Willie Torbert was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1959. He studied art at the Pratt Institute, City College of New York, and Medgar Evers College. Before becoming a full-time artist, Torbert taught art in the New York Public School system for ten years.
Torbert uses a variety of media to produce highly stylized representations of African American life. Views of everyday life as well as from the music world are prominent in his work. He founded Zakiya Art Gallery in 1993. Torbert currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.