Each artist had their own draw of fans that came out just for them but Cardi was easily the most anticipated -- and she had the confidence of someone who knew it. The leader of Bardi Gang came out on the back of an ATV, dressed in vibrant yellow, rapping the lyrics to Invasion of Privacy opener “Get Up 10.” In response to her fiery entrance, the crowd hollered their approval. She was jovial, charming and personable -- the same Cardi we’ve seen on social media for years now, even while spitting her most cutthroat lyrics.
Throughout her set, she talked directly to the people from the boroughs and beyond, making references to “bougie-acting bitches” who still frequent hood spots like Kennedy Fried Chicken, indigenous to NYC. After a high-octane performance of her most recent single “Press” -- which much of the crowd surprisingly recited in full -- she started a roll call for the tri-state area. “Is Jersey in the building?,” she shouted. Then after a light cheer from the audience, she smirked, “That’s nice.” She followed up with New York, the Bronx and Brooklyn, the latter garnering an uproar, then she snarkily responded, “Scammin’ ass n---as,” and laughed along with the crowd.
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We also saw Cardi share her set generously, doling out stage time to a number of other artists, lending to the tradition of creating Summer Jam moments. She brought out Pardison Fontaine for “Backin’ It Up,” playing the background and even offering adlibs cloaked in an exaggerated uptown NYC accent (“Fuck you mean, ‘relax,’ n---a?”). She welcomed Yung Miami of City Girls to the stage to perform “Twerk” and sunk down to gyrate for a few beats. Blueface joined her to run “Thotiana,” and of course her husband Offset linked with her onstage for a quick performance of Father of 4 single “Clout.”
Between tracks, Cardi asked her crew, “Where my cowboy hat? Where’s mine at?” Concertgoers were trying to figure out which song she could be performing next where she’d need a cowboy hat. Before we could put too much thought into it, she was introducing Billy Ray Cyrus, Lil Nas X and their smash remix of “Old Town Road” to the hordes of Summer Jam attendees. The crowd’s roar came in waves, starting from the upper sections to the floor below.
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“Hat down, cross town, livin’ like a rock star... Spent a lot of money on my brand new guitar...” Cyrus warbled while plucking at his guitar, standing still in the spotlight. Lil Nas X marched back and forth across the stage, jumping in and out of the song as tens of thousands of hip-hop fans rhythmically bobbed around in the crowd. “I ain’t never rode a horse but I rode a black man...,” Cardi quipped after, without missing a beat. This pop-up performance was undoubtedly the gem of her set.
Cardi B is just checking the boxes off: hit singles, collaborations, strong followings on and off-line, a Grammy with her first album and now a Summer Jam headlining moment to boot. She knows she’s winning now, but she’s always prepared to look back for a second -- on Sunday night, Cardi B ended her set with breakout Hot 100-topper “Bodak Yellow.” Makes sense. “This song right here?,” she started. “It paid all my family’s bills, bitch.”