Arts, Culture & Media

Global Hit

For today's Global Hit, we revisit a hip-hop artist we've told you about before. Joaquin Santos was born, and still lives, in San Diego, California. But he's spent the past few years getting in touch with his family's roots in El Salvador. When last we checked in with Santos, he had released an album with a Salvadoran rap group called Pescozada. Now, he's got a solo album called "Salva-Vida." The World's Clark Boyd reports.

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Joaquin Santos freely admits that his solo effort is "tinged with anger." Nothing's off limits -- he raps about gang violence and grinding poverty -- drug deals and nasty murders. He named the album Salva-Vida. That means "life-saver" in Spanish.

�It's a play on words. On the one hand, it means Salvadorian lifestyle, and on the other hand it also means life-saver. Cause a lot of people in El Salvador, that's pretty much what they need right now...a lifesaver.�

Santos says the same goes for Salvadorans living in the United States. He's a US citizen. But many Salvadorans in Southern California aren't. And he's seen first hand how they get a bad rap, so to speak.

In the title track, Santos raps about how Salvadorans are thought of as "invaders," and "freeloaders."

Santos switches easily between English and Spanish on Salva-Vida.

That may not seem like a big deal. But for Santos, it is. His parents moved to the United States in the early 1970s. And, he says, they decided NOT to speak Spanish in the house.

�It was fear-based decision. They thought it would be better for us to just lean English. It was blessing in disguise for me, because through that denial of certain cultural aspects in my life, it really created a thirst and hunger for me to find out and grasp on to what I'd been missing.�

But Santos found that "what he'd been missing" in El Salvdor wasn't always pretty.

This is a track called Bala, Cuchillo, o Cuerda -- bullet, knife or rope. Three verses, three nasty -- but REALISTIC -- stories of violence in El Salvador.

�A lot of people would say it's morbid, but reality is morbid sometimes. And we need to talk about what's going on, it needs to be addressed. I mean, music is good to have dance music and party music, but at the same time, there needs to be music made that brings issues to the surface that people, generally speaking, don't want to talk about.�

But Salva-Vida's not all dark though. This track is called Salvadorena...

�I always hear people talking about Puerto Ricans, or Dominicans...or certain women from certain countries, and I felt like I wanted to make a track to celebrate the ladies from my country. So, Salvadorian, yeah...it's a good track to get down to.�

Joaquin Santos, by the way, paid for production of Salva-Vida himself.

He currently has no label. And no manager. When he gets them, he says, he wants to blow hip-hop en espanol wide open.

For the World, this is Clark Boyd.