As the No. 2 woman on Billboard’s Year-End 2018 Top Latin Artists chart, it’s safe to say that Natti Natasha had an incredible year. Now, in her mission to continue reining the charts, “la dura de las duras” will release her debut studio album ilumiNATTI on February 15.
Giving her fans a taste of what’s to come, the Dominican singer recently released the emotional music video for “La Mejor Version de Mi,” a heartfelt ballad produced by Joss Favela. The set, produced by some of big dogs in the industry, such as Raphy Pina, Gaby Music, and Chris Jeday, is home to 17 fresh tracks that build a special connection with Natti and her fans, where she opens up about love, heartbreaks, independence, and freedom.
Fresh off of making her debut on New York Fashion Week, Natti Natasha, who’s also a two-time finalist at the 2019 Billboard Latin Music Awards, sat down with Billboard in a local cafe in Miami to talk exclusively all about her debut album, her booming career, and what’s to come.
Natti, what I love about your album is the way you connect with your fans. There are a couple of songs that I felt were written just for me and what I’ve lived, so thank you for that. What would you say is the main purpose of ilumiNATTI?
I really like to connect. I really love that feeling that what I’m doing is not only being heard but felt by my fans. It’s just a woman’s perspective in each song and to me, that’s very important because what I used to look for in songs when I was younger was that connection with the artist. What I really want is for my fans to understand is that we can go through so many things. Each song is a different story about situations in life. It’s like the reggae “No Voy a Llorar,” for example, or “Lamento tu Perdida.” I don’t want to sound cliché but it sends that message of empowerment. That we can grow. We are going to look back at these situations one day and laugh at them and say that we grew out of that…because you do! There are serious life experiences behind each song but the main message at the end is to show how strong you are. ilumiNATTI is about empowerment, a woman’s literal perspective about sex, heartbreaks, love, and everything that happens to us.
Something that caught my attention about your tracklist is that none of your collaborations from last year, like the one with Ozuna and Bad Bunny, are on the album. The only single released in 2018 that I see on there is “Quien Sabe” and the way I see it is that with ilumiNATTI, you’re kicking off a fresh stage in your career and showing people that you can dominate other genres — not just urban.
Yes! You got the actual picture because all this time that I had the blessing and opportunity to have collaborated with big artists, but I do work a lot and I tried to get songs that I really love and that mean something to me or that I feel comfortable with and that have a story. So all these years I’ve had collaborations, which are amazing, but I wanted people to listen to all of these songs that I’ve been working on. When I began listening to the album track-by-track, I realized that we’re living in such an empowering moment for women, and it just became such a conceptual album. I only have two collaborations there and they’re both women — Kany Garcia and Anitta — and to me, they’re both strong women in their genre. Besides that, I made it a point to not only include urban, because music is universal. I could do reggaeton, I could do trap, I could do bachata, I could do dancehall, all of that, and then a ballad. I think that’s what sums up the whole album and it’s very special.
There’s a Natti Natasha song for every type of music lover.
Exactly! You have the best of all the worlds in there and I felt that was the right thing to do. I felt like my fans haven’t heard my solo singles in a long time and I wanted to do it. I’m going to get this opportunity, my first album, and I wanted it to be this way. My fans have waited for me all this time and have seen me all these years and I was like, why not give it all out?
I’m curious to know, how was the idea of naming your album ilumiNATTI born?
Well, it’s a game of words. “ilumi” because I really wanted to shed light on women and young girls and let them know what everything gets better and everything changes for the best. I want to enlighten the world, we all need it. We need love and light. And years ago, I would use the hashtag #iluminatti on all my posts, but people started talking and linking it to the Illuminati group, so I stopped using it. However, a couple of years ago, when I didn’t even see an album in my future and I was struggling as an emerging artist, that was the name that I always wanted for my first album and I love that it has my name in it, so it just felt right.
You mentioned the time you were struggling as an artist. How much would you say you have grown as an artist since you started your career?
I found my voice and what I felt comfortable with. I got to know myself in the sense that I like to do songs with no filter. I’m not afraid of saying things that are real. I found everything, not only as an artist but also in my personal life as well. I really like to vibe with people and to connect and I know that I’m a stronger artist now than what I used to be. I fight for what I believe in, where probably a couple of years ago I was scared to do that. I trust myself way more in what I’m doing and I think that’s something that happens to everyone with time. You get to know yourself more and just go for it.
“Criminal” is a song that has given you so much in your career, to the point of blessing you as the Most-Watched Female Artist on YouTube. How emblematic would you say that collaboration with Ozuna has been for you?
That has been one of my most important collaborations because I feel that that song was my second chance. Before that, I had so many great songs that never got released because I didn’t have the help and support and I’m very grateful that he said yes and believed in me, my song, and my team, Pina Records. To me, it’s such a special song because I had the opportunity to write my part of the lyrics and I just really loved it. When Ozuna agreed, I was extremely excited and for some reason, I knew people were going to love it as much as we did. It’s one of the most important songs in my whole career.
I also like that you release songs back-to-back!
You know what it is? It’s the team that I have at Pina Records…we’re family! We understand that it’s time for music, so why not? Right now we’re living in a digital world where people are hungry to listen to more. My fans have been supporting me all along, and I’m working on these songs, so why not? I love that I keep growing with everyone.
You’re fluent in English, too, and in your album, you have a Spanglish track called “Oh, Daddy.” Would you ever consider doing a crossover album in the future?
I would love to, as long as I keep my Latin roots. I feel that representing our community is very important and I want my fans to know that they have me here. I would LOVE to do a crossover but always staying true to who I am as a Latina. So yes, definitely a yes!
Before we finish, I must ask the million-dollar question: What’s the one song you most recommend from ilumiNATTI?
ALL OF THEM! I love them all. I have a couple of reggaetons, like “Toca, Toca,” the reggae, “No Voy a Llorar,” it’s very special to me. “Oh, Daddy,” was a remake of the Ritchie Valens’ song “Oh Donna,” and I really like that one because it’s a story of a pregnant woman who was dumped by her baby daddy but she was always waiting for him. It’s a sweet-and-sour situation. Oh! There’s a trap called “Independiente” that I love also, besides the fact that I love the rhythm and I can twerk to it [laughs] it’s such as powerful song about us women that work all the time and bust our asses. You know, there’s a story behind each song and I love how in “La Mejor Version de Mi,” I really sum it all up.