Villano Antillano, the Defiant Transfemme Artist, Has Created the Queer Anthem of the Summer With Her Latest Track “KLK”
Villana Santiago Pacheco, known by her stage name, Villano Antillano, has been one of the pioneers of the queer movement within the urban genre in Puerto Rico. Born in Bayamón, Villano Antillano considers herself a transfemme person whose approach to music is as challenging and irreverent as she is magnetic and revolutionary.
“I’m not a role model, I’m a role villain” says Puerto Rican rapper Villano Antillano when asked about their fearless persona and what their dissidence as an openly bisexual and non-binary MC has meant to the LGBTQ community on the island. As an audiovisual artist, she is working on projects that encapsulate the beauty and horror of growing up as a queer person in the Caribbean, including her first album titled “Sustancia X”.
Your name Villano Antillano seems to have a specific connection to the Caribbean, can you tell a bit about your name?
I think it’s evolving, but initially it was just a word game, I like how both words collided with each other, it sounded interesting. It is also very masculine, and now that is definitely not what I am giving, but I still like it and I find that it is something that I would keep because it confuses people a little bit more and it makes them ask themselves, why would she have a masculine name, and it furthers our agenda of educating and separating.
Can you tell us about the song “KLK,” what do you hope the audience is able to take away?
“KLK” (pronounced keloke) is a song about being a booty call and being okay with that. It’s about a girl who is totally comfortable with getting that 3 am text and allowing the sender to come over; she’s in control, she knows she’s complete and isn’t looking to fill a void, she just wants to fuck and connect with other people. She’s a curious and secure creature. It’s also literally about a situationship I was in and I think it’s tied to a newfound sexual maturity. I think the world is moving away from monogamy because it’s also moving away from patriarchy and I hope that content like this helps people normalize fluidity across all psychosocial spectrums. Sometimes you just want a hot fuck with someone you trust.
If “KLK” were an ice cream flavour, what would it be?
Piña y Parcha
I love the cover art! You look seductive, playful and glamorous. What was the curation process like?
I have a lot of fun pulling off my concepts because I work with other queer caribbean mixed-media artists that all share a vision with me. We’re sort of full time local muses to each other on the island and I feel perfectly understood within my community. We wanted cyberfuckpop and we went for it. My stylist, makeup/hair artists and photographer for this shoot were all queer individuals and I think that has everything to do with the end product.
“KLK” is a single off of your larger project ‘Sustancia X’. What can we expect in the album?
I think that this album is going to be, in true debut fashion, grandiose. It feels very big. Medically transitioning has allowed me to tap into a source of power I had barely scratched the surface of; I now feel deeply connected to the women who inched the world forward in order to make it a safer place for me to exist. I’ve spent well over two years writing this project and sonically curating the album’s atmosphere, I’ve been inmersed in every aspect of the production and I’ve done that while transitioning and while my carreer reaches new heights…
“La Sustancia X” is a by-product of chaos and rebirth, it’s magnetic and empowering and it’s aggressively liberating and I think there’s something in it for everyone to take away no matter if you’re trans or cis, or queer or straight.
What is it that you want to bring across to an audience? As an LGBTQ, female identifying rapper, you call yourself “Loca” and “marica” etc — what power does it hold to use these “insults” in your music? In what ways do you combat the machismo of reggaeton?
I use these terms in my music because they are a part of my everyday lexicon. I take a lot of pride in the way I chew spanish up because it’s my heritage and the way I was taught to communicate. I make a lot of facial expressions and I use a lot of “refranes” because I grew up around my grandmothers who were all from rural parts of Puerto Rico. A lot of spanish speakers mock caribbean spanish because of all the color and warmth we bring to it but I have a deep sense of pride in where I come from and how we speak there. Similarly, I have my closest and deepest connections with queer people and my chosen family and I am very proud of that part of me as well. If there’s one thing caribbean people will do in the face of adversity, it’s crack jokes and laugh at themselves. We joke about politics, and natural disasters and death and religion and anything you can imagine… so it’s really no surprise that puertorican “mariconxs” do just that. For example, now that I’ve transitioned and am mostly assumed as female when I go out, it comes as a shock when someone goes out of their way to refer to me as a man (but trust me it happens porque el envidioso está que hace orilla) but if I’m with a friend they’ll pop up and say something like “mami ese te dijo “yo sé lo que tú eres maricón sucio… hoy tu dijiste vestía realness, ¡te acabó bien acabá!” loudly for everyone to hear and we just have to laugh hysterically. It turns all of the attention on the aggressor and they usually feel very stupid because they didn’t mean to make us laugh or didn’t want to appear amicable. It’s a revindication everytime I appropiate a term that exists to belittle me, and when we do it as community it’s infinitely powerful. I think that holds true in music as well.
In terms of me fighting machismo in regueton, that’s not my responsiblity. It’s going to happen no matter what because my identity threatens men but it isn’t something I’m actively factoring in. Men can be very limited and boring, simple even, so machismo is not something I’m gonna stop to consider as a problem to tackle, it’s a very small prison for even smaller prisoners. I didn’t make that mess, I’m not cleaning it up. We need to be asking men how they combat machismo in regueton and everyday life, not women. I don’t want to teach women to combat machismo, I want people to stop reproducing it.
Similarly, you are one of the most recognized trans women in the music industry. What impact do you believe you have in the music industry as a whole?
It’s difficult to say. I think further generations will better be able to pinpoint what I helped shift in the industry. For now it’s just me dealing with an obscene amount of transmisoginy day in and day out. There is an insane amount of tokenizing within the movement I have helped create because even though queer artists are now taking the spotlight, the industry is full of cishet men looking to capitalize on these carreers and very few of them actually understand power dynamics let alone the full blown sexual revolution queer superstars will bring along. It’s hard to shift the narrative but a lot of effort is being put into it and I’m certainly not the first or only trans artist to exist. In fact, other transwomen are also having exceptional carreers in music and the arts and I believe it’s a reflection of our fight for a seat at the “social table” so to speak. We are just starting to gain the access to resources that will let us tell our stories on our terms, only time will tell how much of the cishetero-serving business model we can undo or compete against. But that’s strictly industry related, which isn’t too important if you ask me. I’d rather focus on the effect I have on people and how they connect with me, after all that’s what has the music industry truly surprised about my project. I got on a stage the other day to present an award and as soon as I got up the crowd went wild, I almost couldn’t speak over all the applause. I think most people are genuinely proud of how I’ve beat the odds and they respect my hussle. They see a woman who has truly found a way to break all of the rules and thrive, I sense that at the very least they’re very happy for me.
What is the ideal way to celebrate your birthday?
I go to my favorite beach in Vieques and I glare at every gringo I see. As I’ve become an adult I feel a deeper connection to my island and to the ocean. At this point I think puertoricans qualify as political refugees due to the number of gringos displacing locals. They show up with cash to the doorsteps of our sick, old and poorest and are buying everyone out. Like they’ve done in Hawaii. As an islander who has lived all of her life watching the United States dismantle her land, I feel Hawaiians and Puerto Ricans are connected in a painful way. And I spend a lot of time by the ocean on my birthdays because I think all islanders understand the sea in some way, I think of how the impotence of colonized people is felt on the other side of the world in the same exact way… I know that sounds bleak and dark but it’s my people’s reality and we all feel it in some way or another. All Puerto Ricans know what is happening, we see it on each other’s faces when we’re out having fun to escape our tense reality. We’re getting evicted. It’s difficult to grow up watching settler colonialism destroy your home and people… my birthday reminds me I’ve never lived in political sovereignty and that this directly affected my access to transitioning. It took me a long time to understand I could be sovereign within myself, in my life and with regards to my body so on my birthday I pause and take all of that in. I understand I am a descendant of a lot of magic and that I come from a sacred place, so sacred that it’s always been subdued and held hostage so that foreigners can access it. Some years it feels celebratory, other years it feels like I’m fighting a war but I always try to do my part on my birthday by making colonizers aware that they are not wanted or respected in this archipelago.
If you could plan your own festival, what would be the name of the festival, where would it be located, and who would you want on the lineup?
I’ve actually thought about this before, I think LGBTQIA+ artists are extremely bold and raw… we’re the epitome of dissidence.
My festival would be a tribute to that alternative energy innate to the queer spirit. In Puerto Rico, a word exists to reffer to very effeminate men (some who may or may not consider themselves trans women) in an effort to belittle them. It’s really a slur, that has been reappropiated by the younger generation and they’ve destigmatized it in many ways. “Ponka” comes from the english word “punk” and was used in the Metro area of Puerto Rico early in the 2000’s to single out particular queer femmes who were part of the punk scene and had a bold sense of aesthetics with regards to their image. I was first called a ponka when I was like 16 or 17 years old by a masc maricón who wanted to make fun of me for being effeminate and flamboyant. Today, it is a term of endearment for many and a term most transfemme people can identify with to some level due to having been ostracized by the word at some point in their life. So, “Ponkapalooza” really seems like a five star name to me. It would be somewhere in San Juan and I’d hypothetically include top LGBTTQIA+ caribbean acts like Ana Macho, Tokischa, La Pajarita La Paul, Young Miko, La Delfi, Kevin Fret… you know, the trailblazers.
Interviewed & Edited by: Shirley Reynozo @moyamusic_
Photographer & Creative Director: Ricardo Lara @thericardolara
Graphic Artist: Sebastian Chicchon @jager.noon
Makeup: Giovannie BerdecÃa @gioscraft
Hairstyling: Jann Figueroa @lilmang0
Stylist: Tomas Joel @tomas_joel