You are hereDeaf rapper opens doors for the Deaf community
Deaf rapper opens doors for the Deaf community
BOULDER, Colo.- Sean Forbes has opened doors in the music industry that historically have been bolted shut.
Forbes recently signed with the same label that discovered “the Real Slim Shady,” but his music is more than just lyrics and a beat. What makes Forbes different than other rappers? Sean Forbes is Deaf.
Losing his hearing in his early childhood hasn't deterred Forbes's dream of becoming a famous rapper and an advocate for the Deaf Community. Forbes uses rap music to address his hearing loss with lyrics, such as in the song “I’m Deaf”:
“...Look I understand you might be leery
getting music beats from the hard-of-hearing
Something inside me is so intense
Evidently it's bringing out my sixth sense.”
Using Rap music as a tool to connect with mainstream society, Forbes hopes that his music will form a bridge between the hearing world and the non-hearing world.
According to Sean, rap music is the perfect tool for accomplishing his goal. For Sean, music is a form of expression that he can feel through the vibrations, which has taught him to enjoy music in his own way.
“I don't really see a conflict between being deaf and rapping. I mean rap is about rhythm and rhythm is in the body, not in the ears, so I don't see why he couldn't pull it off,” said local musician Johnny Osi.
According to a 2009 survey from the Modern Language Association, the Deaf community is gaining more attention among Universities in the United States. American Sign Language (ASL) enrollments have increased in universities 16.4% since the 2006 survey. ASL ranked fourth behind Spanish, French, and German in the first three spots.
Kristen Harmon, professor of English at Gallaudet University, said, “The increase in studying American Sign Language is linked with a growing awareness that ASL is a fully developed, autonomous, human language...[students that study ASL] are given another perspective on American life and culture.”
Forbes's music videos are unique to the music industry. In addition to lyrics, Sean signs and has captions so his music is accessible for more than just the hearing population.
“If he were to perform a gig you could have hearing people and deaf people all at the show enjoying it equally, and it's [Sean's] better than the other hand signs rappers are doing,” said Osi.
With his passion in music, Sean hopes that mainstream society can come to appreciate Deaf culture.
“I'll make the world go Deaf, I got deaf tones but I'm not tone Deaf...,” raps Sean.
Pearl Street musicians like piano player "Robert" agree that Forbes is breaking limits by making his music cross-cultural.
Robert applauds Forbes for breaking out of his Culture, “It blows my mind, but I think they [Deaf people] are more connected to something more subtle and less distracted by what it [music] looks like or what it sounds like, which is great.”
Forbes is excited his music is opening doors and breaking limits, but knows he is fortunate to have made such an accomplishment.
On his Twitter account Forbes posted, “If you really want something, you have to work hard for it because nothing ever comes easy.”
According to Sean, the world is run by those who have power, and those who have power show up. Forbes' response to the world is to watch out, because he is showing up.