Meet Sean Forbes, the deaf rapper who is inspiring a generation
Anyone who says deafness is a silent epidemic hasn’t heard Sean Forbes.
The 35-year-old American hip-hop artist has been inspiring a generation of hearing, hard-of-hearing and Deaf individuals for years, as a musician who continues to break ground and stereotypes with his beats.
With his newly-released single, “Two Blown Speakers,” Forbes is proving his hearing loss won’t stand in the way of his passions.
“The song touches on how lucky I am to do what I love, and the experiences I went through to get to where I am today,” he says.
Born hearing, Sean suspects he became deaf when he was a few months old from a case of spinal meningitis. Hearing loss doesn’t run in his family, and the Detroit native says his parents always encouraged him to follow his passion for music, despite his profound hearing loss.
“I’ve wanted to be a musician for as long as I can remember, I’ve never had a plan B,” he says.
“When I was five years old, my parents got me a drum set for Christmas and in many ways it was their way of saying, ‘You can do anything. They took me to concerts and let me watch MTV. We had musicians over at my house all the time growing up. You could say I was born with it, but being born with it and wanting it came hand-in-hand for me.”
Creating accessible music
Sean’s passions and family support provided him with the best opportunities and musical experiences, but it wasn’t until he became a student at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in New York when he met other people who shared a love of music like he did.
Soon after, he realized that even though he could understand musical lyrics, not all people with hearing loss could.
Inspired to make a change, he founded DPAN.TV, an online, sign language media platform that hosts a multitude of sign language content in one place. Now, “The Sign Language Channel” provides a wide range of accessible content for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences.
“I started signing songs I knew in ASL and that was the start of making music accessible for deaf people,” he says. “We’ve since created ASL music videos for bands like Owl City, Walk The Moon, Eminem, and so much more.”
Performing music with hearing loss
Sean uses his hearing aids to help him perform, but also listens to the vocal lyrics of his songs and feels the beat of the music through his body.
“I write the songs and sit through recording, mixing,” he says. “I listen to my songs thousands of times before I share them, so I know them by heart, but I need my hearing aids so I don’t second-guess myself.”
Sean wrote his new single, “Two Blown Speakers,” after finishing his first tour for his debut album. The single is part of a new album that Sean and his producer, Jake Bass, have been working on.
“If you have a hearing loss and want to go into music, be open minded,” he says. “There are many tools nowadays that can help you access music. With lots of practice you can become amazing.
“The most important thing is to believe in yourself”
“I didn’t get to where I am overnight, I spent countless hours in my parents’ basement writing songs, playing instruments and experimenting while my other friends were outside playing. The most important thing is to believe in yourself.”