Villano Antillano Is a Damn Good Artist & She Knows It

Photo: Courtesy of Spotify.
Villano Antillano — self-described as a “really beautiful rapper” — seriously does have a way with words. In “Nena Mala,” a song off the Puerto Rican artist’s debut album, there is a line inspired by a poem from compatriot Julia de Burgos: “Corran las multitudes, contra ti, y contra todo lo injusto y lo inhumano, yo iré en medio de ellas con la tea en la mano” (“the multitudes run, against you, and against everything unjust and inhumane, I will go in the midst of them with the torch in hand”). 
“She talks about this duality of how there's a fake Julia and a real one. I'm very much moved by poetry, but I'm much more moved by women in poetry, specifically Julia de Burgos. Hurt and sufrida, she very much lived a tragic life. Sadly, that's what happens to most of us bad bitches,” Antillano tells Refinery29 Somos.
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Like de Burgos, Antillano works through her suffering with her pen — she just happens to rap her verses over hard-hitting beats. Known as the first trans woman of Latin rap, Antillano’s bars have boomed out of the calles de Bayamón and into the homes and cars of people all over the world, and she’s just getting started.

"Hurt and sufrida, she very much lived a tragic life. Sadly, that's what happens to most of us bad bitches.”

Villano Antillano
On December 2, the 27-year-old rapera released her first full-length studio album La Sustancia X just hours after announcing it first on Instagram. The 11-track project is filled with incredibly powerful, sexy, and queer lyrics that share her story and that of the queer community she remains a part of on the archipelago. 
“A lot of it is very much tied to my medical transition and how I started to process my emotions differently. There's a lot of hurt and there's a lot of rage and pain that comes with it,” Antillano says. “I discovered myself simultaneously through my music as a woman and as a producer, artist, and composer.” 
The queer scene in Puerto Rico is hard to explain to those who haven’t lived it. There’s the shared reality of living in a colonized island, the collective fear of getting murdered for our identity, and yet the moments of queer joy we create while being en la brega. It’s also incredibly small. As in, everyone knows everyone — and those same people have known Antillano since she started. 
Photo: Courtesy of Spotify.
“They know my essence, and they know who I am,” she says. “I feel like they're very happy that I've made it this far, but it also feels collective. This album came from me, but it tells the story of myself, my friends, and a bunch of other people who are part of this community. So it's really not entirely my own, and I feel like they know that.”
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Everything on La Sustancia X is queer. Spitting gender-neutral lines, she explores everything from lesbianism to designer pussies to navigating romance as a trans woman. As a nonbinary Boricua who has been living in the States for the past few years, listening to the album (at least four times a day), I’m transported back home with my chosen family and best friends. The sound, the lyrics, the Spanish — it’s all so puertorriqueñe. As Antillano says, “[It’s] the pure joy of people being like this speaks entirely to my experience and I can relate to this. This is about the magic that I have in me.” 
For me, no song hits harder than “Mujer” featuring iLe, an emotional, complex track about the pain and power that comes with being a woman. “Soy una mujer llena de poder. ... Yo controlo el lápiz, yo tengo el pincel. Yo soy la dueña del amanecer” “(“I’m a woman that’s full of power. ... I control the pen, I have the paint brush. I’m the owner of this sunrise”), she raps. The anthem ends with a recording from a local rally where the names of Puerto Rican LGBTQ+ victims are read aloud and followed by the exclamation “presente” to show that the queer departed are still in our memories and our hearts: Mónica Carazo, Alexa Negrón Luciano, Penélope Díaz Ramírez, Serena Angelique Velázquez, Layla Pelaez, and Yampi Méndez Arocho. 

"This album came from me, but it tells the story of myself, my friends, and a bunch of other people who are part of this community. So it's really not entirely my own.”

VILLANO ANTILLANO
It hasn’t yet been a week since Antillano released her album, and the song has already been healing for listeners who have lost queer loved ones to hate crimes. “I've already had friends and family of the victims reach out and tell me how moved and powerful they think that is. I don't need anything else, you know, regardless of what anybody wants to say online,” she says. 
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Antillano’s presence in Latin rap isn’t just historic — it’s moving the culture forward. In July, the artist made a surprise appearance at Bad Bunny’s televised Un Verano Sin Ti concert in Puerto Rico, which was seen by a record-breaking thousands of people in the stadium and streamed by even more audiences worldwide from plazas públicas and family living rooms. I was witness to how historical this moment was. In Vega Baja’s ultra-packed plaza pública, among hundreds of people, my friends and I absolutely lost it when Antillano started performing, and so did others. Away from the presumed safety of the Metro area, we felt a little less alone because we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we were not the only queer people in that crowd. I don’t know if I can name another moment quite like that one. 
Antillano hopes that moment was also illuminating and, perhaps, comforting for the families of queer youth. “I hope that I gave them a little bit of peace of mind that the world is changing, and their children will be able to grow up in a world where they can be themselves,” she says. “It was hope for the kids, but it was probably a lesson for the adults.”

“A lot of my music is very rage-filled or rage-fueled because of the injustices that are done to us. I'm very good at channeling that, but it's also a very heavy burden to carry."

VILLANO ANTILLANO
It’s representation Antillano wishes she and her parents had when she was younger. When the rapper was 17 years old, she was kicked out of her house, an experience so common among queer Puerto Ricans that she calls it the “pan de cada día” (“an everyday thing”). 
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During those years of estrangement, she focused on pouring love and care into herself. “I removed myself from absolutely everything that I needed to remove myself from. I stopped talking to people that didn't get it. I embraced those who did and, more than anything, I embraced myself,” she says. 
An emerging artist, she put her pain and anger in her work. “A lot of my music is very rage-filled or rage-fueled because of the injustices that are done to us. I'm very good at channeling that, but it's also a very heavy burden to carry. And I wish that I wouldn't have had to carry it from such an early age.” 
Photo: Courtesy of Spotify.
When thinking about what she would tell her younger self knowing how her life has unfolded, she says, “I would just give her a big hug and tell her that everything is going to be OK. I feel like now looking back, I would have not held on to so much rage.”
Things now seem better than OK: She has “a beautiful relationship with my mother and father,” is one of the highest-streaming trans artists in the world, is in demand for mainstream collabs, and has landed interviews with the biggest music outlets, from Rolling Stone to Billboard.
This month, Antillano also became the newest talent to participate in Spotify’s RADAR, a global emerging artist program that supports chosen musicians through exclusive opportunities. “Partnering with Villano Antillano takes our support of Villano to the next level. With such an important story to tell as a Latina transgender artist, we aim to continue to break barriers and provide a safe space for artists from all walks of life to express themselves as they are,” Eddie Santiago, the head of U.S. Latin Artist Partnerships at Spotify, tells Somos. 
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"It's important to punctuate [my transness] because of where I come from and the fact that I'm not supposed to be where I am. But my success has nothing to do with my identity. I'm just very talented."

VILLANO ANTILLANO
As part of the collaboration, fans can expect Spotify-exclusive interviews, videos, sessions, and more — like the live rendition of "Kaleidoscópica" and "Cáscara de Coco," two songs from her recent album. “They thought it was important to highlight my story and what I'm doing.  That's kind of how that clicked,” Antillano adds. 
And there’s so much more to come. The new year hasn’t yet hit, but 2023 is already proving to be a bustling one for Antillano: “I have a lot of shows. I have a lot of festivals. I'm booked and busy,” she says with a laugh. “I'm excited to see the artist I'm going to become and the art that I'll be able to produce — and to share a different state of my life, one that has access to things that I didn't have before.”
In exploring the different aspects of Antillano, she wants listeners to not only see her as a trans rapper but as a rapera who’s able to make hits and annihilate the competition regardless of her gender. “It's important to punctuate [my transness] because of where I come from and the fact that I'm not supposed to be where I am,” Antillano says. “But my success has nothing to do with my identity. I'm just very talented.”

“I changed the course of history along with my community, and my community pushed me to be able to do that. That's something that nobody is ever going to take from us.”

VILLANO ANTILLANO
It took several difficult years to make it here — to claim her skill with confidence and make a living from her craft. And Antillano now carries herself like someone who knows exactly who she is and wouldn’t let anyone else tell her otherwise, truly embodying her Aries sun, Aquarius moon, and Leo rising chart. That’s how bad bitches move.
“I changed the course of history along with my community, and my community pushed me to be able to do that. That's something that nobody is ever going to take from us,” she says.

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