Welcome to Spotlight, where we do a deep dive into the careers of artists, producers, songwriters and more people making an impact in the Latin music industry.

Born Reinaldo Santiago Pacheco, and known around Puerto Rico by her stage name as Villano Antillano, she is the queer non-binary rapper that has your favorite rapper scrambling for bars. She is unapologetic, aware that her existence alone is revolutionary in the music industry, and willing to “take up space” to bring visibility to her community.

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Watch our full interview below:

Villano’s natural ability to rap led her to do Latin Trap.

Villano’s name comes from her location (Las Antillas aka The Antilles and the Caribbean), and her perspective of being music’s very own villain. While growing up in a musically inclined household, she wasn’t formally trained in music theory or anything of the sort. However, rapping felt natural for her to express herself, in her own words: “Rap chose me”, and she decided to give it a try.

The first viral hit for Villano was a tiraera or diss track to Anuel AA, after the Los Dioses singer shared some comments on social media against the community. Villano decided to release a track to “tell Anuel a thing or two” about queer people, often referred to in the island as patos or ducks. For her, this was an opportunity for the taking to make a statement, and she took it. Since then, Villano has received shoutouts from OG Reggaetoneros like Arcángel and Ñejo for her rapping ability.

Read: Pabllo Vittar, Esteman, MULA + More Queer Latin Acts For Your Pride Playlist

Her musical influences include Ivy Queen, Hector El Father, and Nicki Minaj.

“The ones that influenced me of course, las de casa, I have to start with Ivy Queen of course,” Villano shared as she talked about how Ivy Queen became a reference and a representation for her on where she wanted to be. While she didn’t see herself represented in him, Villano does see Hector El Father‘s influence in the way that she raps.

About Nicki Minaj, Villano calls her “one of the main pillars of my career,” and admires her resilience after people picked on her a couple of years ago and now she’s finally getting her due respect from people in the industry. Nicki in a way pushed Villano to pursue a career in music: “I remember listening one of her verses and thinking to myself, ‘I have to do this, I have to transmit to people this same energy.'”

For Villano, being a part of the LGBTQ community is an honor and huge responsibility.

When she came out, she realized that by not having the support of her main family and friends, she could care less about what people thought of her. Thankfully, she has her chosen family, her LGBTQ community, and is happy to see some progress in the island. There are now more singers from the community making a name for themselves, and Villano is proud of the sisterhood between them and uplifting each other, without feeling the need to compete.

“The fact that someone like you exists changes lives gives hope,” Villano shared. “It’s not just me being queer and making music. I have to deal with people’s DMs about kids that are in the closet and are afraid to come out, or kids that were kicked out of their homes, I have to mobilize and find resources for them. It’s extremely hard to be part of the LGBTQ community in Puerto Rico and in the Caribbean, but that is my mission. I carry it with a lot of pride, it’s difficult, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

In her latest single “Pájara,” Villano reclaims a term that has been used against the queer community.

When I asked Villano about the term “pájara” she used for her song, she goes on to share stories about how heterosexual men in Puerto Rico call each other “maricón” as an endearing term between friends, but “wouldn’t dare to say that in front of me,” Villano added.

“Things are changing though, because when I take up space, and I’m in these situations in the recording studios with men, and the word maricón comes out in conversation, if they see me, they apologize to me. But, whoever says it directly to me, then I’ll go off on them,” Villano shared. While she’s aware sometimes her approach might come off as hostile, she is willing to educate people and make them realize that the terms they are using are wrong.

For many years, Villano feels like people in the Caribbean associate being queer with birds, and many of the terms ranging from pato which translates to duck, pájara which translates to bird, that she saw this as an opportunity to reclaim a term that’s often derogatory against the LGBTQ community.

What’s next for Villano Antillano?

Quedarme con el mundo“, she laughed. On June 11th, Villano Antillano has a new song with Ana Macho titled “Muñeca.” For her next music projects, Villano doesn’t think people are ready for the heat that’s on the way: “La gente no está ready,” and for her, it goes beyond representing her local Caribbean community, and will be heard all over Latin America. “It’s very freeing to see so many artists like myself rising in the industry. It gives me a lot of hope, and I’m even more ready to be más mala, to be that villain.”

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