Deaf Detroit rapper performs at Super Bowl LVI

Detroit will be represented at the 56th Super Bowl in more ways than one.

Not only will musical artist Eminem, a Detroit native, and former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford be there, but also well-known rapper from the deaf community, Sean Forbes.

Interestingly, Forbes also has ties to northern Michigan, as his parents live in Lake City.

“You would have told me he had three number one records and he was going to play Super Bowl halftime, I would say, really?” Scott, Forbes’ father, laughs.

A career in music is hard enough, but losing his hearing at an early age and continuing to pursue a career in music makes Sean Forbes all the more remarkable.

“He’s got nerves of steel, he really does, tremendous confidence,” Scott says. “That’s one thing I tell parents, with confidence, it’s so important. Everyone talks about anything but confidence. They want their kids to get the best ACT scores. They want their kids to get this and that, but confidence is really huge because you could be a genius and if you don’t have confidence you’re not going anywhere with that.

Scott says Forbes doesn’t get enough credit for his writing skills.

As a child, he read Clorox containers and cereal boxes which helped him learn to write and become the lyricist he is today.

Then came the drums when he was five, which changed his world according to Scott.

“He always had the rhythm,” says Scott. “He could still feel the beat and still tell the story. My wife was driving in the car and Mitch Ryder and Detroit Wheels’ “Devil with a Blue Dress” – they were friends of ours – she used to play that over and over in the car and he would read her lips and then he would feel that because it’s a real drum record. He is really drawn to drum records.

Scott Forbes’ brother was an engineer for music artist Bob Seger. Scott, also into music, has ties to the 54 Sound studio in Ferndale where Eminem composed his early music.

“[Sean] went to 54 Sound and had, I don’t want to call it an audition, but he played his video for Eminem and they loved it,” Scott says.

Later, Forbes would sign a record deal with Web Entertainment – best known for producing Eminem’s two independent albums, Slim Shady and Infinite.

The label is owned by the Bass Brothers – Jeff and Mark.

“They have a label called Two Blown Speakers,” Scott explains. “Jake Bass is his partner, is his producer. Jake Bass his father and his uncle discovered Eminem.

Now Forbes has its own label.

His 2020 album “Little Victories” ranked No. 1 on the iTunes Hip-Hop charts and No. 1 on Amazon Music for all genres.

Forbes strives to change the perception of artists in music and make it more accessible. He co-founded the Deaf Performing Arts Network.

“I’m grateful he had the support system he had,” Scott says. “My wife and his brothers and teachers and other people who really inspired him and didn’t give up on him because we were basically told he would never speak and he would be very limited.”

The sky is now the limit for Sean Forbes, who plays with a certain finesse that is admirable for anyone who loves rap music. His words could also speak to anyone, regardless of ability.

Sunday night, Forbes will perform with Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar during the Super Bowl halftime show.

He will also perform alongside fellow Deaf rapper Warren “WaWa” Snipe.

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