On the cover of her album Inner Space, Genie Santiago clutches a bouquet of sunflowers as she levitates over the earth. Beneath her, more sunflowers sprout, stretching their stalks to the sky. She gravitates towards the heavens, stuck in an unbothered limbo, likely meditating.
Each detail fits together to form Santiago’s private happy place — a sacred mental space she surrendered to the world upon the release of Inner Space. The soulful Boston singer dropped her debut full-length record last month (October 27), sharing a progressive snapshot of her spirituality and socio-political activism.
Fans of Santiago are already acquainted with her battle cries for equality, such as her 2020 single “Revelación“. Inner Space branches out from those rebellious seeds, as Santiago waters her visions with the tears of yesteryear to create a more fruitful future for not only herself, but other women, people of color, and queer folks. Inner Space crushes cycles of abuse, prejudice, sexual assault, and trauma under its heel in the most peaceful way possible — with poetic patience and love.
But Santiago’s attitude wasn’t also so peachy.
“I was an angry teen and it just got worse into adulthood,” Santiago tells Vanyaland. “It all stemmed from the abuse, trauma, and neglect I constantly suffered as a child. I would often get physical if I felt threatened by someone else. I was toxic in relationships and friendships. Any time I was triggered I would lash out in an unhealthy and destructive way. Not only was I being destructive to others, my actions were ultimately hurting me.”
“Generational curses / My mother’s mental neurosis / My father’s heroin doses / Foster homes and then homeless,” Santiago divulges on “Kindled Costumes,” recalling her earliest memories. She pauses before she drops another bombshell: “Monsters are real / He came every night just to fill me with fear.”
Once Santiago delves into her past, she amicably detaches from it, working towards wellness alongside a stacked deck of supportive Boston talent. Forté, ALGO, Jazzmyn RED, Anaís Azul, and Nora Borealis each lend their voice to Inner Space, while Mertz spells out Santiago’s story through his contemporary style of R&B production.
“I eventually sought help and started getting in touch with my Indigenous ancestors,” Santiago says of her path to healing. “I was fortunate to find an amazing counselor who is also a POC, intuitive, healer, and trauma survivor. With hard work and lots of triggering moments, I was able to nurture my child self who suffered too much. I love little Genie. No one is worth her hurting anymore.”
Inner Space isn’t the beginning of Santiago’s journey towards a healthier life, nor is it the end. Instead, the album frames Santiago in the most powerful position of all: In action, blooming like the blanket of sunflowers gracing the cover art.
“My ancestors, my parents, and the earth have all suffered enough. I must break the cycle,” she concludes. “Enough people in my life caused pain, and I didn’t want to be one of the people hurting me [anymore].”