REVIEW: Villano Antillano Calls Girls to the Front on “La Sustancia X”

Courtesy of the artist.

Last year, Puerto Rican rapper and bonafide Caribbean bombshell Villano Antillano warned us that she wasn’t “una chica normal.” But 2022 has been all about showing, not telling. Back in March, she jumped on collaborative perreo EP hembrismo alongside paopao, La Gabi, ARIA VEGA, and Cami Da Baby, rising stars of Puerto Rico’s reggaeton new guard. Then, all hell broke loose in June when Argentine mega-producer Bizarrap invited Villana to take over Brzp Music Sessions, Vol. 51, resulting in one of the most memorable and controversial sets in the series — at least among the largely cis male fans who couldn’t handle a few bars from a sharp-tongued trans woman.

Building on that momentum, August gave us fresh banger “Mujerón” with Canarias rapper Ptazeta, followed by another excellent showcase of new school Boricua talent on the “Besties” Remix, popping off with Joyce Santana, Young Miko, YOVNGCHIMI, and Luar La L. Now, cementing 2022 as her own, Villano Antillano has unleashed her highly anticipated debut album La Sustancia X, delivering a cocktail of poignant, slutty, and mystical cuts that will have you throwing ass into next year.

Again we open with a warning: “Precaución, esta canción es un hechizo,” is a slow-burning trap cut unfolding with ritualistic precision, warning against evil eyes and lubricating our hips for the bellaqueo ahead. “Hedonismo” is a throbbing celebration of excess, opening on agitated calls from paparazzi and harkening to Villana’s meteoric post-Bizarrap fame. She keeps her foot on the gas for “Kaleidoscópica,” where now the excesses are fueled by pepas and zeros in the bank, unabashedly owning her wins over a beat and matching flow that nods to Y2K-era reggaeton and classic parties de marquesina. Cuts like “Designer Pu$$y” and “¡Hello Kitty!” also thrive under Villano Antillano’s ethos of sex, drugs, and body roll; a constant since 2020’s Ketaprincesa EP and her filthy “WAP” remix, which lives in the recesses of her Instagram page as well as rent-free in our collective mind space.

The crowning jewel in this first block is undoubtedly “Cáscara de Coco,” where perreo meets middle eastern guitars and Villana’s nimble bars bounce between spell casting and a heartfelt tribute to queer Dominican dembow trailblazer La Delfi on the chorus. The song gets its title from a Puerto Rican expression describing people who are tough as nails like our narrator, while the accompanying Alejandro Pedrosa-directed music video echoes the surreal mind-melding of J.Lo’s 2000 camp sci-fi classic, The Cell.

The second half of La Sustancia X switches gears to Villana, the woman and artivist. “Yo Tengo Un Novio” is a striking ode to love and being loved; sweet, sober, and with a beat designed to keep things nasty. Here Villano Antillano makes it clear she’s willing to fight for the romance she deserves (“el que se ponga en medio lo parto”) and enjoy the perverted sex she controls (“yo tengo un macho que me deja ser activa”). She again showcases her romantic side on R&B-tinged “Poli,” while electropop head-turner “Nena Mala” cautions of men who take women as hostages, instead choosing to be “libre, dura, princesa con su armadura.”

Womanhood and sorority are pivotal through lines of La Sustancia X, especially on the surprisingly few collaborations. Afro-Cuban rapper La Dame Blanche drops in on “Puesta,” where hair metal guitars and saturated flute samples create a charged atmosphere for both powerhouses to lay into the men, colleagues, and industries that have repeatedly underestimated their gumption and abilities. On “Mujer,” Villana defines womanhood as being perpetually battle-ready, attempting to balance empathy and survival against all odds. A rousing verse from iLe also underscores the historical violence faced by women who’ve upset the status quo. And while not directly referenced, Villana’s summer tiradera with noted homophobe and transphobe Cosculluela certainly feels like a prime example.

Villano Antillano has made it clear that her best line of defense against a world threatened by her art and identity is community. As a trans woman, queer people have consistently shown up for Villana, whether cheering for her at international Pride gigs or allying herself with fierce contemporaries like Young Miko and Tokischa. As a Boricua, Villana stands proudly with her people, bringing awareness to the structural and economic precariousness under which Puerto Rico exists on a daily basis. Villana also uses La Sustancia X as an opportunity to surround herself with sisters and ancestors, shouting out Celia Cruz, Kelis, Dulcinea del Toboso, Gabriela Mistral, La Materialista, and more. A healthy reminder that none of us walk through life alone.

Check out Villano Antillano’s La Sustancia X below.