GLOW Artist Villano Antillano Finds Power in Community, Authenticity, and Being Fearless
It’s no easy feat to be as fearless and uncompromising as Villano Antillano. But for one of Latin rap’s first transgender artists, it’s a necessity.
Villano has been carving out a path for herself and other queer artists in Latin rap, making music that brings her challenging, raw, unfiltered experiences to the forefront in a time when queer people still face so much adversity. And now, she’s also one of Spotify’s first GLOW artists.
Spotify GLOW is a new global music program celebrating and amplifying LGBTQIA+ artists and creators. It’s our latest initiative through our Creator Equity Fund to support people of this historically marginalized community of voices and reassert our commitment to equity in audio. It ensures that queer creators, and their contributions to music and culture, are heard and honored year-round.
Born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, Villano generated early buzz with hard-hitting tracks such as “Pajara,” “Culo,” and “Muñeca”—the last of which was recorded with non-binary rapper Ana Macho.
In 2021, Villano enjoyed viral success with her feature in the single “Vendetta,” and went on to be on Bizarrap’s “Bzrp Music Session, Vol. 51.” This past December, she was a featured artist for Spotify RADAR US, and at the 2022 Latin American Music Conference, Villano was named one of its 2022 Wonder Women of Latin Music. She closed last year with the release of her debut album, La Sustancia X, a project that embodies the beauty and horror of growing up queer in the Caribbean.
For the Record sat down with Villano to talk about her music, her life as a trans woman, and what makes her GLOW.
Can you tell us a little about your journey into music?
It’s been a long development. As a trans woman and a queer person, I didn’t really have access to this world until I paved my way into it. I was just in the trenches for the longest time, so I feel like my chances for opportunities were maybe lower than they would have been for people that aren’t queer because we’re just shunned out of all these places. So, now I feel like I can actually get things like people on demand, or a team and resources, and I’m just getting freaky with it now because I’m much more comfortable. But it took me a while.
Growing up, did you have any queer artists who influenced you?
No, because they didn’t exist in the public lens. We now know the story of Cristina “La Veneno,” who definitely changed the trajectory of my life when I found her on YouTube. But otherwise, I have very, very foggy memories of some slightly famous trans women who were public figures because they were so sexed up. I remember reading about them in the newspaper sometimes, but it was never treated with respect and dignity. There was no way they could have just been anything but a mockery on television and radio over here.
I would say, however, there were cis-het females who went above and beyond because they really f*cked with the queer community and the queer public. Those two would be artists like Iris Chacon, who was the pillar of everything aesthetic and one of my biggest references. I feel like she’s one of Puerto Rico’s biggest artists. And Ivy Queen, of course, because I feel like she really took it upon herself to give the community space within her crowd and her music.
How is music used to empower queer communities?
I feel that art is a mirror of society. Since the advent of civilization, music has always been present, and it’s tied to the art of storytelling and how culture is kept alive through tradition. So, I feel like those things are of very fundamental importance to humanity.
Music is also a mirror of our own experiences. I make music that makes me and other queer people feel empowered, and I created that feeling for myself because I needed it. I feel like we [the queer community] are a very empowered collective globally right now and we’re growing. Regardless of whatever is happening, we’re forcing people to take us into account. We’re here and you’re going to have to deal with it. I’m glad we’re moving so far away from the patriarchy because it was about time!
What makes you GLOW?
Wow. A lot of things. You know, I feel like I take joy and find beauty in the little, ordinary things and in being at a point in my life where I can take a step back. Before I had access to this life and before I was a cemented and fully realized figure, I was just a poor girl from Bayamón trying to stay alive. I didn’t even have access to the minimal and limited resources we have here. So the power for me to obtain these things makes me GLOW. My community makes me GLOW, my friends make me GLOW, and the fact that I can give them a life that we never thought we could achieve before makes me GLOW.
If you had one thing you’d want listeners to take away from your music, what would it be?
Fearlessness. I’m very into sci-fi and am reading the Dune novels, and I really just come back to that “fear is the mind killer” line. Because fear is the mind killer, and nobody should have the power to make me feel fear because nobody holds absolute power over me, you know? And I feel like I communicate that fearlessness into my music.
I feel like the life expectancy for trans people, specifically trans women according to the study, is around 35 years old. I’m 27. How, or why, would I let that limit me? It’s a fact none of us can escape, so I feel like, in a way, it’s what you do with that information. And what I’m going to do is not buy into this idea or narrative that there’s something wrong with me or that I’m f*cked up or erroneous.
I feel like as a trans person who has medically and socially transitioned, nothing has gotten me closer to my consciousness than the fact that I have actually had to feel my existence from all spectrums possible. And that’s no small feat; that only gives you power. The fact that I did that and I know exactly what I looked like when my body was full of testosterone and I know what it looks like now, three years into estrogen . . . everything I’m seeing, feeling . . . everything changes.
You can’t tell me that’s not power.
Listen to Villano on our flagship GLOW playlist: