A bulky 1980s-style boombox changed the way Bobby “Double b” Williams looked at hip-hop. Installed in the boombox was its own built-in microphone.
“When I was 10 years old I just decided that I wanted to start recording raps off of the boombox. Before that I wasn’t really into hip-hop,” Williams said. “It just clicked for me to start rapping and I have kind of never stopped.”
Williams made his first tape in the sixth grade and distributed it to his friends and teachers. A native of South Bend, Ind., he now lives in Olympia, Wash., an hour outside of Seattle where he has a growing fan base.
Williams’ rap alias “Double b” has special significance behind it; he got his name from the tapes circulating around his middle school.
“In sixth grade I tried out for the basketball team and on the tapes I was spelling out my name, like ‘It’s the b-o-double b-y,’ and the basketball coach heard my tape and during tryouts he said, ‘Nice try, double b,’” Williams said.
He said he hated the nickname then, but it has stuck with him since. He didn’t make the basketball team that year.
When Williams was in high school he started booking shows around South Bend. He said as soon as he could drive he started performing two shows each week. The drive to different venues took at least five hours.
Williams went to Webster University because he wanted to go to a bigger city, but was an undeclared major at Webster for two years. His mother also attended Webster.
“The place just kind of clicked with me and I decided to go,” Williams said.
Williams enjoyed doing a lot of St. Louis poetry slam events but that wasn’t enough to keep him at Webster.
“I left because I wanted to go and try and push music out in California. I had taken a trip that summer to India for a month and a half and out there I was able to book myself to rap at all these different clubs,” Williams said. “I came back passionate about music and decided that I wanted to join AmeriCorps and go from there.”
Over the past eight years, Williams has made one album and an EP, numerous mix tapes and was in a group called Never Sleep. Williams and another rapper he met at Evergreen State College formed Never Sleep. He has a weekly radio show called “The B-hive” that can be heard on http://frolympia.org. Williams is also in the process of making another EP and would eventually like to put out a second album.
Despite the number of shows Williams has done, he faces judgement because he doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a rapper.
“I think people initially expect me to be awful,” Williams said. “I do a lot of MC battles and it’s interesting doing those because I go to places like Portland where they don’t know who I am and when I step on the stage people are like, ‘Who is this dude?’ Once I start battling, the energy flips. When I’m performing it’s me to the 10th power.”
While in California Williams helped run an after school program for underprivileged children in Huntington Beach.
After spending a year in California, Williams decided to go back to school. because he didn’t want to look back later in life saying he didn’t finish college. He then moved to Olympia and received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Evergreen in May 2011.
Since graduation, Williams is still touring and playing as many shows as possible. He has also found work as an on-call associate counselor at the Haven House, a social services and welfare organization for at-risk teens.
“I really love it, I’m very happy with where my life is right now,” Williams said. “Sometimes it’s really intense with all of these kids because they are between juvenile or foster parents or they ran away from home. But it is also really rewarding and it’s flexible.”