By Owen Satran
Rappers have typically chosen names for their children that emphasize their power and individuality in direct, ostentatious ways. Many rap baby names suggest a new generation of deities and royalty: Beyonce and Jay-Z chose Sir, Kanye and Kim Kardashian chose Saint, Lil’ Kim chose Royal Reign, T.I. chose King and Messiah, Nas chose Knight. So when it was announced this morning that rappers Cardi B and Offset chose the name Kulture Kiari Cephus for their new baby girl, it set a new direction.
Kulture is, of course, a truly unique choice, given to no babies on the most recent Social Security list. But the baby’s name references her parents’ originality and individuality. Daddy Offset, who chose the name, is a member of the rap group Migos, whose last two albums were titled Culture and Culture II. Offset’s birth name is Kiari Kendrell Cephus, while Cardi B’s is Belcalis Marlenis Almanazar. Cardi is short for Bacardi, the rapper’s childhood nickname, a play on her sister’s first name Hennessy, as in the cognac.
The meaning of the name Kulture, though, evokes a sentiment that transcends the personal and individual—that of being a part of something as opposed to being apart from everything, of unity rather than distinction, and of sophistication instead of crudity. It’s a different kind of aspirational name, one that seeks to be inclusive, fitting in the context of Cardi B’s high profile rise from stripper to superstar and very public pregnancy as a woman in a male-dominated field.
The culture is, in this context, hip-hop and urban youth culture, and Cardi B’s child has been a part of that culture since before birth. The new mother’s meteoric rise culminated in a platinum album, Invasion of Privacy, released the same weekend that she announced her pregnancy in a performance on Saturday Night Live. The image of a highly popular performer on stage, visibly pregnant, and rapping not as a visitor in rap culture but as an integral and natural part of it was undeniably powerful.
Cardi B followed the lead of Beyoncé’s pregnant stage reveals and performances, but the Queen B has always been more of a pop star than rap star, and she was an established star with several successful solo albums to her name before she was pregnant. Cardi B’s reveal was something different because she’s always been a rapper first and foremost. In this context, with a rapper expressing her femininity so publicly on the brink of superstardom, the baby herself becomes an important element in the evolution of hiphop culture.