It’s hard to believe, but it’s only been one calendar year since Cardi B made her Grammys red carpet debut, telling E! News’ very own Giuliana Rancic that she had butterflies in both her stomach and vagina.
And in the 12 months that have transpired since Cardi went from Grammy novice to one of the most nominated women at this year’s ceremony—trailing Brandi Carlile by only one, she’s tied with Lady Gaga, Maren Morris, and H.E.R. at five nominations—a lot has happened for the currently reigning queen of rap.
Think about it. Back when she made her debut on the Grammys stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. on January 28, joining Bruno Mars for their just-released remix of the future-smash hit “Finesse,” she was (as far as we knew) simply the fiancée of Migos’ Offset with a handful of hit singles released—including the record-smashing hit “Bodak Yellow”—and a make-or-break debut album on the way. Though the pressure was mounting, the fact that she’d become the first woman to have five top 10 singles simultaneously on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart was certainly a sign of things to come.
Namely, a year of pure insanity.
While leading into the 2018 Grammys, Cardi (real name Belcalis Almanzar) and Offset (both Kiari Cephus) were dealing with rumors that he’d cheated on her when an alleged video of what appeared to be the Migos rapper with another naked woman in a hotel surfaced—rumors that would rear their ugly head again nearly a full year later—by February, they were dealing with rumors of an entirely different kind.
When an internet troll commented on a since-deleted Instagram post of Cardi featuring a video of her lip-syncing and dancing to a remix of “Ahora Dice,” asking her to share her “secret”—a thinly-veiled reference to a possible baby-bump stomach—and TMZ reported that her team had been telling people she was pregnant, the rapper fired back, saying “No bitch I’m just getting fat. Let me fat in peace.”
A month later, while gracing the cover of Cosmopolitan‘s April 2018 issue, she’d open up about her decision to stay with Offset, which fans were still giving her grief about. “It’s like everybody is coming down my neck,” she told the magazine, “like, ‘Why are you not leaving him? You have low self-esteem.’ I don’t have low self-esteem. Bitch, I know I look good. I know I’m rich, I know I’m talented. I know I could get any man I want—any basketball player, football player. But I want to work out my s–t with my man, and I don’t got to explain why. I’m not your property. This is my life.”
While she stood by her man, she went on to make it very clear that there would be no second chances when she released her upcoming album’s third single “Be Careful” a week prior to the album drop. As she warned in the track’s chorus, “Be careful with me/do you know what you doin’?/Whose feelings that you hurtin’ and bruisin’?/You gon’ gain the whole world/But is it worth the girl that you’re losin’?”
On April 6, 2018, Invasion of Privacy debuted, entering the charts at No. 1 in the United States, making Cardi the first female artist to chart 13 entries simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100. And a day after the release, during her first appearance as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, she revealed exactly why she was so intent on working things out with Offset as she confirmed the pregnancy rumors she’d been dodging for months. Taking to the stage in Studio 8H to perform “Be Careful,” Cardi rocked a white gown that more than showed off her unavoidable baby bump.
Cardi followed up SNL with two weekends of raucous sets at Coachella, proving that pregnant women can still twerk with the best of them, and a month later, she and her bump attended her very first Met Gala, dressed in a Moschino gown designed by Jeremy Scott, whom she walked the white carpet with. Baby daddy Offset was also on hand, though he and his Migos amigos walked separately, sporting Versace suits. While inside, Cardi was photographed in what appeared to be a peace-making moment with her reported rival Nicki Minaj.
In an appearance on Howard Stern‘s Sirius XM radio show two days after the Gala, Cardi admitted that there was never a feud between the two, “there was a misunderstanding,” and she felt it was important to iron out the wrinkles in person, rather than let it play out in the press.
“I spoke to her at the Met Gala about it, and it’s just like, see? It’s just something that had to be talked about because it was an issue,” she told Stern, though when pressed about the root of the problem, Cardi wouldn’t spill any details. “I’m not gonna talk about it, but I really feel a certain type of way,” she added. “My feelings was really hurt, and I was just on some, ‘You know what? This is why I just keep to myself. This is why I cannot f–k with nobody.'”
As spring gave way to summer, things would kick into overdrive for Cardi. After sharing Rolling Stone‘s June cover with the man we all believed to be merely her fiance, Cardi would admit on Twitter on June 25 that she and Offset had, in fact, been married since before his public proposal, explaining in a Notes App message to fans that “one morning in September we woke up and decided to get married…with no dress no make up and no ring!”
“Well now since you lil nosey f–ks know, at least you can stop saying I had a baby out of wedlock,” she concluded the message.
On July 7, “I Like It,” Cardi’s fifth single from Invasion of Privacy, featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin, would make its way to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first female rapper to ever have pulled off that feat. But that bit of music history would pale in comparison to the events of just three days later. On July 10, Cardi and Offset officially became parents when baby girl Kulture Kiari Cephus arrived in the world.
“Thank you everybody for the congrats we really appreciated. Thank you to family and friends that’s been hitting me up checking on me. It’s been a little hard for me to reply back cause this mommy job requires full day, all day, all night attention,” she shared on Instagram days after the birth. “I love you guys. Thanking all my fans as well for the love and support. I love you guys!! I’ll try to post more often.”
While Kulture’s arrival was nothing less than pure gift for Cardi, new motherhood certainly threw the rapper for a loop. Not only did she begin to speak often, and with her trademark hilarious candor, about the ways in which her body was recovering—or not—from childbirth, but she also, for the first time in her career, made a decision to put her red-hot career on a bit of a back-burner.
With the September start date for her string of appearances in the final leg of Mars’ 24k Magic World Tour looming, Cardi made the difficult decision to walk away from the opportunity, leaving everyone stunned. “I thought that after giving birth to my daughter, that six weeks would be enough time for me to recover mentally and physically,” she wrote on Instagram. “I also thought that I’d be able to bring her with me on tour, but I think I underestimated this whole mommy thing. Not only am I just not ready physically, I’m not ready to leave my baby behind since the doctors explained it’s not healthy for her to be on the road. “
Mars responded on his own Instagram, making it clear that there were no hard feelings. “Most important thing is for you and your family’s health,” he wrote. “I know the fans will understand. You are absolutely doing the right thing.”
Cardi would wait to make her first major appearance following Kulture’s birth on August 20 at the MTV Video Music Awards where, with 12 nominations, she was the most nominated artist. After opening the show cradling what appeared to be a baby wrapped in a blanket, but was revealed to be one of the iconic moon man trophies, she wound up taking home three awards, tied with Childish Gambino for most won.
A few weeks later, Cardi would make headlines again as both she and Minaj attended the Harper’s Bazaar ICONS Bash during September’s New York Fashion Week when she tracked the Queen rapper down, lunged at her, and threw a shoe. “It was so fast!” an eyewitness told E! News of the incident, which was caught on camera. “I heard someone screaming—everyone recognized Cardi’s voice—people either got out of the way or took out their phones and started filming. Nicki was surrounded by a bunch of guards and barely even looked at her. Next thing you know, shoes were flying and Cardi was on her way out.”
Cardi would later chalk her inspiration behind her actions up to Minaj allegedly mentioning Kulture and liking social media posts that were critical of the former’s mothering skills, claims Minaj would deny on her Queen Radio show. A month later, tensions were still running high as Minaj was blamed for leaking Cardi’s phone number, something Minaj also flatly denied on Queen Radio. And that denial, in turn, prompted a series of scathing Instagram videos from Cardi in which she labeled Minaj a liar and told her to decide whether she’s “the victim” or “the gangster.”
A day later, Minaj seemingly called a truce on Twitter, saying she “won’t be discussing this nonsense anymore” and encouraging her fans to “focus on positive things only from here on out.” Cardi shared the tweet on Instagram, writing to Minaj, “Alright then! Let’s keep it positive and keep it pushing!” And the truce seemed to have stuck, which is a good thing because Cardi was about to be thrown for quite a few loops elsewhere in her personal life.
First came the allegation that Cardi had ordered people to attack two female bartenders at a Flushing strip club in August. Per a TMZ report, she allegedly believed one of the women was involved with Offset. The New York Police Department confirmed to E! News that Cardi was charged with reckless endangerment in the second degree and assault in the third degree from one complainant and reckless endangerment in the second degree from a second complainant. As a result, Cardi surrendered herself to police in the 109th precinct in Queens on October 1, where she was fingerprinted, booked and had her photo taken.
Two days before she had her day in court, she stunned fans the world over when she took to Instagram on December 5 to break the news that she and Offset were no longer together.
“So everybody been bugging me and everything and you know, I’ve been trying to work things out with my baby father for a hot minute now and we’re really good friends and you know we’re really good business partners,” she explained in the shocking video. “He’s always somebody that I run to to talk to and we got a lot of love for each other but things just haven’t been working out between us for a long time and it’s nobody’s fault.”
“I guess we grew out of love, but we’re not together anymore,” she continued. “I don’t know. It might take time to get a divorce and I’m gonna always have a lot of love for him because he is my daughter’s father and yah.”
With a bench warrant out for her arrest after missing her previously scheduled court date, Cardi showed up to court on Dec. 7—at roughly the very same moment her five Grammy nominations were announced. In fact, she found out about the nods as she was exiting the courthouse, released on her own recognizance.
“This is not How expected to find out I’m nominated for a Grammy,” she captioned a tweet containing the video capturing the exact moment the press informed her of the good news. “I need a do over.”
With Cardi not due back in court until Jan. 31, her attention turned to Offset, who began an aggressive charm offensive to try and win her back. As reports of Offset’s cheating ways continued to circulate, he pleaded with her over social media to get back together with him before surprising her on stage in Los Angeles on December 15 during a performance with an elaborate floral arrangement that read “TAKE ME BACK, CARDI.” Suffice to say, it did not go over well and he and his flowers were quickly removed from the stage.
“All of my wrongs have been made public, i figure It’s only right that my apologies are made public too,” Offset would explain on Twitter the next day. “A n—a was just trying …..thank god I ain’t got no balloons sheeesh”
As the year neared its end, the couple would reunite for a vacation in Puerto Rico, with Cardi later revealing the motivation behind the reunion during an Instagram Live video. “I just had to get f–ked. That’s all,” she admitted. By her next court date, she would tell a reporter who asked if she and Offset were back together for good, “Working things out, baby.”
“A divorce isn’t on Cardi’s mind anymore,” an insider told E! News at the end of January. “She has been focusing more on how they are going to work this out. The negativity of their relationship has blown over and she’s staying positive that it will work.”
The source added, “Cardi is keeping a close eye on him and has expressed if he slips up again, she’s done.”
With several major career moments in the works after Sunday’s ceremony—there’s her upcoming Netflix music competition show Rhythym + Flow on the way, as well as a Las Vegas residency and the all-important sophomore album—and her relationship with Offset seemingly on the mend—the couple spent Super Bowl weekend together in Offset’s hometown of Atlanta—here’s hoping that by the time Cardi’s preparing for the 2020 Grammys, she can look back on a year that was a little calmer than the one that preceded it. She deserves it.
To see if Cardi leaves the Staples Center with her first Grammy win, be sure to tune in when the 61st Grammy Awards are broadcast live on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS.