Bhad Bhabie owes Cardi B a really, really big fruit basket. A year ago, Cardi was a reality-TV star and Instagram personality, a former stripper with a loud voice and a fun social-media presence and slightly dubious aspirations to start a rap career. Today, she’s got the #1 song in the country. That means that she’s completely realigned all expectations for the musical careers of people who did not come into the public eye as musicians. As celebrity rap vanity projects go, it used to be that the absolute ceiling, the best you could ever hope to do, was early-’90s Shaquille O’Neal, an omnipresent media presence who went platinum once and gold once by teaming up with some molten-hot rappers (Biggie, Wu-Tang Clan, Fu-Schnickens) and by being one of the most famous people on the planet. But Shaq’s rap career was an instant pop-culture punchline, even though he was never a bad rapper; these days, his rap career is probably best remembered for a drunken freestyle about how his ass tasted. And that was the best-case scenario. But Cardi made one of the hottest and best rap songs of the year, and now everything has changed. And so now a 14-year-old kid, one who got internet-famous for talking shit to Dr. Phil and inadvertently coining a catchphrase, has a legit shot at rap stardom. It’s probably going to work, too, goddammit.
You know who Bhad Bhabie is, even if you don’t know who Bhad Bhabie is. She’s the Cash Me Ousside girl. Last year, a 13-year-old kid named Daniele Bregoli appeared with her mother on a Dr. Phil episode about out-of-control teens. There must be thousands of kids around the country who have appeared on similarly themed episodes of Dr. Phil or Maury or Jerry Springer or any of their ancestors or offshoots over the years. It’s an evergreen topic: The kids come out cussing and chewing gum, and the crowd boos, and the host tuts disapprovingly, and the people watching at home feel slightly better about their own out-of-control kids. But Bregoli broke through in a way that none of the others have, thanks to a weird, awkward little minute-long stretch where she appeared to challenge her mother, or Dr. Phil, or the entire audience to a fight: “Catch me outside! How about that?” In her near-impenetrable Florida twang, that became a viral video, and a catchphrase.
This January, a few months after Bregoli had been on the show, an Atlanta producer named DJ Suede put together a SoundCloud trap banger full of samples of Bregoli, and it made it to #88 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bregoli didn’t have anything to do with that, but she and her mother deserve credit, I guess, for understanding that there was free money out there for the taking. They started printing and selling “Cash Me Ousside How Bow Dah?” T-shirts, and they sued Walmart for selling their own. They made TMZ news when both daughter and mother fought some asshole on a plane, getting banned from Spirit Airlines in the process. Bregoli became an Instagram celebrity, the type who gets money for endorsing things. And she started rapping.
At the end of August, Bregoli, now working under the name Bhad Bhabie, posted her surprisingly ambitious single-take video for “These Heaux,” her debut single. The video has shots at generic studio-gangster rappers and at Kylie Jenner, who Bregoli has made a show of disliking. It’s not a good song, but it’s not really a bad one, either. It’s not entirely clear how much of the song Bregoli actually wrote, but she sells it, hitting the now-standard Migos flow and projecting the same sneery bad-kid attitude that came across in that first Dr. Phil clip. The video racked up a whole ton of YouTube views, and two weeks later, Bregoli signed a deal with Atlantic. That’s Cardi B’s label. They know how to sell someone like this.
So: “Hi Bich.” We’re going to have to deal with “Hi Bich.” Because “Hi Bich” is a banger. The first song that Bregoli released under her new Atlantic deal, “Hi Bich” is a rumbling anthem with a beat from SoundCloud rap producer Ronny J. It’s raw as hell, and it’s less than two minutes long. Its video is frankly incredible: Bregoli sneering at a judge in a court room, or in a wedding dress, sitting in the electric chair, or being pulled in a Porsche by a white horse. It comes packaged with a more conventional rapping-at-the-camera video for another new track called “Whachu Know?” As I’m typing this, the video has 21 million views. By the time you read this, it’ll have more. Both songs are big improvements from “These Heaux” — not because Bregoli actually says anything but because her delivery has become more natural and effortless. She sounds like she’s having fun. She should be having fun. She is now richer than any of us will ever be. And who’s to say she doesn’t deserve it? She’s been growing up in Boynton, Florida, with a single mother who survived breast cancer and an absentee police-officer father. She’s getting rich because she said something funny on TV once. There are lots of shittier reasons to get rich.
What do we value in rappers, anyway? Wordplay is nice. Technical facility and storytelling ability are nice. If you’ve got something meaningful to say, that’s great. But the thing that matters the most is personality, the ability to become larger-than-life at will. That’s how you become a star. It’s why Cardi B is destroying everyone else right now. Bregoli is now on YouTube making fun of all the lesser YouTube stars making fun of her. (On Perez Hilton, witheringly: “No one even reads blogs anymore.” Oh. Um.) She’s got personality She’s embodying a type, the fired-up teenage girls with the elaborate nails and the willingness to start fights at the slightest provocation. I knew girls like this. I went to high school with them. You probably did, too. Most of them ended up pregnant by graduation. That’s not what’s happening with Bregoli. Instead, she is on track to become an actual no-shit rap star. She’s going to be OK. We could do worse.
1. Queen Key – “My Way”
An unalloyed two-minute blast of sheer, overwhelming charisma. Six years after Chief Keef broke out, kids like this are still bursting out of Chicago with lo-res YouTube videos and vast star power. It’s inspiring.
2. YBN Nahmir – “Rubbin Off The Paint”
A 17-year-old Alabama kid with a pink backpack talks wild shit, with no hook, for three minutes. He fills the video up with guns and makes a Rick & Morty joke. Two weeks later, 11 million YouTube views. Rap music really is amazing.
3. WESTSIDEDOOM – “Gorilla Monsoon”
Who even knows what’s going on with DOOM these days, but this, his first team-up with Westside Gunn, is just disgustingly hard.
4. L’Orange – “The Difference” (Feat. Blu & Elzhi)
The Seattle-based beatmaker L’Orange has already made entire albums with Mr. Lif and Kool Keith, and now he’s rounded up two backpack virtuosos for a dusty, shuffling display of raw technique.
5. Asian Doll – “Lame Niggaz”
This Dallas SoundCloud rapper just hijacked a Playboi Carti beat and proved that it’s plenty possible to rap over a Playboi Carti beat.
IT WAS ALL GOOD JUST A WEEK AGO
21 Savage: “do you have any other sign I can hold?”
Amber Rose: “no”
21: “are you sure?”
Amber: “yes” pic.twitter.com/Hszvyj8CPn
— Puneet (@puneetsingh) October 1, 2017