Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene: Las Bellaqueens

With the internet being so easy to access, it has become easier for independent artists to find an audience and let their work be known. As a result, a variety of movements, collectives, and scenes have found a way to pave their path. The independent art scene in Puerto Rico is no different. Recently, many artists from a variety of disciplines have found platforms that have made it easier for them to share their work. In addition, small businesses such as Electroshock in Santurce and Rio Piedras, bars like Off The Wall in Mayaguez, book stores like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla, Libros AC in Santurce and Libros 787 online, and independent festivals like Feria de Libros Independientes y Alternativos and Tintero: Festival de Cómics y Arte Independiente de Puerto Rico have provided up-and-coming artists a space to display their talents. “Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene” is a series of  interviews that provides a glimpse at some of the women who have recently gained recognition in the art scene. Though the artists are asked similar questions, some are asked queries surrounding their work, specifically.

What’s your name and what do you do in the arts?

Baby Salad - Baby Salad, I’m one of three trap singers in Las Bellaqueens.

Museo - My name is Museo, I make naughty rhymes for your pleasure.

Durazno - I'm Durazno and I'm a Bellaqueen. That means I sing and moan nasty sexy ass rhymes.

(picture of Las Bellaqueens by Joshua Cabezas of Some Publishing Group for FemTrap)

What got you into music?

Baby Salad - I’ve been listening to music, composing and singing since forever. Since I first had access to my grandfather’s walkman at 3 years old, I’ve had headphones glued on to my ears, obsessing with songs and albums that I play on relentless loops. I wrote my first song in the first grade and have been carrying the music like a spark within me ever since.

Museo - I always wanted to make music but never had the courage to do so until once I started posting some bomb ass fuego (fire) Tweets on Twitter and people started telling me they sounded like trap lyrics and that I should get into that. Thanks to that Las Bellaqueens were born. To to be honest, that’s what got me into making music besides Baby Salad’s and Durazno’s encouragement. I love my girls.

Durazno - I've always been into music since I could remember. Growing up in the early 2000s reggeatón and all sorts of urban music was all the rave. When I listened to a Latin trap song for the first time I lost it. It was so fire. I'd never heard sexuality expressed that way, so raw and just for real. Once Museo wrote her song and Baby Salad wrote hers, it was inevitable that I would write one as well and hence, Las  Bellaqueens were born.

How did you develop your style?

Baby Salad - Having your own style is about learning how to be more you each day. It’s about being bold and not caring what other people think. I have so many influences that it would impossible to list them all; I observe that which seems to bare its soul and try to expose to the public things that reflect the core of who I am. I also like to create songs that are fun and inspire people to get loose.

Museo - My name means “Museum” and I wanted to portray the dirty and naughty side of something beautiful with my style. A museum is a place that has a lot of beauty in it and there's nothing more sexy than to be kissed by your lover while been surrounded by art, so I wanted to portray that in my style. I want to show a powerful image like art usually does but with a “sexual” twist.

Durazno - My style draws inspiration from everything that makes me feel sexy and empowered, which is what I like to portray in what I write. I always describe our music as music people play at a stripclub where the strippers are like fairies and unicorns. There's like diamonds and glitter everywhere.

How has it evolved through the years?

Baby Salad - I’ve become more fearless over the years, I give less f***s about what any detractors think I am or should be. I don’t let anybody play with my confidence.

Museo - I now wear shiny stuff and call myself art. I have become more empowered thanks to this project.

Durazno - Through Las Bellaqueens, I have developed the confidence to wear and say whatever the f**k I wanna say. Don't get me wrong, I've always expressed myself, but to have the freedom to just say ‘F**k it’ just really has changed how I write, how I dress and overall just live to my own expectations.

What are some of your influences and inspirations?

Baby Salad - I’m a child of the 1980s, so for Las Bellaqueens, I take a lot of influence on what was going musically and aesthetically in hip hop during that period, as well as a lot from the Puerto Rican merengueras of the early 90s. I also have a strong influence from rock n roll, Latin punk and late 80s/early 90s Spanish pop. Throughout my 13-year trajectory with my personal music project, Koala en Krayola, I’ve dabbled with rock n roll, street punk, pop, R&B, rap, jazz and trip hop influenced compositions.

Museo - I get inspiration from a lot of people. For example, when it comes to my voice and how I sing I try to portray the big d**k energy that Ivy Queen has. I also take a lot of influence from new artists like Bad Bunny, Asian Doll, the Clermont Twins, and La Goony Chonga. When it comes to my lyrics, I get inspired by the old school dirty and shameless style like la “Popola” from Glory Glow and “El Domingo” from Wiso G. There is no end when it comes to inspiration. I always try to mix the old school Reggaeton with Trap. The best example for that is the song we have named “Afrenta'o.” It’s Trap but it has that Reggaeton perreo sucio in it.

Durazno - My name comes from “Durazno Sangrando,” which is a song written by Luis Alberto Spinetta. Even though that is far different from what Last Bellaqueens is, it's something that always stuck with me. I draw inspiration from vibes, you know. The “flow” that La Goony Chonga has, but also like Frankie Ruiz’s “flow” as well. It is something I can relate to and wanna be. So, lots of people inspire me.

 

Is there any other form of art you wish to pursue? If so, what field and why?

Baby Salad - I’d first love to delve in deeper in the world of recording and music production, and eventually have more time to experiment with creating videos, to accompany my music and to highlight environmental and social justice projects.

Museo - I am focused on what I am doing at this moment by trying to perfect my art. I do wanna be able to work more with directing videos. That has an experimental feel to it, but everything is within the realm of what I'm doing right now. I'll probably keep pursuing poetry on the side, I mean I also think I am doing that with my music but in a dirty way.

Durazno - I pursue all sorts of art forms, otherwise I don't know what I would do with myself. Not necessarily professionally, but I'm always doing something artsy. That's just who I am, that weird artist kid forever.

I have seen you be a part of Sofia Maldonado’s FemTrap. How was that experience?

Baby Salad - That was a great collaboration that gave us the opportunity to expose our proposal to an arts-oriented crowd and play in a wonderful venue such as La Respuesta. Sofía also lent us her studio at Miramar, Hieloair, so we’d be able to record some of the scenes in our first music video, “Baby No Te Enchules (No Es 14 de Febrero).” We also created a network of support with other FemTrap participants, such as DJ Sarielle Killer, performer Zuhemy Cordero and fellow singer Enuma, and we hope to continue joining forces with this group of kick-ass women.

Museo - It was great. It gave us the push that we needed and for that I will always be grateful. What I loved the most about collaborating with FemTrap was the girls. We all made some beautiful connections there, which felt like a Sisterhood of Trap. We had each other's back and we were each other's biggest fans. I believe that is what people need to succeed, a support group of people who believe in you and what you do.

Durazno - It was an awesome collaboration that really helped put us out there in the world. As a centralina to be able to work with Sofía Maldonado was amazing. All the women and other people involved are so supportive of each other. It really is beautiful.

What do you think about the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico?

Baby Salad - Surprisingly, after Hurricanes Irma and María, there was an influx of additional resources that helped kickstart shows and projects, such as Dulce Santurce. These initiatives helped support independent artists like us and the venues that host our parties. I think there’s been more attention to Puerto Rico’s art and music lately, especially after the exposure that some high profile mainstream artists have been getting, although we are still far from becoming a country that fully supports its artists and their livelihoods where artists can live off their art and not just scrape by with a s***ty service job that drains their life away.

Museo - I believe right now we are experiencing the biggest boom in art here in Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria, a lot of people had nothing but art to live by. I think that is why the art scene is booming because, thanks to those days in the dark, we had nothing to entertain each other but art. Thanks to that, Puerto Ricans started to pay attention to other Puerto Rican artists and realized that this island is filled with talent. Yes, there's a long way to go, but we're getting there.

Durazno - After María, through the hardship and struggle, all we could do is create. And man, did we have lot to say. This island is filled with talent and the time is now to start supporting your local artist. Las Bellaqueens is a post María project. When we did our first show, which was just months after the hurricane, we still had no power in our homes. We did the show and went back home and lit candles to wipe off our makeup. It was, however, doing shows and having something to look forward to that gave Las Bellaqueens our strength and the inspiration to just keep doing it. Now here we are.

What do you think about the current state of the independent scene in Puerto Rico?

Baby Salad - I think we’ve been getting more organized over the years and a generational switch has begun to occur, with artists of my generation becoming more professionalized, experienced and gaining more respect and recognition for their work. I cheer the success of my peers. Yet, we are still far away from being in a position where art is part of the national dialogue and is embedded with the respect it deserves in civil life and decision-making.

Museo - We are getting better at supporting local artists which is something that was very rare in the past, and we definitely are getting more organized in how we promote ourselves and our shows because of social media and, thanks to it, more people are reaching out to see what's going on in the local scene and more people are realizing that this island has a lot to offer.

Durazno - Sometimes I sit back and just think about the fact that I'm a part of it and I’m proud. The talent that is around us is truly unique.

If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be an artist, what would be your advice for her?

Baby Salad - I’d tell her she already is. That now she just needs to continue to practice and practice in order to have her art reflect who she truly is. All true art forms are a process of self-discovery.

Museo - Do it! Don't think about it, don't wait for acceptance, just do it. Practice, always perfect your art but never wait for someone to show you your talent for you to go out there, go out there and show people your talent.

Durazno - Do it. Don't even dwell on it. Just start. Literally just start doing it.

What is your biggest goal right now?

Baby Salad - That we can continue recording and finish our first full-length debut album, Baby No Te Enchules and expand our audience.

Museo - I wanna get that bread. I wanna keep on recording so people can be able to listen to all we got.

Durazno - World domination, papi.

What do you seek to achieve with work?

Baby Salad - The sexual empowerment of all women and the importance of letting loose and having fun.

Museo - Empowerment for women. I want women to feel comfortable in their own skin, to be able to express their sexual desires without shame. I want people to be considerate when it comes to giving pleasure during sex, and I want to promote safe sex for everyone out there.

Durazno - Apart from the world domination thing, to provide confidence and let women know that it's okay to just say f**k it.

 

All of the pictures in this article were provided by Las Bellaqueens