Sean Forbes Paves The Way For Deaf Musicians

Sean Forbes i

Musician Sean Forbes, 28, has been profoundly deaf since he was a baby. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist
Sean Forbes

Musician Sean Forbes, 28, has been profoundly deaf since he was a baby.

Courtesy of the artist

"Def" has been a part of hip-hop lexicon since the early 1980s, but for Sean Forbes, it means something different. The 28-year-old from suburban Detroit has been deaf since he was a baby but says that hasn't stopped him from making music. He recently released a new single called "I'm Deaf," and is busy recording more songs for an upcoming album. Forbes says music has always been part of his life.

Hear The Music

"When I was 5, I received my first drum set, and I wanted to be a drummer," Forbes tells Liane Hansen, host of NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday. "I always knew I wanted a career in music, but I also had firsthand experience in seeing how hard it is to succeed as a musician."

His mother plays the piano and his father performs in a country-rock band. Although he raps in his songs, Forbes says he considers himself more of a musician. In addition to rhyming and playing the drums, he plays guitar and writes his own music.

"Rapping is just something I do, because you don't wanna hear me sing," he says.

Forbes says fellow hip-hop musician Eminem is a supporter and fan of his work.

"Eminem was the first person I ever showed my music video to, and when he saw it, he was at a loss for words," Forbes says. "He was shocked that deaf people liked music."

Forbes helped start an organization called the Deaf Professional Arts Network, or D-PAN. The goal of D-PAN, which has performed versions of songs by John Mayer and Christina Aguilera, is to make music accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Since the start of D-PAN, the group has created four music videos and will begin work on the next one soon. Forbes says D-PAN plans to shoot 100 videos in the next five years to help interpret pop songs for the deaf and hearing-impaired.

Purchase Featured Music

I'm Deaf

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

I'm Deaf
Sean Forbes
Deaf Performing Art

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?




Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.