even have been more protected than any other girl.

      • Alix says:

        Most people look to ANY celeb as a role model, as it saves them the trouble of thinking for themselves. Won’t stop anytime soon.

    • CN says:

      She doesn’t glamorize stripping at all. She has said that it is a job and that strippers should be respected because they are human beings too and they work hard, but that it is not for everyone. She became a stripper because she got fired from her job as a cashier and had no alternative. She’d been kicked out of home and was living in her boyfriend’s mother’s house which she hated. She didn’t even tell her mom what she was doing because she was ashamed.

      The person who fired her told her that she was pretty enough and that she should go to the strip joint across the road and work there. She did that and discovered that she could make lots more money than she would have at a regular job. She then made a plan to save, get her own place and start a business so she could leave stripping by the age of 25. Luckily for her, she found an audience on Instagram, which then led to tv, which then led to music and she was able to get out well before then. All she’s doing is telling her story.

      • Slowsnow says:

        “All she’s doing is telling her story.” Yes, that’s very typical of rap. Your lyrics are based on your own experience, whatever it is.

  18. Ayra. says:

    I’ve lost friends and family to gang violence, I’ve hung out and gone to school with people that are in gangs.. it’s just senseless.

    Sometimes it can feel like the only alternative, especially if you live in a dangerous place, because being within a gang MIGHT afford your family some sort of security, but it doesn’t afford you any ‘loyalty’ and it should never be considered that. It’s more of a “you do this for me, I do this for you” mentality, it’s just an exchange. A member, no matter how long you’re in it, is expendable. And the deeper you’re in, the harder it is to get out.

  19. FLORC says:

    I love her
    This whole thing. Shes a lot more intelligent than is given credit for. I’m so impressed by her.
    I’m not a fan of her music. It’s fine. Or her clothes. That’s ok too. She is very well spoken. So impressed.

  20. Elisa says:

    I read the actual interview and it made me like her more. She’s an undercover political science geek and knows her Presidents lol. Read the whole thing, you won’t be disappointed. I like the journalist Caity Weaver as well!