From a Busted Knee to Busting out Beats: Dan Williams Rises to the Top as an Artist
His music journey started when he busted a knee, now he’s busting out beats. Dan Williams, also known as Doobie, was born in Mission and lives there now. He grew up on the Leq'a:mel reserve and released his first full length album in May, called Apollo 420. Now available on streaming platforms, there are a couple music videos out, with more to come.
After his leg injury in high school, he missed a lot of school and became depressed. One of his friends was a rapper and urged him to write about his feelings. Williams said he didn’t know how to rap but his friend reminded him he knows how to write poetry and words that rhyme and he could try that. It was May 1, 2001 and he still remembers that first rhyme. “It was crazy. That’s how it all started and then it was on from there,” he beams. They started bringing a karaoke machine to parties and rap for the crowds.
When he was a kid, he met rapper Pat Kelly (also known as Hope), an older cousin who would skate with his cousin Bobby. One time at his aunt’s house, he watched a movie with him and some of the other kids and hung out. Kelly moved to New York, then came back. He and Kelly later formed the hip hop group Status Krew Society with their relatives. “It was all family so it just made sense. We linked up and it was so easy. It all just came together. We all started in Devon Frank's basement,” he recalls.
Working together has made a difference in his evolution as an artist. Kelly coaches him through what he’s brought into the studio and building on his creativity. His first album, The Big Marijuana Circus, was raw and over time he’s learned from experiences working with Mamarudegyal MTHC and finding himself a little off in his timing. Kelly produced Williams’ album and the way he gets him out of his comfort zone has improved his music. He’s been able to learn from his relatives who are able to attend workshops when he’s busy working and unable to go himself.
Outside of the album, Williams recently released an album called No Justice on Stolen Land and it’s about murdered and missing Indigenous women. His music videos include an alien character called Goobie the Alien and he’s written some new songs about his mom and his daughter. He wants to show the range of his talent outside of songs about marijuana and show off his storytelling skills.
He has advice for youth who might be thinking about getting into either music or hip hop or speaking their mind and it’s encouraging. “Go for it if you want to do something. It's always been my passion to try and live out my dream. Try and reach out to people that you know that do music that you look up to in the community,” he urges.
The other thing he suggests is seeking out grant funding, something he only learned was possible some five years ago. Not knowing about grants, he and his crew worked jobs and paid for everything out of pocket and found the experience really challenging. Looking back, he wishes he knew that was an option.
If he could share a message with his younger self, it would be to slow down and to remember that music is actually work. He was doing a lot of partying and it really became work when he formed a crew and started doing shows and recording songs. He remembers when he realized he had to go all in. “I was like, ‘Whoa, now we got to take this seriously. It's not just a hobby. We're not just performing in a backyard or at a party.’”
Williams’ family helps him stay on track with his mental health, his wife who keeps him grounded and “Having a daughter, I just want to show her that living my dream is possible. I can push harder, I know, I can push harder, and I can make a living off of doing music. I won't have to work a nine to five, necessarily, if I grind hard enough. Eventually, I'll be able to just make a living off of doing what I love, and hopefully travel the world and stuff would be amazing,” he dreams aloud.
When he needs inspiration, Williams looks to his crew mate, Patrick Kelly. “Every time we get together, we bounce ideas off of each other. Being a part of a team like that has made me a better artist,” he beams. He is inspired by established artists and the big moves that they're making. Watching them make it in the world gives him hope for his own crew.
“I know we’ve got to just do it. We’ve got the knowledge. We've been rapping for a long time and it's time to just grind it.…I think that our future in music is actually just getting started compared to where we were back in the day. We’ve still got a long way to go. It's gonna be so good,” he muses.
In closing, Williams has words of inspiration for viewers and Indigenous youth. “There's things we have to work through, especially being young and Indigenous on the reserves…It's going to be hard, but you can do it. Honestly, we're resilient. You're strong,” he encourages.
From a busted knee to busting out beats, Dan Williams, also known as Doobie, is breaking out as a rising star in the music scene. Sharing his message of hope, and inspired by his collaborator Hope (Patrick Kelly), he’s dropping rhymes and raising expectations. Shining bright with his family, he’s showing his daughter that she can dream, too.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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