The skyrocketing Puerto Rican artist Villano Antillano is here for the throne. On December 2, she finally released her long-awaited debut album ‘LA SUSTANCIA X,’ and it was worth the wait.
The album blends reggaeton, rap, and electro-pop – and we had the opportunity to get into the nitty gritty about Villana’s creative process.
Not only did she open up to BELatina News about her psychedelic trip that created the powerful mantra song “Mujer” with Puerto Rican artist iLe, but she also spoke to us about its powerful political closing. We also talked about the importance of knowing your worth, and about having to re-educate your elders on what they taught us growing up.
That’s not all we talked about though. Find the conversation below.
The interview was slightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Congrats on your debut album release! How do you feel?
I feel great! I feel like it’s been a long time coming, and I’ve been working on this for a long time. It took what it took, but I’m very proud that we delivered something of such caliber.
How long did the process take you?
I would say, all in all, it was like two-and-a-half years, but there was a lot of work that was put into it. I did a lot of music. I created a lot of music throughout that time, and not everything made the cut. For the concept of the album, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted sonically, visually; the story I wanted to tell. I just kind of took my time with every single track just to produce the highest possible, most perfect record I could. And I think I achieved that, and I think that it’s a very cohesive thing.
I worked with mostly queer people for absolutely everything. I was allowed to explore myself as a producer. I am in absolutely everything on the album. And at the same time, I feel like I’m not. I feel like it’s also just something that’s very queer and belongs to everyone who’s Puerto Rican and queer.
You’re a huge advocate for not only the empowering LGBTQ+ community, but also the sex-positive, sex-curious, and basically liberal feminism. You’re a voice for us. Tell us why it’s so important for your message to be heard.
I feel like just because the music is absolutely excellent and the caliber is there, and as an artist, I personally feel unmatched. I feel like there’s nobody in the game who is actually doing the things that I and other queer artists are doing. And we see now how pop and how Latin Trap – which is the new pop, in my opinion – moving towards a lot of queer aesthetics. But queer people are yet to be in the spotlight or in the spotlight. And I feel like now is the time when that’s happening.
So, I wouldn’t really say that you have to listen to my music to be, like, morally correct or on the right side of history or anything because whatever, [but] I feel like that comes with a package. [So] I cannot escape the fact that my existence is inevitably activism for a lot of people. But I don’t wake up every day and be like, “oh, I’m going to advocate for this.” I’m just trying to live my life and have fun and be young and be successful in what I do. And I think that the music and the product stands for itself and it’s of so much quality and it’s so much excellence, and it’s so next level.
I can go one by one about your tracklist, but for the sake of time, tell us about “Mujer” with iLe.
This is a really interesting story because I wrote this song, or I wrote the chorus for this song sort of like a mantra that I kept repeating to myself on a very powerful mushroom trip. I love psychedelics and I was on shrooms when I was at the beach; I had a very powerful experience and I kept repeating this to myself. I wrote it down, then put my phone away and let the trip take over and have fun and whatnot.
But when I got back home and I revisited that, I really saw the power and the words that I was saying. So around that, I started building the song, and I sort of treated it basically like a mantra at all times that you keep repeating. I knew that it was a very powerful thing. But I also knew that I needed to share that power because I believe that in feminism, there’s definitely, like, strength in numbers.
I needed to ally myself with another Puerto Rican woman who is incredibly respected… and to me, that’s iLe. I wanted to see where she could take it because she had never rapped before on any of her songs – and I feel like she absolutely destroyed it. She did exactly what she had to do, and her voice just really just blended so well with what I wanted to do.
I closed it off with a recording of the protest because, in Puerto Rico we don’t have the right to process – it’s heavily criminalized over here by the government.
In one of the protests – this one was by Colectiva Feminista en Construcción – I remember they were reading the names of women that had been assassinated and how they would never be forgotten. The crowd were saying “presente,” because they are here with us. So, we closed off with that. There were the names of trans women such as Alexa, Penelope Diaz, and others that were femicide victims of notable cases. I felt like that was very important to add there.
It definitely closes off with the power that it needed to. And it reminds us – there’s not a moment in my life where I don’t take into account that my very existence is threatening and I run the risk of being murdered just like anybody else. I’m not exempt from that, so I run the same risk.
Your flow and energy are on different levels. It’s proven on this album which follows the impacting Bizarrap collab. How does it feel to be one of the most anticipated Latina rappers?
It feels wonderful. I’ve just been working for the longest time and I’ve always known that I’m incredibly talented and I’ve always known that I, as a consumer of music and as a person who critiques music as well, I listen to my stuff and I hold myself to a very high standard.
I really had to just focus on that because over here in PR, like with the machismo y como son los raperos, and the way things work over here… Nobody was ever going to give me the time of day, so I just really focused on myself. And people eventually caught on and they were like, “oh, wait a minute, she’s dope.” And at this point, it’s a given. It’s not even up for discussion.
I really do feel psyched that a lot of people are [speculating] because it’s not the first time I hear this about [being a] one-hit-wonder and this confirms that this is not what that was. I never really thought that that was a speculation, but it’s good to know that it’s clear and it’s good to know that then I proved to everyone that that’s not what it is.
The album is club-ready – but it also talks about being confident and not shying away from your power. What do you advise other Latinas who shy away from it?
This is such an important question, and as a Latina – as a Caribbean woman – I feel like there are a lot of categories that I fall into, and before I consider myself a Latina, I consider myself Caribbean… and we are all sort of raised the same way, especially women.
I feel like a lot of women – a lot of Latinas – shy away from their power or even their sexuality, because they raised us that way. They raised us to not question things. They raised us to serve in a lot of ways, and they raised us to be submissive. They taught us that questioning and standing against it is wrong and they will literally beat it out of you, at a very young age. And it happened to me.
I think that as an adult now, and as I look back, I treat things with a lot of compassion. I am in the process of re-educating my mother, my grandmothers, and teaching them that they too, need to let go of a lot of things that were taught to them so that they discover things about themselves that they still don’t know because of their generation and the way they lived.
I feel like we need to move forward with a lot of security and assertiveness because we’re not going back, but we also need to do it with a little bit of compassion and maybe not hold it so much against our parents. I feel like my mom did the best she could. She definitely wasn’t ready to have a trans daughter, and she f*cked up in a lot of ways, but she eventually got it. It clicked. And it was also my life’s mission as her daughter to teach her that.
I wholeheartedly believe that I came to break a lot of generational curses; a lot of generational things that were in place in the family. I feel like we all need to collectively do that and stand up firmly with respect, knowing that the world has changed and that everyone needs to be in tune with that.
Not only educating our mothers and our grandmothers but also focusing on our fathers and our grandfathers are honestly sometimes the most messed up of all because machismo really takes a toll on them.
What else would you like to tell us about ‘LA SUSTANCIA X’?
I really just want people to enjoy it. I really just want people to sit back, and listen to the magnetism of it – I feel like what I enjoy the most about music is how it makes you feel, regardless of everything else. In the end: it’s what it makes you feel. And I know that there’s a lot of power in here, and I want people to feel that and to remember that whether you live in your truth today and you already embraced your authenticity and you came out of all of your closets and you’re free, duro, enjoy it, [and] most of all, celebrate it.
But if you still haven’t been able to do that because it’s not safe for you to come out, and it’s not safe for you to show the world your light, then enjoy it in secret. And know that we’re building a world where eventually you will be able to come out safely and show us who you are and party with the rest of us.
Listen to ‘LA SUSTANCIA X’ below.
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