Sean Forbes is a hip-hop musician who just put out his new record. He is also deaf. (Links to the album below)
In case any of you didn’t know: I, Corey Toomey the blogger, was born profoundly deaf and have a cochlear implant on my left side. I used bilateral hearing aids until I was 9, when I was implanted. 6 years later, I started learning sign language. My background is unique and gives me personal access to both the hearing and deaf worlds. I have been a student at both hearing and deaf schools/universities, too.
Having said that, I am generally what you call a square peg in a round hole, regardless of where I go. In spite of my speaking ability, I often struggle with communicating with hearing folks. On the flip side, I’ve never quite clicked with culturally deaf people, either. Though I’ve been signing for 13 years, I don’t sign as “fluidly” as they can. Think of a Russian immigrant speaking to an American crowd in broken English and a thick accent. And approaching situations with different social mores. These act as barriers.
Anyway, I don’t want to give the impression that this is a blog of self-pity. It’s not. That was merely a brief summation of my lifelong experience. (Plus, I’m generally introverted anyway. I appreciate having time and space for myself. I don’t blame my deafness for this.)
No, this blog is about Sean Forbes, the deaf hip-hop musician from Detroit. I had the pleasure of meeting him at my local community college back in 2011 (see above photo). My mom was taking an ASL class at the time and the instructor happened to know Sean personally. Sean also happened to be in town, so the instructor invited him to chat with his students. My mom told me I should tag along, so I did.
I could relate to Sean on a personal level, because I’ve always had an interest in music (deafness can only filter out so many decibels). My go-to genre was heavy metal…always heavy metal. I was a sucker for 1980s Metallica. I drew some satisfaction from sharing a birthday with James Hetfield (Aug 3, and it was probably more than “some” satisfaction). I even tried playing the guitar at one point. Many lessons and one frustrated instructor later, I decided that maybe the guitar wasn’t for me.
But hey, I don’t regret a thing. While trying to figure out the ol’ six-stringer, and daydreaming about screeching like Axl Rose, I penned countless metal songs in every spiral notebook I had. That’s right, while chasing the heavy metal beast miles in front of me, the writer’s bug came along and bit me in the ass! Music is how I got my start in writing.
While I strayed from the path of music and performing, Sean stayed on it. As a deaf artist myself, I view him as an inspiration to never use your disability as an excuse for failure. After years of recording music videos on YouTube, Sean recently released a new album called ‘Little Victories’. Forbes is insanely talented and is looking to be the first Deaf artist to go on the Billboard Charts.
The record is 20 minutes long, but worth every penny. I highly recommend you guys give it a listen. It’s only $5 and can be downloaded/streamed via iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon.