By Tammy Scileppi
Robert Torres is a stand-up guy who believes in good causes.
He is the spirited rapper known as Sabor Latino, who writes and performs “positive hip hop.”
The do-gooder from South Jamaica has made a name for himself in his own Latin American community and beyond, as the dude who creates music to inspire and motivate young people.
Back in the day, when Torres was a Jamaica High School student, he used to rhyme when his buddies got into a freestyle rap battle. He said the crowd they attracted used to say his delivery was full of flavor, i.e. “sabor” in Spanish.
It takes a masterful MC, like Sabor Latino to spit a verse on the spot, so it’s not surprising that he sees himself as a musical poet who believes in the power of words. Unlike his fellow rappers, he skillfully injects uplifting life philosophies and anti-violence rhymes into his music.
Sabor Latino’s unique sound is gradually resonating with young Latinos, as well as all teens and kids who are numbed by a culture of violence. At a time when many rappers spit hardcore lyrics about violence and sex, the artist’s peaceful hip hop rhymes in Spanish and English communicate refreshingly wholesome messages, because he believes many impressionable youngsters look up to rappers as role models. His 17-year-old son included. Like a motivational speaker, Sabor Latino uses just his voice and a microphone to connect with Latinos who he feels “have lost faith and hope.”
“I think my music fills a gap in hip-hop music culture today,” said Torres, whose debut album, “Sabor Latino,” was released in 2013.
He said he based the songs on his latest album, “Observations of My Life, Vol. 1,” on the parts of his life he uses to inspire listeners
“I’m real deep when it comes to spitting the truth with these two songs featured on my current album,” said Torres.
In “No Mas Violencia,” he raps: “It’s time to let go of our pistols. How many mothers suffer? How many fathers? How many brothers and sisters are in prison for the rest of their lives? But through everything that’s happened, we keep killing each other. When will the pain end?”
Echoes of the artist’s tough early years, growing up on Jamaica’s rough streets can be heard throughout the album, which has a positive vibe, and is meant “to inspire children, adolescents, parents and adults to become productive members of society.” This message is evident in songs like “Promoción,” which “teaches the value of education and a high school diploma.”
“Sabor Latino will always stand out from many rappers, as he is just not rapping a verse. His lyrics are all positive and with a purpose to inspire many,” said producer Lee Evans.
To be able to fulfill his healing mission, the multi-talented rapper has penned his first book. He said he realized that his life is “more than just a song on the radio,” so he transcribed his story into “something the people can read” – an autobiography titled “Sabor Latino: My Life,” which deals with a universal topic: everyday struggles.
He said he was inspired to write it so that young people, like his son, will realize that despite setbacks, when you give it your all and work hard, your dreams can become a reality.
In his interesting book, Torres talks about his challenging childhood; about fatherhood and his stint as a social worker, as well as the importance of friendships and the value of a college education. He even throws in tips on how to write a book and how to record a CD without music promoters.
“Writing my book was an incredible experience, as it helped me to put closure on a lot of issues in my life,” said Torres. “My book will touch many individuals in a good way. More importantly, they will see that nothing in life is easy, but as long as you work hard good things can happen.”
Torres, 42, hopes these projects will bring clarity to adults grappling with a variety of issues, and inspire young minds in today’s complex world.
Learning how to navigate life’s obstacles in the Queens neighborhood he called home was a daily challenge and Torres said it was poetry and music that saved him. He recalled there were times he felt unsafe.
Torres said his Puerto Rican father, who is a retired teacher, and his Dominican mother, a seamstress, worked hard to make ends meet, but money was scarce. So at age 12, when his creative streak kicked in, he discovered that writing poems and making music made life easier to deal with. The emotional teen, whose favorite sport was basketball, found time to put his thoughts on paper and wrote about his life and what he observed around him.
“I saw my parents go to work every day to put food on the table for me and my older brother. From them, I learned hard work and appreciation for the little things we had. My parents and my son are my inspiration in life,” said Torres.
“I was fortunate to have good parents who always watched over me and motivated me to do better in life. The most important thing was that we had each other. It was a difficult time, but we survived.”
Setting a good example for Latino youth who shared similar experiences growing up, the budding rapper decided to pull himself up by his boot straps and go to college.
Eventually, his life became all about helping others and giving back to his community.
Sabor Latino has performed in the Underground Lounge in NYC, and at other local venues. He has also done some college shows and is involved in a lot of other things, as well, like visiting a women’s shelter and donating food to the less fortunate. In the future, he plans to visit high schools and some hospitals for children with special needs.
In his spare time, Torres plays basketball all over the city.
“Me and my friends go where the competition is. I love basketball as much as I like music and writing books,” he said.
While working on finishing his master’s degree in education and recreation, he started writing his second book, “Sabor Latino’s Greatest Poems.”
“For now I’m focusing on my author talents and see how far I can take it. I have been meeting great authors around the world on twitter and it’s a blessing to be able to learn from them. I really enjoy writing books,” said Torres. “To all the youth out there, value education, respect your parents and teachers. Find friends that have the same values. In addition, get involved in recreational activities, as it will help you develop your identity. If you are struggling in the classroom, ask for help and never give up on your dreams. Go to college, as it will be a great experience in your life. More importantly, be good to others and always lead by example. Always be the best you can be.
“Use me as an example that it doesn’t matter where you come from – we can all have success. Never give up on your dreams and always remember that life is not about perfection but progress,” he said. “If I can help one child and change his life, I have done my job, which is to continue to motivate the youth of today through my music.”
You can hear Sabor Latino’s music on ITunes, Amazon and CDbaby.com. His book will be available at Amazon and other online bookstores.