Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

Ryan Patrick Hooper

Hip-hop isn’t just a love language for deaf rapper Sean Forbes. He’s funneled that passion into American Sign Language for others in the deaf and hard of hearing community to enjoy music as much as he does.

Forbes has turned this mission into a lifelong advocacy and career, operating his nonprofit the Deaf Professional Artist Network (D-PAN) out of a Ferndale studio.

During the Super Bowl LVI halftime show on Sunday, Forbes was joined by fellow deaf rapper WAWA to offer an American Sign Language interpretation of the performance that included Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige and Detroit’s own Eminem (watch here).

It was a full circle moment for Forbes, who grew up in the local music scene and has followed Eminem’s career from the very beginning.

“These guys have been such a huge influence on me,” says Forbes. “They changed my life in so many more ways than I’ve ever imagined.”

You can watch Forbes interpret the Super Bowl halftime show using American Sign Language here. A full transcript, which has been edited for clarity and brevity, of his interview on CultureShift on WDET is below.

Listen: Sean Forbes talks about his journey to make music more accessible for the deaf community and how he found himself performing American Sign Language at the Super Bowl.



CS: Sean, tell me a little bit about your experience at the Super Bowl and how you ended up on the biggest musical stage of the year.

Sean Forbes: Around New Year’s Eve, I got a phone call from the National Association of the Deaf. And when I got the text message, I thought I was in trouble. And even at 40 years old, I’m still getting called into the principal’s office. So I got on Zoom with them and they said, are you ready for this? How would you like to come to L.A. to perform at the Super Bowl? You know, along with all of these guys, you will be providing the American Sign Language Interpretation of their performance. I was no question. I was already on the airplane before they even finished that sentence. For me, I have always been a fan of West Coast gangsta hip-hop. 30 years ago, when I saw Snoop and Dre on MTV for “Nuthin’ But A G Thang,” that really started my passion for rap music. Because it spoke to me especially as a deaf person, the beats and the messaging and the way they delivered it … as a percussionist, as a drummer and as a person that was …….


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