PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Sean Forbes is a rapper who can’t hear the words he sings, or the songs he writes.
But the young man from Detroit has a message he wants everyone to hear.
“Deafer than Def Jam, so, so deaf,” he sings, backed by musicians and three video screens. The rapper holds the attention of an auditorium filled with students at Northgate Middle/Senior High School.
Forbes’ rapid delivery is matched by the practiced sign language he has used since childhood.
“My name is Sean, but they call me Seen,” he sang.
He was born into a musical family, which helped him overcome one of the greatest barriers a musician could face.
“There were so many people in my life who told me I would never be able to go into music, that I would never make a living as a musician,” he said. “And that just lit a fire in me and made me want to do it that much more.”
The Northgate chorus surprised the rapper with a performance of their own.
Junior Sabrina Patak accompanied the words of John Lennon’s “Imagine” with sign language, learned from her own experiences.
“My mom is deaf,” she said. “And she has a lot of deaf friends that I am exposed to. And I’m becoming more and more immersed in the deaf community. And after high school, I intend to become a sign language interpreter.”
Sean Forbes credits his mother with providing the tools for success.
“My mother corrected every single word that I ever said,” he said. “I mean, every time I said something wrong, she would correct me. That experience growing up really shaped who I am.”
Now his words build confidence and understanding in others.
“My message is you can do anything you set your mind to,” Forbes said. “I mean, if you see a blind person doing music, what’s to stop you from doing anything else.”
It’s a message that comes through, loud and clear.