You ain't from Palm Beach County if you don't know Hubba Bubba
Hubba Bubba sits with his water bottle at his favorite bus stop on a busy intersection in West Palm Beach, rocking his black fanny pack, big headphones and bright smile. The extreme heat doesn’t nag him like it does everyone else; he’s far more engaged by the constant attention shining on him.
Videos of his impromptu dancing and singing on street corners and at local events have gone viral on Tik Tok and Facebook, often posted by giddy fans who sync his moves with classic Florida hip-hop and R&B. Locals expect to see him at his favorite spot everyday.
“Everybody be looking at me. Looking for me. Now, where is our dancer at?” Hubba, whose real name is Jamar Battle, told WLRN. “We could be in a bad mood. He could be the one hyping us up and making us happy.”
Hubba's classic rap freestyle made him popular during his Forest Hill High School days in the early 2000s. It's a rapid-fire tongue-twister boasting of his prowess, skills and local reputation, ending with the line: “You can't be from Palm Beach if you don't know Hubba Bubba in the streets.”
There are different variations on the phrase, but it's one locals know: You ain't from Palm Beach County if you don't know Hubba Bubba! He has been a street performer and community fixture for more than two decades. And while he embraces his local celebrity — and finds pleasure in bringing joy to others — he worries many people don't know who he really is, behind the public persona.
“I want people to know I am a real person," Hubba said. "I'm not a ghost. I'm not Casper."
When Hubba, 36, is not sitting on a bus bench for hours on end, entertaining people who drive by, he said he’s usually relaxing with his family nearby, at his grandmother's home.
During an interview in her living room, Geraldine Anthony marveled over her grandson's fandom — which extends beyond their home county.
"We went up to Tallahassee, and we went down to breakfast at IHOP, and this girl say, ‘Hubba Bubba, what you doing up here?’" Anthony said, trying to contain her laughter.
She turned to look at Hubba, who was sitting across from her. “And I told Hubba, ‘I said, doll, we're up here in Tallahassee, and everybody knows you, Hubba Bubba!”
Who is Hubba Bubba?
Hubba's mother, Angela Battle — who goes by Ms. Ann — said his talent for performing started early.
“When he was little, he used to be jammin' to those little oldie goldie music I used to be playing, and he would move,” Ms. Ann said. “Even though he was little, he still had rhythm. From then, we know he was gon’ be something awesome.”
Ms. Ann said Hubba also attended singing programs at Conniston Middle School in West Palm Beach. Gospel was his go-to genre.
Another thing people don’t know about her son: He suffered from tuberculous meningitis when he was 17 months old.
“So he went into a coma and came out of the coma. But he was not the same. He had to be rehabilitated all over again with his walking, talking, everything,” Ms. Ann said. “He was not the same baby."
"But let me tell you something: By God, he gave us another chance with Hubba," she said. "So I was prepared to go on this journey.”
Anthony, Hubba’s grandma, said doctors didn't expect him to survive.
“I say, 'Well, let's go to the chapel in St Mary's,' and we get down on our knees and pray to God that he [Hubba] come out of that coma,” she said. “And the nurses got on the intercom looking for my daughter. I said, 'Oh, my God. He answered our prayer.'"
Back then, the family — who has roots in the Belle Glade area — lived in the Dyson Circle public housing neighborhood in West Palm Beach. Ms. Ann said her fiancée, Jimmy Mcfarlane, played an integral role in Hubba’s rehabilitation efforts.
Mcfarlane helped Hubba walk "when people said he wouldn’t ever walk again,” Ms.Ann said. “He took him on the stairs in Dyson Circle. He said, ‘Let him go.' And, you know, he started walking up and down those stairs.”
Now, Hubba can walk, but he has a hard time. He also has limited use of his left arm and struggles staying mentally focused, which makes it difficult for him to work. Performing brings him a sense of happiness, from public spaces to private Christmas parties.
He makes Ms. Ann proud. “And I don't look at his disability,” she said. “I look at what God allowed him to do with the disability. He is doing magnificent things and bringing people to him, you know?”
Hubba's family is proud, supportive — and concerned
While Hubba’s mother supports him, she is also concerned about him, especially when he sits at his bus stop. She worries about the dangerous heat outside as well as distracted drivers and speeding cars near his favorite intersection on Military Trail — it’s one of the busiest in the county. And she doesn’t trust his interactions with random people who she believes may not have his best interest in mind.
Ms. Ann said taking care of an adult man with disabilities presents all sorts of challenges for her, and her faith in God helps calm her anxiety.
“Oh, it's very difficult, because he reminds me: 'Mom, I'm an adult, and I have rights,’" Ms. Ann said. “I want him to be in a safe place. And I don't want nobody to take advantage of him.”
During a car ride past his typical spot, Hubba said he often tries to reassure his mother about his safety and explain his reasons for spending time there.
“When I’m not around my family, it’s because I need time to myself," Hubba said.
He understands why his mother is worried, though. “Because she doesn’t want nothing to happen to me,” he said. “She wants me to be safe. She wants me to be safe and sound. She doesn't want anybody doing nothing to me.
"God gon’ be with me," he said.
“Never Would Have Made It'' by gospel singer Marvin Sapp is one of Hubba’s favorite songs to cover. The ballad, penned as a tribute to Sapp’s deceased father, is often played as an inspirational song that praises the power of God in the most trying of times.
Hubba’s grandmother, Anthony, said gospel music is the family’s everyday tune — it’s the source, the energy that gives the family hope amid Hubba's challenges.
"Him and his mom and I — we just sit around in the house, listening to gospel music. And Jamar just get up and start blowing," she said, referring to Hubba by his given name. "I say, 'and look it here — we got a gospel singer!”
The family is urging Hubba to enroll in a job training program for people with disabilities while he follows his music and fashion dreams. In the meantime, he’s working on being a “singing artist or T-shirt artist, a.k.a. 'Hubba Bubba, Palm Beach celebrity.'"
Hubba Bubba has a message for people who doubt him.
“They don't believe I'm going to blow up one day. I want them to know the devil is a liar. Because I am gon’ make it. Sooner or later,” Hubba said. “It might not be now. Be patient, because the more you are patient, more good things come out of it.”