Villano Antillano had the kind of summer most rising artists would sell their souls for: In June, the rising Puerto Rican rapper made her BZRP Music Sessions premiere with a furious freestyle that went viral and blew people’s minds, garnering a cool 155 million views. A month later, she was brought onstage by the world’s biggest artist himself, Bad Bunny, during his televised Un Verano Sin Ti concert in Puerto Rico before tens of thousands of attendees and viewers. A Jean Paul Gautier-sponsored trip to São Paulo, Vogue Spain travelog in Madrid, and parade of collabs to keep the embers hot all rounded out a banner year for her. Now, for the grand finale, she’s released her highly anticipated debut album, La Sustancia X.
The entire LP is a victory lap — and a well-earned one for the Puerto Rican artist, who’s been a prominent and proud trans voice in a historically misogynistic and homophobic genre. She was met with resistance when she started making music a few years ago, though some artists, like Ñejo and Bad Bunny, were quick to see her brilliance. She continued to bet on herself, snagging collabs with fellow up and comers, like Tommy Blanco, Young Miko, and RaiNao. She’s found a sound that’s entirely her own, and longtime listeners, plus new fans who discovered her through her BZRP session, will find every facet of who she is well-represented through the LP’s 11 brash and uninhibited songs.
The lead single “Cáscara de Coco” is an example of the self-possessed lyrical whirlwind she’s become known for, while “Yo Tengo Un Novio” is a boastful pop-rap track that celebrates the primal magic of being worshiped by your partner. The second half of the album is loaded with some of the project’s best offerings, starting with the rollickin’ “Puesta,” which features Cuban artist La Dame Blanche, who tag-teams verses with Villano over a post-grunge beat. “Hedonismo” is bound to become a catwalk staple as she vamps, “I am unique, you are unique, they’re unique, we are all unique”. On the penultimate track, “Nena Mala,” Villano rallies lovelorn fans who might be facing heartbreak and deception and reminds them of their worth, encouraging them to muster up the strength to get back up with more courage. “Poli” closes out the album with its tongue-in-cheek (and cheeks) ode to both polyamory and monogamy. “I would never think of depriving you, of all the nice things we sometimes feel with other people,” Villano sasses, her smirk almost audible over the subdued dance beat.
But Sustancia X’s most emotional —and strongest— track is “Mujer.” Villano and the singer-songwriter iLe mull over the power of their music and the way it’s given them agency that the world doesn’t always grant them: “I control my pen, I control my brush, I’m in charge of my own sunrise,” Villano sings in the chorus. Their songs are a way to fight back against their aggressors, and the message on “Mujer” is amplified with audio of a rally where the names of Puerto Rican LGBTQ+ victims of violence are read aloud in remembrance: Mónica Carazo, Alexa Negrón Luciano, Penélope Díaz Ramírez, Serena Angelique Velázquez, Layla Pelaez, and Yampi Méndez Arocho.
Villano has always been an artist with something to say. Since she came onto the scene, she’s been putting her foot down and shutting down haters with her wit and charm. The whole time, she’s been her authentic, sex-positive cuir self, no matter how many eyes are upon her. In La Sustancia X, she makes it clear why she’s endeared herself to the masses, bringing out every side of herself. She ties it all together with a bow of undeniable rap prowess, showing the world why she’s a star who won’t let anything hold her back.