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Hearing-Impaired Rappers On The Rise

This morning, SPIN published a fascinating story on the world of deaf and hearing-impaired rappers and their struggles and triumphs within the genre. The story follows a handful of artists, one, Prinz-D, based in Virginia, Warren “Wawa” Snipe and DJ Supalee, both from Washington, D.C., Sean Forbes out of Detroit and Finland’s Signmark, among others, all who have gone down different paths and overcome different obstacles to get to where they are in the hip-hop world.

“People assume that the deaf community doesn’t like music because we cannot ‘hear’ it,” Snipe told SPIN via an email interview. “I had a meeting with one of the top managers in D.C. and auditioned to see if he would represent me. Dude had the gall to tell me that the voice on the CD wasn’t mine. I told him it was and his response was, ‘Impossible. Deaf people don’t do music.’ We need to squash this kind of view of us.”

Snipe, however, hasn’t always had to deal with negative views from outside the deaf community, but from within it as well. “I was labeled ‘hearing-minded’ or ‘trying to be hearing,'” he recalled. “It was a huge slap in the face.”

Forbes, for his part, got into hip-hop through the drums and bass, which he could feel, and his brothers lip-syncing in front of him, through which he learned the rhythm of the words. He signs along during his performances, and brings vibrating dance floors to help other hearing-impaired fans feel the music along with him. He’s also got one YouTube video—”I’m Deaf,” embedded above—that has over 580,000 views, and another with over a quarter-million.

Check out the rest of the story—which also goes into the rappers’s struggles with vocals and the so-called “deaf accent” as well as the different commercial and mainstream aspirations of the artists—over at SPIN right here. It’s well worth it.

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