Angelica Vila has officially joined the Roc Nation family. Hailing from the Bronx, the Dominican R&B songstress has been making music professionally for over a decade, beginning at the young age of 10. Her Youtube covers of Jay-Z’s “Holy Grail” and Adele’s “Hello” would garner her national attention as she quickly gained a following for both her vocal talents and sweet personality.
Now at 21 years old, she hasn’t taken her foot off the gas pedal in the slightest. When it comes to her lyrical content, Angelica intertwines strong emotions with love and relationships — leading directly to her debut album titled Deception SZN 1. The intro track to the project, “Your Plug,” sets the tone as a bachata-influenced summer anthem, paying homage to her Spanish roots.
Having legendary rapper Fat Joe backing her speaks volumes. During her Zoom listening session for the project, the Terror Squad founder expressed this is the first R&B singer he’s been looking for his entire career (over 25 years). Flaunt caught up with Angelica via Instagram Live to discuss her upbringing in the Bronx,
Are you in New York?
Yeah, I’m in the Bronx right now. It’s good, it’s productive. Home. [laughs]
What was it like growing up in the Bronx?
It was really dope because I really love how all the stores were on the corner. All you had to do was walk down the block. Sometimes the pumps in the summer would be open, that’s definitely a childhood hobby of mine. I used to go into the pumps. I got the grittiness from being from the Bronx, the aggression and rawness.
Who were you bumping back then?
A lot of people. Growing up, I was listening to my sister’s playlist. She’s 5 years older than me. She’s listening to Ashanti, J. Lo, Lloyd, a whole bunch of people. I was listening to Lauryn Hill, Aaliyah. My mom was listening to Alicia Keys. I loved Beyonce growing up, Rihanna.
You name the era Fat Joe comes from, that’s so full circle.
Thank you, that’s definitely a blessing.
How did he discover you?
He discovered me because he had seen my “Wild Thoughts” freestyle on Pretty Lou’s page. When I look at that video today, I’m like “ooh, girl, why did you post that?” I was trying to make my own little singing version, coming at the guys or whatever. Shout out to A Boogie, that’s my brother. We made a song, but he made a version of “Wild Thoughts” like “Wild Thots.” He was calling girls thots, you’re trying to call us girls thots but y’all be… [laughs]
I ended up meeting him through Pretty Lou, me and him were already working, I was doing the single to his mixtape. When I was up in the studio, Fat Joe had pulled up. Months later, I found out that his wife Lorena’s the one who said “yo, you’ve got to sign her.” Shout out to Lorena. That day, he put me to the test. The first thing he invited me and my manager to was his birthday yacht party. He said Mary J. Blige was going to be there, Ashanti was going to be there.
How old were you then?
I was 17 when I got signed to him. The same day I was supposed to go to that yacht party, I was supposed to start my first day at Skechers. I went to that party. [laughs]
Best memory from that evening?
I actually still have pictures up in my Story from that yacht party. The experience was crazy, I’ve never been on a yacht. It was huge. 3 or 4 four levels, it was crazy. Everybody’s lit. I didn’t know anybody though, so I felt like an outsider. But I was being myself.
Fat Joe said you’re the first R&B songstress he found in his entire career, which is 25 years deep. What’s your guys’ relationship?
It’s super fire because he be dropping gems when it comes to the business, the industry, just music. He guides me toward the right direction. He’s a fire mentor. On top of that, he’s been in the game for 25 years? He’s very knowledgeable about a lot of things that I’m already going through.
Congrats on your album out now, Deception SZN 1. How does it feel to have it out?
I’m so excited. It feels so surreal, especially because I’ve been working on this project for over 2 years. It hasn’t been a walk in the park, but definitely worth it.
What’s the significance in the title?
I named it Deception SZN 1 because I wanted anybody who listens to the project, to be able to relate. Sometimes, guys be going through the same thing with women. You meet somebody, and you basically get to see. They claim that they can hold it down, then you find this, you find this. “Oh, why are you liking this girl’s picture? Oh, you like her? Oh, you’re sliding in her DMs?” I peeped it, I went through your phone.” We always eventually find something that makes us be like, “I should’ve never fucked with you.”
What about you? What do you look for in a man?
Listen… loyalty. Consistency, loyalty, and honesty. Communication is key. If there’s no communication, there’s no relationship. Seriously, communication is top-tier.
“Your Plug” is influenced by your Dominican roots, talk about recruiting Mariah and Jenn Morel.
They’re so fire, both her and Mariah. They be showing hella love, they’re humble. They came through. I actually reached out to Jenn with the song, because it wasn’t supposed to be on the project. Mind you, the project was supposed to come out a year ago. When I found out, I said “yo, so is it going to be an EP or an album?” It was a team effort, they said “well, it’s up to you.” Well, it’s an album! [laughs] I put a couple more songs in there, “Your Plug” was one of them. I hit her up, “yo Jenn.” She sent it literally the same week. My A&R Dizzy ended up putting the Mariah play together. Teamwork makes the dream work.
That’s your real name?
Actually, no. Angelica is my real name. My real name is Gaton, but the way it’s spelled is a little bit different. Everybody kept either pronouncing my name wrong or spelling my name wrong. I needed something that’s simpler, more eye-catching and easy to pronounce. I wanted something that meant something though. Somebody on my team gave me Avila, I’m like “hmm.” I’m looking up the meaning and in Greek, it stands for “strong-willied.“ That’s basically me. I’m determined to make sure that I achieve my goals with the music. Angelica Avila had too many A’s, let me cut down that A. I made it myself: Angelica Vila.
You linked with Jacquees on “Why,” how did that come about?
It started off in the living room, I was having a conversation with K Major. He’s in the industry, been working with a lot of people. He recently dropped this song with Jacquees and Chris Brown. We were cooking up, talking about where we want to see ourselves in 5 years. We’re like “let’s put it into the music.” “Can’t waste my energy on you,” putting a whole bunch of emotions into the record. We went to Jacquees’ house, he’s been working with Jacquees since he first started. They have a relationship, so that’s how that connection happened. We went to his house, he laid down his melodies. He laid down the gems. It was in Atlanta.
Heard your freaky record “Next Episode” with the Dr. Dre sample, that was a theoretical threesome?
It was definitely theoretical. I wrote it with Joelle James and Rothweiler, shout out to him. Joelle James wrote “Boo’d Up” for Ella Mai. She’s super fire, her vibe is amazing. Shout out to you, Joelle. Jo was up in the studio… it was a lot of changes with that song. We’re trying to make it make sense, make it relatable. Hm, I wonder if people have really gone through that? Let’s put it in a song.
What songs mean the most to you on the project?
“Your Plug,” because it represents women empowerment. When I was putting plays together and thinking about the features, I wanted it to be women. It had to be women, so I was brainstorming and reaching out to different women. Jenn Morel reached back out to me, Mariah reached back out to me. I thought, “I got both of them on here!” [laughs] That’s one of my special babies, it took a lot of thought.
3 things you need in the studio?
I need some… [sings] “smoke weed everyday.” I need that either sage, incense, or a candle, something I can light up and smell. I love aromatherapy, or even a diffuser. Something to keep the air going. Lots of water, or hot water like tea. That’s top-tier, a necessity.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
My fashion sense got a little bit of Bronx mixed into it because I like to be comfortable. If I need to go to the store, I’ll throw something on. A pair of sweats with some sneakers and a crop top, call it a day. That’s my comfy swaggy fit, but I’ve still got to get it cute. Have my face beat, have my little earrings. It could be casual, doesn’t have to be anything extra. But if it’s time to be extra, I like to go extra. [laughs] I like to go there.
What was your reaction in seeing yourself on billboards and Times Square?
Oh man, that feeling was crazy in a good way. For one, I’m from New York. Even back in the days when I used to go to vocal classes, it was in the city so I’d pass by it. Or even when going to work, looking up like “man, I wonder what it takes to be up on one of these billboards.” For me to actually be in this moment, my mom’s there. Everybody’s there, people stopping to look at me like “hey!” Clapping. It‘s overwhelming, “wow I can’t believe this is really happening.” I’m always so used to focusing on what I have to do, that I forget what I’m doing it for. That’s how it was with this album, it didn’t hit me until it actually got released.
How is moms feeling about your career, everything?
Super excited, especially being that my manager is her brother. My mom’s always been supportive, my brother, my sister, my grandma, all of them.
Goals for yourself at this point of your career?
I’m trying to go past music. Of course, I’m trying to get into dancing. I dance, but I’m trying to get more in depth with it. I’m tapping into the acting, fashion industry. I want to do makeup, my own makeup products or doing print modeling for a makeup brand. Anything related to makeup, I’d love to do. I could probably be a brand ambassador for Fenty makeup. [laughs] Putting it out there, manifesting. I always wanted to tap into the modeling: print modeling, fashion, runway.
What is your secret to staying snatched?
Listen, drink a lot of water. I like to do cardio, but the way I do my cardio depends. My favorite way is to do the walk-run intervals. Walk for however long you want. If it’s 5 minute intervals, you’ve got to sprint. Walk for 5 minutes, sprint for 5 minutes, walk for 5 minutes. That helps me build my stamina up. You’ve got to push yourself. You’ve got to raise the number up every time you get in there.
What’s one thing fans may not know about you?
I’m super bubbly and super inviting. Some people might see me in the street, they might be afraid to come up to me because they think I’m stuck up from the pictures. My personality does not reflect in the pictures, unless I’m smiling or being bubbly.