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Sean Forbes Paves The Way For Deaf Musicians

"Def" has been a part of hip-hop lexicon since the early 1980s, but for Sean Forbes, it means something different. The 28-year-old from suburban Detroit has been deaf since he was a baby but says that hasn't stopped him from making music. He recently released a new single called "I'm Deaf," and is busy recording more songs for an upcoming album. Forbes says music has always been part of his life.

"When I was 5, I received my first drum set, and I wanted to be a drummer," Forbes tells Liane Hansen, host of NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday. "I always knew I wanted a career in music, but I also had firsthand experience in seeing how hard it is to succeed as a musician."

His mother plays the piano and his father performs in a country-rock band. Although he raps in his songs, Forbes says he considers himself more of a musician. In addition to rhyming and playing the drums, he plays guitar and writes his own music.

"Rapping is just something I do, because you don't wanna hear me sing," he says.

Forbes says fellow hip-hop musician Eminem is a supporter and fan of his work.

"Eminem was the first person I ever showed my music video to, and when he saw it, he was at a loss for words," Forbes says. "He was shocked that deaf people liked music."

Forbes helped start an organization called the Deaf Professional Arts Network, or D-PAN. The goal of D-PAN, which has performed versions of songs by John Mayer and Christina Aguilera, is to make music accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Since the start of D-PAN, the group has created four music videos and will begin work on the next one soon. Forbes says D-PAN plans to shoot 100 videos in the next five years to help interpret pop songs for the deaf and hearing-impaired.

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