Cardi B says it best: “I’m just a regular degular shmegular girl from the Bronx.”
Before Cardi B was a Grammy-winning rapper, she was known simply as Belcalis Almanzar, a music-loving New Yorker making “money moves.”
Cardi was born on Oct. 11, 1992, in Washington Heights. Not long thereafter, she moved to Highbridge, in the Bronx, which often gets cameo mentions in her hits and interviews. After becoming the first rapper to have three songs break the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 list in January 2018, the artist credited her “hood” for helping her develop the thick skin needed to thrive in the entertainment industry.
“I have 100 percent Bronx pride, like it’s a country, like I am the Bronx,” Cardi B tells Billboard.
The 26-year-old has lived in the Bronx for most of her life, though she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, with husband Offset in 2018 to raise her daughter, Kulture Kiari Cephus. Still, her hometown is her “happy place.” It’s where she performed Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” for a high school talent show, earned her first paycheck, wrote her first songs and ate the best meal she’s ever eaten. Here are the NYC spots that mean the most to Cardi B.
For more Bronx pride, check out Jennifer Lopez’s New York City.
Cardi B’s parents raised the hip-hop artist and her younger sister Hennessy in Highbridge, off 167th Street. “It’s a great experience," she tells I-D Magazine of her life growing up in the South Bronx. "I wouldn’t be able to rap about the things that I rap about now [if I hadn’t grown up there]."
Her circumstances helped her grow a thick skin at a young age. “I had to toughen up when we moved to the Bronx in the sixth grade, because if you don’t then people will pick on you,” she says, recalling being bullied by her grade school peers and made fun of for her outfit choice (“pink skirts, jackets with fur on the sleeves”).
2. Washington Heights
When not in the Bronx, Cardi says she spent a lot of time growing up with her 36 cousins at her grandmother’s Washington Heights residence.
3. P.S. 128 Audubon
The “Invasion of Privacy” artist attended first through third grade at the Washington Heights institution, which specializes in serving immigrant families. Cardi paid a surprise visit to the school, at 560 W. 169th St., last November — even snapping a selfie with her former first-grade teacher — in the midst of a crowd of excited children.
Cardi has previously stated her negative experiences while in public school, from being jumped in middle school to gang affiliations later on. “It really, really did change me,” the “Money” rapper says. “In middle school and high school, it doesn’t matter how tough you are, or it doesn’t matter if you stand for [expletive], you ain’t nobody if you ain’t in a gang.”
4. Renaissance High School for Musical Theater and Technology on Tremont Avenue
While attending high school, Cardi B was regularly cast in musicals only to be kicked out of them due to bad grades. Cardi has said that she would consistently choose social life over school, spending her time at parties in a classmate’s empty apartment during school hours. Since her mother wouldn’t allow her to go out at night, Cardi had her fun during the day, she tells The FADER.
She performed Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” at a talent show in high school, a video that ended up going viral with Mother Monster retweeting it herself. In January, the rap star posted the video on Twitter writing, “Ten year challenge I was still in Highschool.”
5. Borough of Manhattan Community College
Before becoming a Grammy-winning rapper, Cardi B dreamed of being a history teacher. After a few semesters studying history and French, Cardi decided that school wasn’t for her and eventually dropped out.
"Maybe when I’m older I’ll have the time to go to college. Why not?" the Bronx rapper tells The Red Bulletin in the February 2019 issue. "It’s never too late to make your dreams come true. Sometimes it’s just a matter of juggling things to create the right atmosphere and the perfect conditions."
6. Amish Market Tribeca
Cardi B’s rebellious behavior and lack of interest in school led to her being kicked out of her home as a teen, she says. To support herself, she worked at Amish Market in TriBeCa as a full-time cashier. Located at 53 Park Place, this was the last job she held before she turned to stripping at 19, after she was fired from the market for giving a co-worker a large discount.
“I was working all week [at the market] and I still was making only, like, 250 [expletive] dollars,” she tells The FADER.
7. New York Dolls Gentlemen’s Club
One of the managers of the Amish Market suggested she apply to a strip club across the street. “He was like, ‘You’re so pretty, you got a nice body,’” she says. “He told me to go across the street to New York Dolls, the strip club. That’s when I started stripping.”
She says she made $800 in her first three hours. The “I Like It” singer later revealed that she saved up money from stripping to launch her music career and release her own mixtape.
In a 2016 interview with Khloe Kardashian, Cardi explains that she told her mom she was baby-sitting while she was stripping. "I said, ‘mom, these white people are so rich, and they just want me to take care of their kids," the rapper says. "They’re like 8 and 9 and I help them with their homework, and they pay me like $100 a day.’ And she was like: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s amazing.’"
8. Jenny’s Spa (Nails on 7th)
Jenny Bui, 49, owns the Bronx salon that’s become Cardi’s favorite source for her now infamous 4-and-a-half inch long Swarovski-encrusted nails. According to Bui, when Cardi pledged her loyalty to the spa five years ago, business started booming in the once quaint salon at 305 E. Fordham Road.
After Cardi began posting pictures of her nails on Instagram, Bui gained an international following. Customers have traveled from Australia, the U.K. and Antigua for the blinged-out claws. The rapper pays Bui a visit every month, the artist says, only flying out her favorite manicurist to Los Angeles and Georgia for select events.
Bui recently did Cardi’s nails for the Grammys. The nails — which included almost 200 Swarovski crystals — took six and a half hours to complete.
“She treats me like I’m a special person, like I’m not just a nail tech,” Bui tells Cosmopolitan. “I look at her like she’s my daughter, and she looks at me like I’m her auntie.”
9. Philippe Chow
In a since-deleted Instagram post, Cardi proclaimed this celebrity hot spot is her “favorite restaurant in the world." Located on Fifth and Madison Avenues, the upscale spot serves Beijing-style cuisine. Philippe Chow recently opened a second location in the Meatpacking district.
10. The 6 train
Cardi had a “Bronx fairytale”-themed baby shower last June for her daughter Kulture, which included a pink 6 train and a “Bardi Baby Bodega” filled with baby bottles and diapers swaddled in pink ribbon.
According to Vogue, the shower also featured a bright-pink Bardi Baby Book Library stocked with Latina and African-American children’s books. Also on the agenda were performances by hip-hop orchestra group Orchestra Noir as well as the Ballethnic Dance Company.
Cardi attributes never learning to drive to being a product of the city. "How do you expect me to know how to drive when I’ve taken the train my whole life?" the rapper says in an Instagram Live selfie.