Robi Draco Rosa is a multiple Grammy- and Latin Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. Since beginning his career with Menudo at age 14 — alongside Ricky Martin, whom Rosa subsequently produced — and later as a solo performer, the U.S.-born Puerto Rican artist has scored literally a dozen hit singles, charting albums, and garnered numerous awards globally. His styles range from sexy, funky, polished rock and steamy, progressive pop ballads to theatrical, large-production narrative songs that criss-cross Latin and Anglo music traditions. His ambitious music has drawn comparisons to artists such as David Bowie and Prince. His 1996 album Vagabundo is regarded as a bona fide classic of experimental Latin pop, while his chart-topping 2004 date Mad Love — delivered primarily in English — established his reputation as a global star. Rosa has survived two life-threatening bouts with cancer that have caused extended breaks in his career, but is cancer free and making up for lost time by touring and recording. 2013's Vida — released in the aftermath of his first encounter with non-Hodgkins lymphoma — consisted of 16 duets of his hits performed with artists he personally chose to accompany him. It won Album of the Year at the 2013 Latin Grammy Awards and Best Latin Pop Album at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. In 2018, he issued Vagabundo 22, offering a remastered version of the album on its 22nd anniversary, as well as live bonus tracks from the set's anniversary tour. At the time of release, Rosa was also recording new studio material.
Born Robert Edward Rosa Suárez on June 27, 1969 in Long Island, New York, he grew up in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico. He began his performance career at a young age, joining the Puerto Rican boy band Menudo in 1984. Then known as Robby Rosa, he made his debut on the band's first English-language album, Reaching Out (1984). He was featured on one of their biggest hits, "Sabes a Chocolate," before leaving the band in 1987. Renaming himself Draco Rosa, he founded the short-lived English-language alternative rock band Maggie's Dream, which released an eponymous album in 1990. He subsequently made his solo album debut with Frio (1994), a rock en español effort released under the name Robi. His next album, Vagabundo (1996), his first release as Robi Draco Rosa, marked a sharp change in direction. Recorded in England with Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, Vagabundo is an ambitious concept album hailed by critics as a rock en español classic. In the wake of this critical success, Rosa released Songbirds & Roosters (1998), comprised of English-language versions of material from Frio and Vagabundo, and Libertad del Alma (2001), a compilation. In the meantime, he solidified his reputation as a gifted songwriter when "Livin' la Vida Loca," a song he wrote for former Menudo bandmate Ricky Martin, became an international smash hit in 1999. Rosa resumed his solo career in 2004 with Mad Love, an English-language album, and Como Me Acuerdo, a Spanish-language compilation with a couple new songs. Subsequent albums include Draco al Natural (2005), Ensayos al Natural (2005), Vino (2008), Teatro (2008), and Amor Vincit Omnia (2009).
In April of 2011, he was diagnosed with cancer; specifically, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, near his liver. He was treated in both Texas and California. In 2012, while still in recovery, he decided to go back to work; he planned his next album and began the recording sessions. He also took part in a sold-out concert in a soccer stadium with Juan Luis Guerra and Rubén Blades. In December he was declared cancer free and Vida was finished. Though the song titles were familiar as Rosa hits, they were radically rearranged and re-recorded as duets with a host of Latin music all-stars including, Blades, Guerra, Shakira, Mana, Marc Anthony, Calle 13, and many others. The album was released in March of 2013 but the cancer had returned; after a second bone marrow transplant, recovery, and a quarantine of four additional months, Rosa returned to the stage in 2017 playing Vagabundo in its entirety as well as other career highlights. The following year he released Vagabundo 22, a deluxe remastered version of the album for its 22nd anniversary containing live bonus tracks from the set's anniversary tour, and Billboard named the original studio album as one of its "50 Greatest Latin Albums of the Last 50 Years." Upon release, Rosa claimed he already had nine new songs all ready to record and with two more songs, he entered Phantom Vox, the studio he'd built on his 100-acre farm in the central mountain range of Utuado, Puerto Rico. Self-produced, the 11-song album showcased a more experimental hard rock sound than he'd ever explored before. In early October, first single "333" was released, along with its self-directed video that closely resembled the classic style of Japanese animation. Near the end of the month, Monte Sagrado was released via Sony, featuring cover art by Rosa's son, noted illustrator and visual artist Revel Rosa . ~ Jason Birchmeier