Photo by Martin Birch
Deaf people feel music. They can feel vibrations from the beats and the bass. But for deaf kids to want to get up and dance, it has to be LOUD.
Aurally frustrated, some deaf hip-hop DJs in East London started setting up their own parties. The kids went mad for it, and soon deaf raves ["Rave" in the UK just means loud DJ party of any sort—Ed.] were drawing hundreds of people from all over the country. I went to one recently at Hackney Ocean and the music was so loud I had to make myself deaf using earplugs.
Inside the club the walls were pulsing to the music but the 500-strong crowd was silent because everybody was just doing excited, drunken sign language. I had no idea what the fuck they were talking about but they were partying way harder than people with ears that work. After years of not being invited to the party, these kids had finally created their own scene and it was exploding.
On stage there was live deaf karaoke where hot deaf girls were frantically signing the lyrics to R&B hits.
Then there was the deaf dance-off, where breakdancers battled to see who was the best at body-popping out of sync to the music.
But the highlight of the night had to be Britain's first deaf rapper, MC Geezer, who signs-rhymes and raps out of time in that weird voice that deaf people have where Rs sound like Ws and "Blair" becomes "Blaiwe."
VICE: So deaf rap is a pretty bold move, eh?
MC Geezer: If a blind man can play the piano—like Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles—then why can't a deaf MC rap?
Because they can hear and you can't.
OK. What do you rap about?
When I'm on stage I think about what has happened in my lifetime, what I've been put through for being deaf. I take that anger out on the mic and with my hands. Eventually I want to put out my own CDs.
How are you going to record the parts that are just sign language?
Well, we obviously wouldn't have those on the bloody CD, you twat. The visual part would be a DVD with subtitles or something. Signs and speech. Song and dance. Hit 'em on both levels, innit?