By Terrance Turner
April 14, 2022
Rapper couple Cardi B and Offset are featured on the cover of this month’s Essence magazine. In the issue, the two open up about their tumultuous four-year marriage and their blended family. (Cardi and Offset have two children together; Offset has three other children from previous relationships.) The entire family came together for the Essence photoshoot; Cardi and Offset’s 7-month-old son Wave makes his first-ever appearance on film.
Cardi, 29, and Offset, 30, first met in January 2017. According to Essence writer Brande Victorian, “After sliding into the DMs of one of Cardi’s friends to let her know he was interested in the budding rapper, Offset invited Cardi to a “Bad and Boujee” dinner he was hosting, to celebrate his rap group’s Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping single of the same name.”
“When my friend told me that he was trying to holler at me, I was like, ‘I’m not trying to deal with no industry rappers, because I already know what type of time they’re on,” Cardi admits to Victorian. “I was scared. I’m a relationship girl.”
But Offset convinced her to go out with him — to Super Bowl LI, no less. (The Atlanta Falcons were playing the Patriots; Offset is from Atlanta.) “I was thinking, ‘Let me go big, man,'” he recalls to Essence. “It was a vibe.” The two hit it off, and the vibes continued throughout the spring and summer.
On September 20, 2017, Offset and Cardi made the relationship official when they got married — after all of seven months. The nuptials took place in the bedroom of his Atlanta home — on what was something of a dare. “We were making out and he was like, ‘You’re going to have my baby one day,’ and I was like, ‘We ain’t having no baby. You have to marry me,’ and he was like, ‘Alright, let’s get married,’” Cardi recalls.
The moment of passion took a left turn when the couple got into an argument—one that Cardi thought would mean the end of their relationship. So she decided to test Offset’s sincerity. “I was like, ‘Let’s just get married then. You said you wanted to marry me.’ And we did.”
“After we got married, that’s when I first met his kids,” Cardi tells Essence. Offset already had three children: his son Jordan, who is now 12, and two seven-year-olds — son Kody and daughter Kalea. (They are not twins.) The children warmed to Cardi, which was gratifying. “I always wanted them to love me,” she says, “and they really do. They tell me that. I feel it, and I hope that we always have a great relationship.”
Seven months later, Cardi B announced that she was pregnant. During a performance on “Saturday Night Live”, she revealed that she and Offset were expecting their first child together. Her single “Bodak Yellow” had just hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts; she was hard at work on her debut album. “I was really nervous because everybody around me was nervous,” she says. “People who work in the industry said that nothing like this had really happened before, when somebody was at the height of their career and they got pregnant.”
Cardi leaned on her new husband during that time of uncertainty. “He kept telling me, ‘Trust me. It’s going to be alright. You’re huge. Everybody loves you. People are going to understand.’ And I just kept telling myself, I have to put out my album before I get big and I can’t do these music videos. I can’t let everybody in the industry that believes in me down.”
The hard work paid off. In April 2018, Invasion of Privacy debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, selling over 200,000 copies in its first week. The album eventually went multiplatinum, and the single “I Like It” also went to No. 1, making Cardi the first female rapper to have two number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100.
On July 10, 2018, Cardi gave birth to the couple’s daughter Kulture. “I never had this feeling before,” she tweeted nine days later. “I’m in love and it feels like my heart is melting.” She tells Essence now, “When I first got pregnant, a lot of people used to be on some ‘You’re a fourth baby mom’ sh-t. But when I had my baby, I felt like things were going to be alright, because I know the type of man that he is with his kids. It’s hard for me to explain, but I see how much he loves his kids and how passionate he is about his kids, and I love that.”
But within months of her daughter’s birth, Cardi’s marriage was on the rocks.
In December 2018, Cardi shocked fans with a video announcement. “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, [and] we got a lot of love for each other, but…things just haven’t been working out between us for a long time,” she said in an Instagram video. “It’s nobody fault — and I guess we just grew out of love — but we’re not together anymore. I don’t know; it might take time to get a divorce, [but] I’m always gonna have a lot of love for him, because he is my daughter’s father,” she said.
As rumors of his infidelity spread, Offset begged Cardi to take him back. In December, he apologized (via Instagram, of course): “I want to apologize to you Cardi. I embarrassed you. I made you go crazy, doing things I ain’t have no business,” he said. “I was partaking in activity that I shouldn’t have been partaking in, and I apologize […] For breaking your heart, for breaking our promise, for breaking God’s promise and being a selfish, messed-up husband.”
He even showed up during her set at the Rolling Loud music festival that month. Offset crashed his wife’s performance onstage, bringing her an elaborate flower arrangement and signs that said “TAKE ME BACK CARDI”. Cardi shook her head no and confronted him off-mic before having the display removed. She told Harper’s Bazaar that Offset asked her to see a marriage counselor; she refused. “I didn’t want to go to marriage counseling. He suggested it, but it’s like, ‘I don’t want to go.’ There’s no counselor or nothing that could make me change my mind.”
Eventually, the ice began to thaw. In December, photos of the two on a jetski in Puerto Rico made headlines, sparking speculation that they were back together. Cardi denied the rumors in an Instagram video, saying that the reunion had been purely physical: “I just had to get f–ked. That’s all,” she said. But by early 2019, Cardi told an Entertainment Tonight reporter, “We’re working it out…taking it slow.”
On Feb. 10, 2019, Offset accompanied Cardi on the red carpet at the Grammys. In fact, Cardi even brought him onstage with her after her surprise win for Best Rap Album. (She is the first solo female rapper to win that award, per Elle.) Shocked and emotional, Cardi thanked both her husband and daughter during her acceptance speech.
Cardi later opened up to Vogue about her decision to stay. “Everybody has issues,” Cardi said. “I believe in forgiveness. I prayed on it. Me and my husband, we prayed on it. We had priests come to us. And we just came to an understanding like: Bro, it’s really us against the world. He has my back for everything, I have his back for everything, so when you cheat, you’re betraying the person that has your back the most,” she continued. “Why would you do that? We have come to a clear understanding. For me, monogamy is the only way. I’ll beat your ass if you cheat on me.”
There were still more rocky times ahead; Cardi filed for divorce from Offset in September 2020, only to reconcile with him in early November. But the pair have enjoyed a relative peace since then. Each of them have managed to balance family time with hectic work schedules; Offset’s recording a second solo album; Cardi’s also working on new music. (Tonight she teamed up with fellow Bronx rappers Kay Flock and Dougie B for a new song called “Shake It“. It’s an example of what Complex refers to as the “drill scene” — a style of trap muic marked by gritty, violent lyrics about street life.)
Looking back, Cardi feels that their busy schedules caued friction early on in their relationship. “I feel like our first year, even though we were in love with each other, we had a lot of lust,” Cardi says today. “We didn’t really know each other like that, because he was doing four shows a week. I was doing four shows a week. We would see each other about three or four times a month.”
Now, the two focus on family, but give each other permission to pursue professional goals. “It might sound weird, but we don’t always put love first—because sometimes you can put love before work and mess up your career, because you’re not focused,” Offset says. “Love is important, but if you’ve got that foundation, we should respect each other and what we have going on. I had never experienced a woman that was working like me and doing what I’m doing. It turns me on. She does her own thing. She likes the hustle, so that ain’t never getting in between our love.”
At the same time, Offset wants to make sure Cardi isn’t being hustled. That’s why he’s asked to review business contracts that Cardi signs. “From the beginning, I remember he used to ask to see my contracts, and I would be like, ‘Boy, I don’t know you like that,’” Cardi says. “But when I started letting him in on more things, I started seeing things differently. People have cut me short a lot, and ever since I have involved him in my business, I’ve been doing so much better.”
Offset explains: “I just want to make sure the family’s straight. We have children together. We have family behind us. They’re depending on us. The industry, it’s a little slick. You’ve got to have your eyes open—and I’ve been in it a little longer, so I know how things can be. I just want to make sure the business is correct.”
And Cardi’s still making money moves.